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How do I “re-potty train” my dog?

Question by Penny and Brodie: How do I “re-potty train” my dog?

I have a 3 year old Westie that when I got her as a 8 week old puppy, I started crate training her. She seemed to be getting it down pretty well when she got a bladder infection that reverted her right back to square one. With this infection she had a lot of accidents as she had to go often and could not hold it. Since she recovered from her infection, I have tried to crate train her and been unsuccessful. She does not poop in the house. She will whine to let me know when she has to poop and even sometimes when she has to pee. However, if I leave her alone she almost always pee’s in the house even if I take her out right before I leave and am gone for only 2 hours. When I am home, she can hold it for 4 hours or more and doesn’t seem to have an accident. I do not understand why she isn’t getting the concept of potty training. I must be doing something wrong or not doing something I should but I do not know what it is. HELP!
Another detail to mention is that when she is in her crate while I’m away she has no problem holding it.

Best answer:

Answer by moof
If she pretty much only has accidents when you’re not home (excluding occasions when you don’t take her out frequently enough and cause her to have an accident in that way), she may be manifesting symptoms of separation anxiety. That’s a wholly separate issue from housebreaking, so you’d have to deal with it in a different way. Here’s more info about separation anxiety in dogs:

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  • I would take her back to the vet to make sure the infection really is gone. It’s not very common for a housebroken dog to go back to that even after having accidents from a medical condition.

    1. Figure out what she does before she goes to the bathroom (like sniffing the ground, circling a spot, etc.) When you see her doing that, take her outside (with some small treats) and wait for her to go. As soon as she starts, tell her “good girl” in a positive voice. As soon as she’s finished, give her a treat immediately and lavish tons of praise and attention upon her.

    2. While you’re sleeping or out of the house, keep her in a crate that is big enough for her to stand without crouching, make a full circle, and lay down comfortably. It’s really only big enough for her body with a tad bit of extra space in case she wants to lay down. She will NOT soil her small space unless she literally cannot hold it. As soon as you get home/wake up, take her outside with those treats and repeat number one.

    3. After she eats, keep an eye on her. If she starts acting like she’s about to go (like I said in number one) take her out. Otherwise, wait about 15-20 minutes for her food to digest a bit before you take her out with treats. Wait until she goes. If she doesn’t seem like she’s going to go, bring her back inside and keep an eye on her. Try again in another 10-15 minutes until she goes outside.

    4. If she goes in the house and you see her in the process, loudly yell “NO!” and clap your hands. Hopefully it will scare her enough that she’ll stop. Take her outside to finish up and give treats if/when she goes. Do not hit her, do not rub her nose in it: a dog cannot put two and two together and realize her nose is being rubbed in it because she went in the house. All she’s thinking is “why the hell is she rubbing my nose in this?” and there’s a good chance she can get a sinus infection. Hitting her also doesn’t ring a bell. She just thinks “What the hell did I do?” or “Is going to the bathroom wrong!?”

    5. If she’s just finishing up, or she doesn’t stop when you yell, bring her outside after she goes and wait there for a bit in case she’s gotta do something else. Make sure the treats are with you.

    6. If she goes in the house and you do NOT see her in the process, like you find it after the fact. Simply clean it up. Yelling at your dog afterward means nothing to her. She won’t understand what you’re yelling at her for, she’ll only know that you’re yelling. If the waste is still warm, take her out in case she stopped herself. If it’s cold, forget it unless she seems like she needs to go out.

    7. It’s super important that you give her the treats outside. She’ll associate going to the bathroom outside with getting a treat and tons of praise. If you wait until she comes inside, the association with going to the bathroom is gone and she just thinks you’re giving her a treat for no reason.

    8. Stick to a set schedule. Wake up at 7? Take her out. Bring her in. Feed her. Take her out. Crate her. Go to work. Come home. Take her out. Feed her. Take her out. Family time. Take her out. Crate her. Go to bed. Figure out which times work best for you and ALWAYS take her out as soon as she’s out of her crate and right before placing her in the crate. Eventually she’ll come to expect these potty times and wait for them.

    9. Dogs are smart and they respond to positive reinforcement. If she’s rewarded for going outside, she’ll want to go outside. Because she’s small breed and her bladder is, therefor, small it could take a while to train her. The most important part of training her is to be patient and never leave her alone in a room long enough to go in the house. Pay attention and take her out when she needs to.

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