I frequently get asked questions about how to potty train a husky. It may sound surprising, but this problem isn’t exclusive to puppies. There are many reasons why house soiling may occur. Barring any medical reasons for this to be happening.
The Main Reasons For Dogs To Soil Indoors
Newly Adopted Dog
The dog is newly adopted and he lacks any kind of reliable indoor skills, toileting being one of them. It is a big problem for owners when they discover that their new dog lifts his leg on the sofa, squats and pees on the living room carpet, and he has no idea of what is expected from him in this area. This is the only scenario where the current owner did not create the dog’s problem. The owner inherited this problem when he adopted the dog.
The Outdoor Dog
The dog has been in the same home since he was a puppy but he was kept exclusively as an outdoor dog where he eliminated where ever and when ever he wanted. Unfortunately, trying to housebreak a dog that has been living and eliminating exclusively outdoors can be very challenging and frustrating as the dog is not mindful of what he is doing. He simply responds to the urge the moment he feels it.
Very often owners have put very little work into housebreaking these dogs as puppies and after they got tired of cleaning up after all the puppy accidents the dog was relegated to live outdoors.
Badly Trained Puppy
When the dog was a puppy, no one really took the responsibility for making sure that the puppy was taken outside to eliminate regularly and as a result it had a lot of toileting accidents in the house. The owners got angry with the dog for having accidents and punished the dog for eliminating in the house.
The dog never really made the connection about why the humans got so worked up or what they want him to do. He only knows that it has something to do with when he pees or poops. So the dog came to the conclusion that the issue of angry humans and him getting punished could be avoided by making sure that no one sees him doing the peeing or pooping. And this is how a “stealth peer and pooper” is created.
The behaviour cannot be corrected because no one can catch him in the act. He now pees and poops very craftily and stealthily all over the house and the owners have had to buy a steam cleaner to regularly clean the carpets.
Using A Puppy Training Pad
This isn’t how t0 potty train a husky. When you allow or encourage a dog to pee inside, the dog cannot make the generalization that he is ONLY to pee on a pee pad. Nor can he make the judgement between what constitutes a pee pad what is a small throw rug or area carpet.
He also cannot make the generalization of why it is okay to sometimes pee in the house and other times he cannot. Owners can save themselves a lot of time and frustration by immediately starting the process of taking the dog outside to eliminate. If possible, skip the whole training to the pee pad thing.
The good news is that the fix for all of the above mentioned issues are all the same. You must go back to Square One for basic housebreaking principles. In the case of a non-puppy, the difficulty is now you are not only trying to housebreak a mature dog, you are also having to break him of his ingrained bad habits. It is much wiser and easier (as long as you are starting out with a puppy) to invest the time and effort into housebreaking the puppy in the first place and then you do not have to retrain the dog later.
How To Potty Train A Puppy 101
For those of you who have new puppies or are thinking about getting a puppy, you will want to have a very good sustainable plan in place for how you are going to housebreak your puppy. For those of you finding yourself having to go back to the beginning and re-train a mature dog that is not house broken, the steps to reliable housebreaking remain the same.
The following are the 8 basic steps to housebreaking any dog regardless of their age:
1. Create A Potty Training Schedule
One thing is for certain, puppies are playing, eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, and sleeping machines. At any given time a puppy is sure to be doing one of these six things. Watch your puppy to help determine what their natural schedule is going to be. There are some constants for all puppies. Within 15 or 20 minutes after eating or drinking they will need to pee and poop. Right after a bout of boisterous play, they will need to pee and poop. Right after they wake up, they will need to pee and poop. So be vigilant and scoop up your puppy and take them outside immediately after one of these events.
The puppy bladder rule is as follows: You can expect a puppy to be able to hold his bladder in hours equal to his age in months plus one hour. So that means if your puppy is 2 months old, the longest you can expect him to hold his bladder is about 3 or so hours. But just know, that sometimes puppies have not read the memo about this so be ready for them to pee sooner than this.
2. Create A Feeding Schedule
If you know that a puppy will likely have to go potty 15 or 20 minutes after he eats, then make a consistent feeding schedule of 3 or 4 times a day and then you have a reasonably good idea of when you can expect your puppy will need to poop. Creating a schedule makes your life easier in the long run.
3. Pick A Designated Elimination Area
When you take your puppy outside to eliminate take them straight to this designated area. Having a designated elimination area helps the puppy to know what is expected of him. If they insist on running off, put them on a leash and keep them out there until they eliminate. If they relieve themselves, as soon as they are done (do not interrupt them during or they will become startled and stop what they are supposed to be doing) immediately give them praise and a High Value Treat to mark the behaviour. Then bring the puppy back inside to show him that the point of being outside is now completed.
If you have been standing outside for 10 minutes and your puppy has still not relieved himself, bring him back in but watch him very carefully and try again in about 5 minutes time. It is better to keep coming back in and going back out ever few minutes than to stand there for a very long period of time. Puppies have very short attention spans and will forget why they have been brought outside.
If your puppy is having trouble getting the idea of a designated elimination area, try seeding the area with some of his waste to help him understand what you want him to do. If you are using a pee pad, try placing a soiled pee pad in the designated elimination area to help anchor the understanding for your puppy as to what is expected from him.
As soon as you take him outside, cue your puppy to eliminate on command. Pick a word, it does not really matter word you use as long as it is use consistently. In my house the dogs can be cued to either pee or poop using those words as the cue.
4. Know The Signs That Your Puppy Needs To Potty
When a puppy needs to eliminate, his nose goes right to the ground. He begins to frantically circle, pace, and sniff looking for just the right potty spot. His tail will be held up in readiness for the impending elimination. If you see your puppy doing this behaviour IMMEDIATELY scoop him up and rush him outside to his elimination area. Do not try calling him to you or try to get him to follow you outside. By the time he is sniffing the ground, in a few moments he will be peeing or pooping. Good timing is crucial for successful housebreaking.
5. Do Not Give Your Puppy The Run Of The Whole House
It is far easier to keep a good close eye on your puppy when he is contained to the immediate area. Barricade off areas using baby gates or other temporary measures until you can get the puppy eliminating outside consistently.
6. Crate Train For Housebreaking
Because puppies learn from their mother at an early age not to soil in their sleeping quarters, you can use this to your advantage when training your puppy. Buy a crate just large enough for them to lie down and turn around or buy a bigger crate for them to grow in to but use the divider to confine your puppy to a smaller space. If the crate is too big, your pup will eliminate in one area and sleep in another and the point of crate training for house breaking purposes will have been lost on him. Once a puppy starts to soil in the crate, it can be very difficult to break him of the habit so make sure that you set the dog up for success by using the correct sized crate for the dog and by using the crate correctly for this purpose.
7. How To Handle The Puppy Overnight
This is probably the most challenging part of puppy training. If you have been using a crate, then you can crate the puppy in your room right near your bed (where he can see and hear you). Be prepared to get up at least once at night to take your puppy out to pee. Scoop him up and take him out to his elimination place. Have your shoes and a jacket ready and sitting by the door waiting for your middle of the night potty break. Once the puppy eliminates, bring him back inside and put him back in the crate. Be prepared that once the cool night air wakes him up he may not want to go back to sleep so you may want to negotiate the rules with him.
A reasonable night time schedule could be for you to stay up until close to midnight, take the puppy out for his final potty break of the day, and then put him to bed in the crate. He will most likely wake up about 3 am or 3:30 am. Take the puppy out to pee, and then go back to sleep until about 6am. This way you are only having to get up once through out the night.
8. What To Do When Soiling Accidents Occur
Inevitably accidents will happen, especially during the first few weeks. If an accident happens, do not shout at your puppy or show signs of frustration or excitement. Your puppy is learning a new concept and negative emotions will only hinder the process.
If your puppy has eliminated in the house, immediately take your puppy outside to the designated spot and stand with him for a while showing him where you want him to potty. If you are lucky, he may eliminate again once he recognizes the scent of his own waste. If not, just return indoors.
Upon returning to the house, quickly and thoroughly clean the soiled area following these steps:
- Remove as much of the mess as possible using paper towels.
- Saturate the soiled areas with a specialised pet mess cleaner such as Simple Solution Stain And Odour Remover, which contains Pro-Bacteria and enzymes to effectively remove stains and odours. Regular cleaners only mask the odour but do not eliminate them causing your puppy to eliminate in the same spot later.
- Leave the solution for 10 minutes while the enzymes break down the stain.
- Blot the excess solution and leave to air dry.
- A strong 3 parts vinegar to 1 part solution can be sprayed on areas to discourage puppies from sniffing and eliminating. Though keep in mind that using this spray indoors may make your house smell like vinaigrette salad dressing for a while. It is great for outside use to keep puppies from eliminating in undesirable places.
Note: Avoid using cleaners that contain ammonia, as this is likely to cause your pup to continue to defecate in the area.
Housebreaking The Mature Or Adolescent Dog
The steps for effective housebreaking remain the same regardless of the age of the dog.
The keys to success for training a non-puppy are:
- Consistency and frequency of how often you take the dog outside. Mature dogs do not have the same issues with bladder control as puppies do but a dog that has become used to relieving himself in the house has now made a habit of it. The way to overcome this issue is to take the dog outside every 30 minutes to the designated pee area, on leash, and you stand there with him until he eliminates. Be prepared to wait a while. Those first few attempts will be the most challenging for you both. If he has not eliminated in 10 minutes, go back in the house and try again in 10 minutes.
- If your dog is having trouble getting the idea of what you want him to do in the elimination area you can seed the elimination area with a soiled paper towel or his own waste to help him get the idea of this is where you want him to eliminate.
- Cue the dog using only one consistent word, like PEE or POOP. Do not lecture the dog as he does not understand the English language. Talking at him will only serve to confuse and distract him.
- Have extremely High Value treats ready to dispense when he finally does eliminate. High Value treats have to be something special and yummy and something that he cannot get any other time or any other way. Use praise and treats to mark the elimination behaviour once it occurs.
- Put your dog on a schedule for eating and drinking so you can better monitor his pattern to eliminate.
- Do not give an unreliable dog the run of the whole house. Just as with puppies, an un-house broken dog needs to be vigilantly supervised at all times. If you have created a stealth peer or pooper, cutting off access to the rest of the house will do wonders for eliminating opportunities for him to stealth eliminate in the house. If you cannot see him doing the behaviour, how can you begin to correct the behaviour?
- You must thoroughly and effectively clean all surfaces in the house where the dog has eliminated. Make sure to use an appropriate cleaner meant for cleaning up dog messes otherwise you will be fighting a losing battle. If you do not take the time to do this, the dog will just keep re-soiling these areas again and again. Clean the areas and then barricade off access to the dog until such time as you can reliably trust him to be housebroken.
- Do use a crate for the dog during those times when he cannot be directly supervised. Just as with a puppy, make sure that you are using the correct size of crate for this process. The idea for this type of training is that your dog will not soil the area where he lays and sleeps. If the crate has too much space, the dog can soil in a far corner and the crate will become useless as a training tool. If you are crating your dog while you need to be gone, make sure that you take your dog out for a very long vigorous walk before crating him. Always set your dog up for success.
- If you must be away during the day, consider hiring a pet sitter for a while so they can help reinforce the outdoor elimination schedule. If the dog is being crated all day, consider having someone to come in at least once during the day to let the dog out of the crate and take it for a long walk.
- Mature dogs that are intact may be more likely to eliminate in the house because they are marking and remarking their territory. If this is an issue for your dog, consider having them de-sexed and see if the problem does not abate. BUT, keep in mind, that once a dog has started marking indoors it may be very challenging to stop the process even after de-sexing has taken place.
- Even though the issue of a mature or adolescent dog eliminating in the house can be very frustrating for you, remember, your dog is not trying to be annoying or destructive. Eliminating in the house is a problem that was created by human error or neglect, either by you or by someone else.
Retraining or rehabbing a dog’s behaviour is far more challenging and time consuming than training a puppy. But, there is nothing you can do to change what did or did not occur in the past. All you can do right now is to live in this present moment and work with your dog to help shape new behaviours.
Learn to understand your dog’s behaviour from your dog’s perspective so that you may understand where you can change your behaviour. Instead of blaming the dog for his behaviour, try to understand how your choices and behaviour helped create or perpetuate this problem. You cannot expect to see changes in your dog’s behaviour if you insist on doing exactly what caused the behaviour problems in the first place. Look at new ways to communicate more effectively with your dog so clearly understands what is expected of him.
And finally, always, always, always …. see your dog, accept your dog, issues and all, and set him up to succeed.
As always, we welcome your questions, comments and stories on this to potty train a husky. When we share our stories we may be helping someone who is currently struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs …. one owner at a time.