4 Common Dog House-Training Problems — And How to Fix Them

If your pup has been fine with house-training until now, there may be several reasons for the break in training. (By: Jonathan Kriz)

All house-training problems are frustrating, but the good news is that they’re often easy to fix with a little thought and care. Here are some tips that can help.

1. Sudden Changes in Established Habits

  • If your dog has been fine with house-training up until now, there may be several reasons for the break in training.
  • If there have been no major changes in their life, your dog may very well have a medical problem, such as kidney trouble. Have your veterinarian rule out possible medical causes.
  • Your dog may be trying to defend their territory if you have a new animal in the household. You will probably need to separate the pets for a while, and reintroduce them gradually. Provide each with a retreat area.
  • Your dog may be generally upset or anxious if you’ve just moved and trying to assert ownership of the new territory. Mark your territory first: Scatter dirty laundry around the house to tell your dog you’ve claimed the territory. After a few days, you can pick up the laundry.

2. Eating Feces

Some dogs will eat other animals’ feces. By and large, this is a fairly normal — if disgusting — habit.

The main risk of this habit lies in picking up internal parasites. If you have such a dog, you should make sure your vet checks frequently for worms.

Dog eats cat poop

If it is cat feces in an indoor litter box, you can try the following:

  • If you have a utility closet or some other closet where you can keep the litter box, fix the door so that it opens only enough for the cat to get through (assuming big dogs) by using something like a string/ribbon/rope over the door handle to a small hook on the adjacent wall or door jamb. If you can make a more permanent change, you could put a kitty door into the closet and keep the door shut.
  • Or get the kind of litter box with a big top and a “kitty door” or even just an opening on it. Place the litter box with the opening about 4-6 inches from a wall (backward from the way you would normally think of placing it). This leaves just enough room for the cat to get into the box but not (usually) enough room for the dog to get to the box. The kind of box with the swinging kitty door helps make it a little harder for dogs to get into it.
  • The Modkat litter box (affiliate link) is amazing. Its sleek design looks great, and it keeps dogs out, thanks to its top entryway. One happy customer tells us the Modkat has meant “no more dogs diving after the cat poops!”
Modkat litter box

Dog eats own poop

A surprising number of dogs eat their own feces (coprophagy). This is a fairly disgusting habit and difficult to cure. One way to prevent this from occurring is to clean up feces as soon as possible, but this can be difficult for dogs left in yards or kennels all day.

The Monks of New Skete think that eating feces may involve a dietary deficiency. Adding Accent (monosodium glutamate) or kelp tablets (usually available at health food stores) to your dog’s food can give the feces a bad taste for the dog. Also, putting Tabasco and vinegar on the feces itself may work.

In rare cases, this can suggest a trypsin deficiency. Trypsin is a digestive enzyme, and affected dogs don’t get enough nutrients from the food so they eat the stool. In many cases, despite eating quite a bit, the dogs are still thin. There is a test for this syndrome, and enzyme supplementation is part of the treatment. Your veterinarian can help you rule out this possibility.

This is a difficult problem and not always solved or stopped. It doesn’t really hurt the animal, although you should take care to have them checked often for internal parasites, which they are more likely to pick up.

3. Urination

If it is a change in your dog’s normal behavior, it might be a bladder infection or some other medical problem, so check that with your vet first.

It’s rather common for older spayed females to start dribbling. This is easily fixed most of the time with doses of estrogen. In many cases, the doses can be tapered off after a few months. Some dogs require estrogen for the rest of their lives. Only small doses are needed, so it’s not that expensive to treat.

If your dog is urinating in different places around the house, you can try the “vinegar trick.” Pour some vinegar on the spot in front of the dog. What you’re telling the dog is, “I’m alpha. You may not pee here.” Then clean it all up, first with an enzymatic odor remover and then with a good carpet shampoo.

4. Defecation

Defecation is not as frequently a problem as urination can be. However, the most often recommended remedy for a dog who defecates in the house is to change the feeding times so that you are likely to be walking the dog when they need to defecate or they are outside in the yard, etc.

This will take some time of fiddling with the amount, frequency, and timing of feeding your dog to get the results you want.

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