Ask the Experts: Housebreaking Older Dogs?
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I have a 2 year old female Golden Retriever who was completely housebroken but has now begun to pee in the house for what seems no reason at all. Most times we only find it after the fact and only one time have I caught her in the act. At that time she was scolded and put outside and seemed to understand what she did was wrong, but if I don’t catch her in the act, how can I punish her? Where do I even begin to know how to handle this?
Housebreaking problems in older dogs can be tricky to diagnose and fix, particularly for dogs that were previously housebroken. A number of things can occur that will make them regress, and in order to fix the problem you must first find the cause.
- Did the dog have access to the outdoors? If so, was there a reason that she might have been afraid to go outside to use the potty (loud noises, construction next door, etc.).
- Did her potty set-up recently change?
- Is it possible she has a bladder infection (frequent urination) or weak bladder? If so, this can cause housebreaking issues.
- Was there another dog in the house recently? Marking by other dogs can definitely spike a regression. If none of these were the issue, then look at reasons she might have peed inside.
Once the dog has urinated once in the house “successfully” (and by successfully I mean without any punishment by the owner at the time) the dog is much more likely to do it again, because there is a reward history of relieving oneself. Additionally, if the area wasn’t thoroughly cleaned, this can act as an additional attractant. Make sure that all areas – especially carpet and the padding underneath – are cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner. Then, limit access to the house while you work on re-housebreaking your dog. A crate is a great help here! Limit access to areas prone to urination, and whatever you do, don’t scold your dog when you find an accident. Reprimanding after the fact does not help. Give frequent breaks and let your dog earn her freedom in the house again, starting small with a crate or small area and expanding her area when she can go without an accident for longer periods of time. Supervise potty breaks and praise like she won the Olympics when she does go outside.
About the Expert: Jaime Van Wye is the CEO and Lead Dog Trainer at the Zoom Room, which offers classes in dog agility, obedience, puppy preschool, therapy dog, tricks training, and a wide range of specialty classes such as Shy Dog for newly-adopted rescue dogs. Ms. Van Wye has trained dogs in search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, criminal apprehension and tracking. She is a Certified Master Dog Trainer, a graduate of the North State K9 Academy, and a Professional Level Member of the International Association of Canine Professionals.