My Pet World: Retraining a dog to relieve himself outside, not inside on pee pads
Published in Cannabis Daily
I have a 20-month-old male Maltipoo. I can't get him to stop peeing and pooping in the house. He uses the pee pads most of the time. But I don't know how to get him to let me know he needs to do his business, so I can let him outside. I don't have a yard, but I have a patio. I have fake grass on the patio, and the door for him to get there is open all day. But he still pees and poops in the house on the pee pads.
I have tried removing the pee pads and cleaning the floor, but he still goes to where they usually are and does his thing. I have bells on the front and patio doors, have shown him how to ring them, and have taken him out immediately after. When I walk him (usually every two to three hours), he does pee and poop outside most of the time. The vet says he is in good health with no physical problems. I want to get rid of the pee pads and live an everyday life again. Will this ever happen? He's a stubborn little guy who doesn't seem to get it. I'm so tired of cleaning up after him. Help!
— Carol, Las Vegas, Nevada Arias
Until now, when your dog has had the urge, he's walked over to a pee pad to relieve himself. So, he is not thinking of letting you know he needs to go out because he's never been trained to do that. Add to this equation that pee pads are specially scented to attract dogs, and you can see why your Maltipoo doesn't signal the need to go outside.
Here is what I suggest you do: You're doing the right things by walking him every few hours and cleaning the floors to remove the odors. Use an enzymatic cleaner to remove all the waste particles, so no scent is left behind in your house.
Next, put one pee pad outside on the patio and one pee pad in the house in one of its usual spots. Move the pee pad in the house a few inches closer to the patio door each day. Take your time with this step; getting the pee pad to the door could take weeks.
During this process, buy a clicker (a training tool) and train him to understand what it means (they only cost a few dollars.) Say his name, and when he looks you in the eyes, click the clicker and give him a treat. The clicking noise marks the behavior you want him to learn and lets him know he is about to get a treat. Next, teach him to “sit” using the clicker. Repeat these sessions throughout the day. When he understands the meaning of the clicker, you're ready for the next step.
When the pee pad is close to the patio door, use the clicker anytime you see him walk towards the patio door. He should immediately look at you and approach you for his treat. Now open the patio door, let him outside, and encourage him to pee. If he still pees on the pee pad, use that opportunity to clicker train him to "pee" on command, so he learns to relieve himself whenever you say, "go potty."
Move the pee pad a few inches across the patio door threshold each day until it is partly out the door and partly in the house. Once the pad is entirely outside, move it a few inches daily until it's near your artificial grass. Keep the pee pad next to your grass for at least a week or until you know he is using it exclusively. At that point, cut the pad into smaller pieces each day until it's just a small patch of pad. Put that patch on or near the artificial grass to lure him to the spot. Over time, he should grasp that he is supposed to pee in the area with the patch of pee pad.
Leave the bells on the door, so he eventually connects the sound with his need to go out.
I know this all sounds convoluted and time-consuming. But it takes time – and lots of incremental steps – to untrain a dog to do something he has always done and learn something new. If you’re patient, the result will be a newly trained dog who knows to “go” outside and not in the house.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)