Q: Help! I have multiple dogs in my household. They are all small, loving dogs (Miniature Pinschers, Chihuahuas, Mixed Breeds). However, they tend to urinate EVERYWHERE! I constantly clean up the soiled areas with a bleach cleaner, but five minutes later, it is wet again. What can I do to get them to stop urinating everywhere in the house and keep it outside?
A: Urinating in the house is a common problem and one that can be solved by taking a few key steps to establish a routine and help your pets learn to eliminate outside.
First, you must determine the reason your dogs urinate in the house. Start by ruling out the possibility of any medical reasons such as urinary tract infections. The more common reasons may include marking, lack of proper housebreaking instruction, aversion to cold weather, laziness on the part of the dogs, and/or lack of structure and scheduling in the household due to a pet owner’s busy lifestyle. Nevertheless, despite all the listed issues, there is a solution-it just takes time and diligence.
Steps for Modifying Housebreaking Behavior
Dogs need to be individually crated at all times, except when they are outside or indoors tethered to you with a leash. Freedom must be earned. Your dogs have not earned freedom just yet. For the time being, on any occasion that your dogs are outside of their crate you need to be present to train them. At first, I recommend only having one dog tethered at a time. That way you can more effectively supervise and teach each animal. Otherwise, the dogs will distract one another, rather than communicate with you, and the dogs’ play and interactions will distract you from properly attending to the communication of each dog.
- If you suspect a medical issue, take the dog to your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination.
- If you have male dogs, neuter them. Neutered dogs are less likely to perform indoor marking behavior.
- Clean each stain with an enzymatic/bacterial cleaner intended specifically for pet urine. Enzymatic/bacterial cleaners contain bacteria that break down the urine substances that are less likely to attract your dogs for a repeat infraction. In addition, to locate difficult to find stains, I recommend the purchase of an ultraviolet flashlight. In a dark room, urine glows when exposed to UV rays, which provides you an easy method for locating stains that may have escaped you.
- Put the dogs on a Housebreaking Schedule: Take them out 1) when waking up in the morning, 2) before eating, 20 minutes after eating, 4) before play or exercise, 5) after play or exercise, 6) after waking from a nap, 7) after drinking copious amounts of water, 8) prior to bedtime, 9) within a 4-hour time period during waking hours, and 10) any time they clearly communicate a need to go outside to urinate. Also, restrict water one hour before bedtime.
- Using the Housebreaking Schedule, take each dog outside to urinate one at a time. Praise the dog lavishly when the dog urinates or defecates outside. Allow the dog only 5 minutes to use the bathroom. If he properly uses the bathroom outside within the 5 minutes, immediately afterward provide play time or tethered indoor time. If he/she fails to urinate, then place him/her back in his/her crate until the next scheduled bathroom time.
- If your dog urinates in the house, in a deep loud voice, yell “NO!!” Create a fear/startle response that prompts your dog to immediately stop urinating. Then, immediately pick up the dog and take it outside. If the dog urinates appropriately outside, praise him/her lavishly. Afterward, play with the dog for a few minutes then place your pet in his/her crate, as you need to clean the stain with an enzymatic/bacterial cleaner. If you do not catch your dog in the act and only discover the urine stain after the fact, DO NOT punish your dog.
- When a specific dog is accident-free when unsupervised in the gated room and when tethered outside the room for a period of seven consecutive days, you can expand his gated area to also include a nearby room. However, he must be apart from the other dogs when unsupervised indoors and he must be tethered in all rooms outside of the defined “responsible area.” Moreover, if he has an indoor accident while free or tethered, he is returned to the first stage, where he is only crated or tethered, and he must again re-earn his freedom through seven consecutive days of perfect behavior.
As each dog progresses without accidents, gradually expand that specific dog’s responsible area until it includes the entire home.
By setting up your dogs for success and teaching proper housebreaking behavior, properly cleaning soiled areas, and expanding responsibility only after it is earned, you will have the greatest probability of housebreaking your dogs and becoming a happier dog owner. Nevertheless, housebreaking several adult dogs simultaneously that all have historically exhibited inappropriate housebreaking behavior is a daunting task. You will need to be rigid, persistent, and patient to successfully housebreak your pets.