“He’s probably not housetrained.”
Those words were thrown out casually by the adoption counselor as he completed the paperwork for us to take Hobo home. The excitement of having finally found a dog to adopt, combined with my [over?] confidence that I knew how to properly housetrain a dog, overrode any hesitation I felt at hearing those words. While in no way do I wish that I had stopped the adoption at that point, I think I underestimated the challenge for which I was signing up.
While housetraining a puppy usually involves a pretty simple formula, housetraining Hobo has proved to be considerably more difficult for several reasons:
- Hobo isn’t a puppy. He’s 4 years old and came from a hoarding situation. He came with a long-standing habit of peeing and pooping inside.
- Hobo weighs 5 pounds, making him less than excited about our freezing temperatures and deep snow and making waiting around with him to decide to eliminate outdoors painful for all involved.
- Hobo was un-neutered so in addition to simply needing to empty his bladder, he also urine marked everywhere. Constantly.
- Hobo is also a sociable, excitable little dog so when we come home, he gets so excited he leaps into the air over and over and often dribbles urine in the process.
So what did we do?
One of the first key steps was unpacking the “he’s not housetrained” problem and addressing each of the above challenges separately. Each piece of the problem had to have its own piece of the solution:
- Changing a long-standing habit involves consistency and commitment on the part of the owners. As much as we’d love to let Hobo have the run of the house, he simply can’t. He spends his days either crated or being closely supervised. We are also getting to know his elimination schedule so that we take him out at the right time – when he actually needs to go.
- The cold weather is a particularly tough challenge and has had me resorting to a solution that I was trying to avoid – pee pads. We now confine Hobo in a large crate that is able to fit both a bed and a pee pad. This way he does have an alternative place to eliminate when it’s -10° and neither of us wants to be outside.
- Marking was a pretty easy one to manage. We had him neutered, and he almost completely stopped urine marking in our home. In other places, particularly ones with other dog odors, he will still mark; in these cases, he wears a belly band.
- We’ve learned to tone down the excitement of our greetings to try to keep the excitement urination to a minimum.
It is important to recognize that, when trying to housetrain an adult dog like Hobo, the label “not housetrained” may be too simple. You want to figure out what is behind the accidents that are happening in the house. In addition to the problems I identified with Hobo, dogs may eliminate in the house due to medical problems, side effects of certain drugs, or separation anxiety. Understanding the contributing factors will make your solutions more targeted and more successful.
Since the weather seems to be all Chicagoans can talk about lately, what potty issues have you faced with your dog during the deep freeze? What changes to your routine have you made to cope?