The Dog Behavior Expert
Q: I recently rescued my dog, Blue, from a shelter. Unfortunately he is not housebroken yet and is constantly “going” in his crate while I am out of the house. I have someone take him out during the day while I am at work, but I still find wet blankets and little “presents” in his crate when I get home. What is the best way to potty train a shelter dog? Is there a different method?
A: What a great thing you did rescuing Blue. As a shelter dog, he needs love and consistency. He has most likely seen many different faces and places throughout his journey. And even though he now has you, he may still be under a lot of stress. He also may not be used to being crated, so let’s start by helping him overcome the fear of being left alone. Confine him in a different area where he hasn’t been having accidents and feels secure, like a small room or exercise pen. Teach him that this is his safe and special place. Get him accustomed to this area and take him outside regularly so that his new bathroom habits are successful, and he is not stressed about being restricted.
Choose an area that is close to where you spend a lot of time. Blue won’t feel isolated and you will be able to see when he needs to be let out. Make it a rich environment with bedding and toys that are meant for “self amusing,” like food dispensing toys and chew bones. It is a good idea to feed him in his safe place so he looks forward to being there. If your schedule permits, feed Blue three smaller meals a day of a quality food, that is highly digestible, to make it easier for him to hold his need to go to the bathroom. You should also limit his water intake if you have to leave him for a longer time.
When you take him to relieve himself, not only do you need to be sure to praise him, but it’s also very important to make sure he actually goes. A lot of times dogs have accidents inside because they haven’t gone when they are outside. The most important thing is to never punish his mistakes. He is very likely not to go in front of you if he thinks he might be reprimanded. In fact, he might intentionally hold it until you are not looking, which means going in the house.
Take a little time to establish a new and successful routine while you are home. Help him get over the stress of his former life with a lot of love and praise, and you and Blue will have many happy, housebroken years ahead.
ABOUT the Trainer
Expert dog trainer and behaviorist Jonathan Klein has been helping people train their dogs for more than 20 years. He runs the award-winning, boarding and training facility, “I Said Sit!” School for Dogs in West LA. Jonathan was honored with the “Best Training” award on the L.A. Hotlist 2009-2011. His training segments have appeared nationally and he is a frequent interview source contributing to such media outlets as The Associated Press, Parents, and USA Today.