Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | August 8, 2006

House Training Tips

Dear Pet Column,

 I recently adopted a puppy and am having a hard time house-training her.  She appears to understand the concept of not soiling in the house but when I get home she often urinates in the house before I can get her outside.  How can I get her to hold it a few more minutes?

 Sincerely, Peeved By the Pee

 Dear Peeved By the Pee,

 Hi, my name is Nikita and I was chosen to answer this week’s pet column question.  As 10 week young Border Collie/Australian Shephard puppies, my siblings and I are in the process of understanding this whole “pee outside only” business.  What you describe above is common with puppies, as well as with some adult dogs, and can be easily resolved by developing a better understanding of the canine communication system. 

 So, imagine this: you are a small puppy – new to the world and your new home.  You are a bit anxious and the fact that your nose only comes up to the calf of most members of your new family does not help matters.  You have been left alone for a few hours, which you really don’t like as you were born as a social pack animal, thus you are more anxious. 

 Your new parent comes home, you are excited and nervous and really want to please her.  She walks straight toward you in a dominant fashion (us dogs usually sidle up to each other in more of a sideways fashion), and she extends her hand to your head, which you recognize as another sign of dominance. 

 This body language triggers an internal instinctual command letting you know that the best thing to do is show complete submission  – so you urinate while standing there wagging your tail.  But, instead of being pleased by this, your new parent becomes verbally and physically upset.  This confuses you, so you urinate more in case she missed it the first time, causing more distress on her part and confusion on yours.  Once again you wonder, “why do these humans not respond the way they are supposed to?”

 If you can relate to this scenario, let me now give you some tips for prevention to help your puppy quickly move beyond the need for this behavior:

 1).  When greeting your pup remember to remain calm.  Greeting with excited or loud voices and rapid body movements serve mainly to excite a pup, which you are now trying to avoid.  Thus, move slowly and speak in a calm voice.  Have all family members and visitors utilize these guidelines as consistency is the key to training positive behaviors. 

 2) To further reduce anxiety in the greeting process, kneel down next to your puppy, not directly in front, and keep your upper body straight (the bending over thing we confuse with a dominant stance).  Avoid direct eye contact (more dominance) and pet under the chin rather than on top of the head (yup, more dominance).  Also take your pup or dog outside as soon as possible as a full bladder releases more easily.

 3) If an accident does happen, it is important that you not become upset – remembering that canines are very good at recognizing body language and any reaction can be sensed.  To avoid becoming angry try to remember that “submissive urination” is truly a compliment from your pup who is stating, “yes boss! Whatever you say boss!”  Also remember that puppies are particularly prone to this behavior as it signals our low ranking status and keeps us safe from being challenged – it is a survival mechanism.  Thus, calmly invite your puppy outside and then clean up the puddle.

 In summary you want to focus on eliminating your behaviors that make your puppy urinate by replacing all signals that are considered threatening with non-threatening actions, such as tossing treats on the floor or throwing a toy for her to chase as the greeting ritual. 

 I would also like to mention that myself and four of my siblings have all been working hard on our house training and feel we are fully prepared for life amongst a family that has time and energy to work and play with us on a consistent basis to continue with our training.  We have a great deal of energy and enthusiasm for life and would love to share this with you.  Please come visit us…

 Pet Questions for next week’s column can be sent to: or to Pet Column, c/o Second Chance Humane Society, PO Box 2096, Ridgway, CO 81432.  SCHS offers animal humane services to San Miguel and Ouray Counties.  Contact Kelly at 626-2273 x4 for more information on volunteer and community education programs.  For information about adopting, reporting a lost pet, or other pet questions, contact Kim at 626-2273 x1 (SCHS Animal Hotline).


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