House soiling: Have clients bop themselves with a newspaper

September 14, 2016

Veterinary behavior expert Dr. Elise Christensen has seen many clients inadvertently set their pets up for failure when it comes to housetraining.

Getty ImagesHouse soiling doesn't do your client's floor or patience any favors, which is why it's a major contributor to pet relinquishment. CVC educator and behavior expert E'lise Christensen, DVM, DACVB, says this is partly due to unrealistic client expectations.

Preadoption counseling

A 2007 study by Meghan E. Herron, DVM, and colleagues looked at whether preadoption counseling with owners of newly adopted shelter dogs improved housetraining outcomes.

One month after adoption, 98% of counseled owners considered their dogs housetrained, compared to 86% of noncounseled owners. Interestingly, the two groups didn't differ in the number of house soiling incidents, but Dr. Christensen infers that the counseled group members perceived themselves as more successful because they had been armed with tools and realistic expectations.

Click here to read the abstract.

For example, clients often underestimate how often dogs need bathroom breaks, Dr. Christensen says. She once had a client complain about a dog that kept eliminating on the porch where it was kept. When Dr. Christensen asked how often the dog was taken out, the client replied that he took the dog out once a day. “How often do you go to the bathroom?” she asked. “Your dog needs to go out at least that many times.”

So when a client complains about house soiling, don't assume that the pet has been given an appropriate number of opportunities to eliminate outdoors, says Dr. Christensen. They may not recognize their pet's natural needs.

Dr. Christensen recommends taking out young dogs every hour. When clients protest, she explains, “If you take your dog out 10 times a day for the next few weeks, you'll be done. If you take the dog out three times a day, you'll be doing this for years. Do it right the first time.”

Here are other ways clients unwittingly set their dogs up for housetraining failure:

Getting a dog in the winter

Puppies may be a popular Christmas present, but Dr. Christensen says there are perils of housetraining in the winter. “Clients need to take the dog out,” she says, “but they can't get their boots on fast enough and the dog ends up peeing on the floor. They chase this problem all winter, and then by spring, they really want to work on it but they're stymied by how often the dog is peeing in the house.”

Leaving accidents

Clients-especially those with small dogs-often leave accidents, using the excuse that they'll get it later. “If you want to housetrain your dog, you have to clean it up-otherwise, it looks like a latrine and your dog will keep going there,” Dr. Christensen says.

Winging it

Having a schedule is very important, says Dr. Christensen. She recommends having clients log what the puppy's day looks like, when it's given an opportunity to eliminate, when it actually eliminates and where it eliminates. “That's how we collect our data to know what we need to change in our plan,” Dr. Christensen explains.