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Dog not house trained at 4 years old(47 Posts)
We’ve got an issue with our dogs toilet habits. It’s been building up for a while and we’ve been burying our head in the sand but I feel like now is the time to tackle this.
She’s 4 and a half years old and basically she’s still not house trained. I’ve spoken to the vet and they believe it is behaviour related rather than something being physically wrong with her. She knows to go to the back door to go outside for the toilet if she needs to and will do this when we’re there.(Yes she uses the garden and we clean it regularly) But if we go upstairs, for example overnight or even during the day for short times, she doesn’t always hold it. It can be a pee or a poo. We always make sure we let her out before we go anywhere and reward her for going outside but it’s been years and it’s not working.
We’ve been coping by still using puppy pads. Obviously this really only helps with the pee but even then it’s not ideal. I know it’s disgusting that a dog poops in our house regularly and it’s really getting me down. We also have a baby now and it’s really panicking me how we’re going to manage when she’s crawling and walking so I’d like to get it sorted. I also panic about people calling over if we’ve just been out as you don’t know what you’re coming back to.
She’s never alone for very long. Maybe an hour or two at most if I go out with the baby. But you can be upstairs for only minutes and come back down to a mess. Or we can be out for a couple of hours and there’ll be nothing.
She isn’t crate trained, just has a bed in the kitchen. Would crate training make a difference? I don’t really understand how crates are used, when do you close them in?
I should mention she also has epilepsy. She takes tablets daily but only for the last year or so as she only had her first seizure in Feb last year whereas these issues have been going on since we got her as a puppy and I trained her as best I could for weeks and weeks, going outside every half an hour with her until she would go. Like I said she seems to know that’s what she should be doing but just doesn’t seem to hold it if we’re not there. Maybe is a separation anxiety thing?
We also don’t really walk her in a routined sort of way. She hates walking round the streets where we live, like literally just plants her bum down and won’t move. We usually end up carrying her back. Only if we go to the beach or something is she happy to walk so it’s not really been a daily thing. She mostly just goes out to the garden and is happiest on the sofa.
We also don’t really walk her in a routined sort of way.
How many times a day do you walk her? My dog does most of his toileting out on walks. If you took her for three+ short walks a day then you might find that helps the situation. I would get a behaviourist in to help.
Only really walked once a day at the minute and the time varies. I haven’t mastered walking her with the buggy (she walks round it and gets twisted) so it’s usually in the morning before hubby goes to work or evening when he’s back.
It’s always been hard to be routined as we do shift work. When I go back to work soon in the evenings hubby won’t be able to walk her then either as baby will be asleep in the house so can’t leave her obviously.
It’s hit or miss whether she does anything on a walk too. 9 times out of 10 she doesn’t and then wants out the back garden as soon as we get home
Bless her, what a dopey thing she sounds! You need professional help - I really do suggest you get a behaviourist to help set you up in the right track. Then you’ll be able to continue correctly training her yourselves.
If it were me I would also get rid of the puppy pads and clean all the floors really really well with a pet cleaner that discourages repeat marking. Then go back to the puppy toilet training ways of taking her out every half an hour/after eating/after playing.
On the walking have you tried her with a dog walker if neither of you can commit to walking her.
As for the toileting if the vet has ruled out medical then it really is back to basics. Ditch the puppy pads so there are no mixed messages. Get an enzyme cleaner for accidents. Take her out frequently and praise like mad when she goes. Also teach her to use toileting bells so you can hear her if you are upstairs so she isn't having to 'hold it' for any length of time until you have cracked the basics.
Ah, was going to come on to say exactly what BiteyShark has said.
Puppy pads are a really bad idea, on the one hand you want to train her to toilet outside, but the puppy pads are telling her it's fine to toilet inside.
You need to go right back to the beginning with the training.
Out every twenty/thirty minutes, after every meal and before bed. And you stay out until she's done a wee or poo.
Find a word to use to let her know what you require from her and then lots of praise when she does it.
This is not going to be easy with a new baby, but going back to the beginning and being consistant in the training is the only way she'll learn.
Ahh I was worried people would say we need to go back to basics. With a baby and no other help at all during the day I really don’t see how I can do every thirty minutes with her. The baby takes up literally all of my time, I’m lucky if I get time to have a coffee once a day or even get dressed.
We cannot afford things like dog walkers or behaviourists. Her insurance is already quite expensive with the epilepsy and with being on mat leave etc finances are so so tight.
I understand the pads may be mixed messages but she was literally soaking the place several times a day. The grout is ruined in the tiles. I’ve even had someone out to professionally clean it to get rid of the scent but she still carried on.
Sorry I don’t mean to sound dismissive of people’s advice but it’s just proving so difficult to know what to do.
We will try and sit down and see if there are definite times maybe twice a day we could consistently walk her. It’ll be hard with shift work. Maybe I’ll try making sure she gets fed at the exact same times every day.
I will try and get rid of the pads & get an enzyme cleaner. Had never heard of that before!
You can get special pet cleaners that are designed to remove the smell so that it doesn't encourage them to keep toileting in the same area.
Sadly there is nothing else but to go back to the basics. I wish there was a magic wand and a dog could be trained just like that, but it's just repetition, positive enforcement and paying attention.
She needs her daily routine of walks, she needs structure and exercise.
Sorry that's not what you wanted to hear OP.
Yeah you’re right. Well we will just have to find a way. I guess we’ve just accepted it for so long but having the baby has made me see it isn’t good for any of us, the dog especially. We’ve been failing her really.
Time to come up with a plan that will work long term for us all.
The main thing is she needs walks!
Twice a day, morning and evening, preferably approx 30 minutes-hour after she has been fed so that she can toilet on the walk.
What breed is she? It should be easy to walk her with a buggy - if she is getting twisted around the buggy, can you use a shorter lead. A waist belt might help too, to keep your hands free.
Yes, good for you. Hope you get her sorted out.
Good luck OP.
It is hard work but it's what needs to happen for your dogs' sake. Two walks a day, morning and evening, ideally about sixty minutes after you feed her so she can empty her bowels and such on the walk.
It's so unfair to expect a dog to go without a walk and just make do with the sofa and a garden. I know that sounds harsh but the reality is that dogs need walks. Even if that means you get up at 5am to make sure you can take her to the park or something before work.
If you don't have the time or money to dedicate to fulfilling her needs then you need to consider whether you can keep her. It's not fair on her otherwise.
Having had a toddler and a puppy (baby had just turned one when we got doggo)- I know it’s daunting to go back to basics but honestly it is doable. I did/do the majority of our dog’s training as my partner works a lot. And our garden is downstairs. It was a bloody pain but relatively quick. Out every ten minutes to start with. Treat like mad. Ignore accidents. Make the gaps longer. Etc etc. My only thought though is that it may not be a toilet training issue but a separation anxiety problem, possibly exasperated by new baby? The fb group Dog Training support and advice is really helpful with SA and has loads of games etc but apparently it isn’t a quick fix.
In terms of managing the baby and dog, slings are brilliant. I use a toddler carrier now for all walks so I can focus on training the doggo. Also gives you the benefit of making you fit super quickly!
She’s needs more walks, more regularly. She needs basic puppy training which you’ve apparently missed out. And you need to get rid of the puppy pads as you’re literally telling her it’s ok to go in the house. You can give all the reasons and excuses in the world why you find this all too inconvenient, this is the very basics of responsible dog ownership though. This should have been tackled immediately upon getting the dog, not four years later where you can blame the baby for not wanting to train the dog. I’ve housetrained a puppy with my first baby, then housetrained a second with a small child, a toddler and a newborn. You just need to put the work in for a few months op
Just reread your post and noticed she doesn’t even get fed at regular intervals in the day. The dogs got no structure and routine on top of the lack of training and not enough walks. Her life sounds completely chaotic and she probably doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going. I don’t mean this as harsh as it probably sounds, but you probably need to ‘go back to basics’ yourselves on how to probably care for the dog
Ok I think it's it sounds as though she has separation anxiety, if its when you are out of sight mostly I would say she is stressing and toileting is a symptom of this that she will struggle with.
When she is left for a couple of hours do you leave her with a Kong or some doggy puzzles with little treats in or is she just left in the kitchen say? If she's just left in the kitchen or hall etc I would stick something that smells like you in with her, is letting her have more freedom in the house an option? If she could come upstairs she won't panic, we also attached a cat bell to an elastic band and wrapped it around the back door handle so can hear ours when they want to go out.
Put baby in a carrier or sling and just take her around the block no carrying do that a few times a day and go from there, its not easy having dogs and babies together but it is amazing once you get yourself into a proper routine, it doesn't need to be based on times so if you work evenings, get up and let into garden have breakfast and get dressed then go around the block, come home do whatever play ball, wash up, just chat to her and the baby, just before lunch off round the block again or a different direction so you don't all get bored, when you are about to leave give her a kong slightly frozen means it will last longer, have a radio or tv on. Once your husband is back him and baby go for a little walk too, if I have confused the timing and both of you work later in the day then all go for the walks in the morning or take it in turns.
Get rid of the pads and any accidents clean with vodka or turps as they will get rid of the smell the dog wants to wee over again (you can then clean over with normal products) do not use bleach though as this will make the situation worse not better.
Try some clicker training too dogs generally love this and can be used to help with the walking, toileting or just brain exercises, I know you think you have no time now but you do its just about shuffling things even just a couple of minutes, the dog has been through a whole lot if change with a recent baby and you owe it to the dog to make a little time a quick cuddle, reading baby a story just sit next to the dog too, baby needs a nap off out for a walk, the fresh air is good for you all and with these few little tweaks you will all be happier.
Thanks very much bigmango and umberellellaella, some really excellent advice there. We did get a baby carrier but baby went mental every time we tried it when she was only a couple of months old but I’ll give it another go now she’s a little older. My hubby works days and I will be working evenings so trying to get out at the same times without the baby would be difficult so maybe baby carrier is the answer.
And not once did I say my ‘reasons and excuses’ were making tackling all this an ‘inconvenience’. I simply know that we’ve tried and failed until now and I want to sort this out long term so don’t want to say something will work when I know it won’t in reality. The fact I’ve come on here looking for advice surely shows I know we aren’t doing enough but I need to be realistic in terms of what we can do. Giving her away is not an option.
Appreciate all the other helpful posts.
Regular mealtimes will definitely help - I don't know what you feed but another thing to consider is not leaving dry food down all day (not sure if you do that or not, just thought it would be worth mentioning).
She sounds like an eccentric dog so I would imagine that at least some of her behavior is down to stress.
Try an enzyme cleaner to remove the smell of pee from the house. Pet stores and Amazon have them. Simple Solution works very well.
Try Adaptil colors/diffusers to see if that helps settle her when you are not there.
Definitely try crate training. Basically get a crate that is large enough for her to stand up, turn around and lie down in. Make it a nice, inviting space with a comfy bed. For a few weeks give her all her food, treats and chews in there with the door open. When you leave the room give her a chew in the crate. Don’t close the door until she is really comfortable and, start off by closing the door for a few minutes while you are there.
Click and treat every time she goes to the toilet outside and try to associate a command word with toileting outside.
Sorry op, but it sounds like laziness. She’s been toileting in the house for four years now and you’re now only doing something about it because the baby’s going to start crawling soon. You can’t walk her properly because you do shift work. You encourage her to go in the house using puppy pads because you don’t want her spoilng the grout. You can’t let her out twice an hour because you have a baby. You don’t want to pay money for a professional to train her. And you apparently can’t do anything about it because the baby’s taking up so much of your time that you can barely get dressed or have a single cup of coffee in a day? People have given you the basic information of where you’re going wrong which you should have researched before getting the dog, you just need to do it
Babies and dogs both benefit from structure and routine (and new mums, for that matter!)
You will all feel better by clock watching a bit more.
Meals at the same time every day.
Sleep/quiet time at the same time every day.
Walk in the fresh air at the same time every day.
And for your dog, outside in the garden (assuming it's safe and enclosed) for 10 minutes every hour. Or 5 mins every half hour. Having that clockwork routine with your dog may well help structure the rest of the day with baby.
Join the Dog Training Advice and Support group on Facebook, read the module on toilet training (right back to basics as if she were a puppy) and then ask follow up questions if there’s anything you’re unsure of.
I have had this problem with DP dog as he never got into a routine with him. It’s been a bloody nightmare as he thought pooping in the house was perfectly acceptable (dog not DP). My DDog was in a routine right from being a pup and I’ve kind of enforced the same routine on DP dog now we live together and fingers crossed the “accidents” are further and further apart. I have a strict routine of food followed by garden for toilet, my Ddog will go almost instantly and slowly it’s sunk in with DP dog that's what’s expected. I’ve had to be consistent and very stubborn at times as in when you toilet you get to come in and have a treat, it’s been a battle of wills and taken a good few months but he is going instantly after his food now.