A friend on Facebook was venting about her boys peeing all over her house. She is near her limit and wants to neuter them all. I don’t blame her. This is a pervasive issue that many breeders have problems with. Most people stick a belly band on the dog and let them proceed to pee. (For those that do not know, a belly band is a sort of diaper for male dogs. )
I’ve owned intact male dogs most of my life. I’ve never had an issue with them peeing in the house and I won’t use a belly band. I’ve taken a young dog to someone else’s home and they have momentarily lost their mind, but dogs do not generalize. You have to remind them “Oh that isn’t allowed, Fluffer!” For those of you wondering my background, I’ve had up to 4 intact males in a house full of intact females, yet they did not mark in the house once they understood the rules. I’ve also taken in adult dogs who have spent years marking in other people’s homes and taught them not to mark. I’ve taught abused rescues and spoiled brats who have never suffered a day in their life just the same. Time and time again I am told “I tried that, it didn’t work”. My answer is always “You moved through the training steps to quickly. Go back and start again”. This is not a quick fix and it takes dedication. You are going to have to treat your adult male dog like he is an infant baby for months, maybe even a year.
Every male dog I have owned has had a moment (or two!) when they hit full on puberty and think “Hey, I need to mark my territory!”. It is instinct you are working against, but thankfully dogs are smart and most hate breaking the rules. The issue most people do not communicate clearly what, exactly, the dog did wrong. The first time you notice you are having a problem, you need to completely remove the dogs freedom. He should be treated like he is a 7 week old puppy “until further notice”. Depending on how long you have allowed the behavior to continue, this could take anywhere from a month to a year. This is not an easy fix, especially if you have pee spots all over your house and a dog that has been doing it for years.
Step one: The dog is crated or tether to you within the home. ZERO freedom, not for a single second is that dog allowed to walk free. If you take him outside in the back yard and want to let him run, great. Walk him out on leash and tell him to “go pee” first on a favorite area. Once he goes, lots and lots of praise for pottying outside. “Good job, yes!! Pee outside. Good Pee Pee”. Whatever word you use for going pee is what you need to be chanting at him as he goes. You are teaching him that you like it when he pees outside and on command. Let him off leash to play if you want at this point. He must be tethered to you when in the house and not to furniture. You are watching for him to lift his leg and if he is tethered to the table and you are in the kitchen, you cannot watch your dog. If he marks, you will be able to see him right then and you will correct him verbally (Ahhh, nooooooooo. NO Peeing in the house) and take him to his crate to think about what he did. Be careful here. Do not scare your dog. Give him a 5 minute time out, then leash him up and outside to go pee. Ask him to go pee. Keep your body posture calm and make darn sure you are not upset. We are teaching the dog what to do, not scaring him so he shuts down and learns nothing. You cannot learn without first making a mistake and having that mistake pointed out to you. Do you learn better when you are upset and scared, or when you are told what was incorrect in a non judgmental way?
Step two: Clean up the pee spots. This is where most people fail. They do not fully clean up the urine. If it is an old spot or on a carpet and into the pad and sub floor, it is going to take weeks to clean it properly. You can soak the area with hot carpet cleaning solution and shop vacuum it up (or use a carpet cleaner). Do this several times to get most of the urine off the area. Once that is done you need to soak the area in Nature’s Miracle or some other enzyme formula. Scrub any furniture with soapy water, then again coat it with nature’s miracle to dry. Use a black light to see any urine spots you might have missed. Clean them and soak them. You need to let the sopping wet nature’s miracle dry on it’s own over a few day’s period. Once it is fully try, soak the area in carpet cleaning, shop vac up, dump on more nature’s miracle. Let it dry. Those enzymes will eat up all that lovely urine and kill the smell. When we moved into our current home, the carpet in the kids bedroom smelled of pee. I didn’t notice it until after we moved in. I treated this carpet for about 2 months before I got all the urine smell out. It takes time, but it does work.
Step three: Keep doing Step One, but if you catch him peeing again, you can shame him a bit. Something like “OH no! No Peeing in the house! Ahhh, now we have to go crate”. Again, do not be angry. More disappointed, surprised, shocked. You want him to absolutely think “Ok, yeah that was it. She really doesn’t like it when I pee inside. I wasn’t sure that was what got me crated before. Now I get it. Humans are really weird, but ok. I need to remember this”. Then again, back on leash, outside to pee. Lots of praise for peeing outside.
Step four: Go for walks as much as the weather allows. These will be on leash walks and the dog is absolutely not allowed to pee unless you tell him to. My suggestion is to ask him to go on a bush before you start walking. Once the walk starts, zero peeing. If he goes to pee “Ahhh, No Pee. Let’s keep moving”. This is his one ‘free pass’. If he does it again, take him home and crate him for 5 minutes. He gets no more free passes on walks or anywhere else. While walking, do some obedience work. Greet other people and dogs with a nice sit stay. Keep him walking beside you or slightly behind and watch your dog. So many people put the leash on the dog and ignore them once a walk starts until the dog gets so crazy or pulls so hard they choke themselves. Don’t be that person. If you have a dog with you the dog should be your primary focus until the dog is trained enough for your mind to wander. Remember why you are taking this walk. This is potty training, with some exercise and obedience work tossed in for good measure. Do this once a day, twice if you have nice weather and free time. It doesn’t have to be a long walk, 5-10 mins will start to instill in the dog “Ok, this women is serious about where I can pee.”
Step five: Set the dog up for failure. Take the dog to a place where they normally pee a bunch and get to be wild. Maybe this is the park or something similar. Make this a grand event. “We are going to the park!” Ask the dog to pee on command before you load up the car in a spot you want him to use every time you load. Bring a crate for the car if you have room in your vehicle. Most of the time my guys ride free in my minivan. However, I keep a crate in the back for puppies, Lina (who gets car sick), and dirty/wet dogs. If you do not have room, then don’t worry about the crate, but you will have to leave the park instead of giving the dog a time out when they make a mistake. Most dogs, at this point, will think they are at a place where peeing on everything is perfectly fine. Keep the dog on leash. You asked the dog to pee before you left the house, so they should not need to potty. Walk them by something tempting, like a pole that holds up the swings or a lovely tree that every dog uses near the parking lot. Let the dog venture towards the object of desire. They can sniff for a second, then say “Let’s go”. Watch them. This is the point where they are likely going to try and mark. If they even try to left a leg you say “Ahhh, No Pee! I did NOT tell you to Pee”. Take them to the car, put them in the crate and shut the car. Leave them crated for 5 minutes. If you do not have a crate, I would just take them home saying “That was a bad choice. Now we can’t play at the park”. If you crated the dog, you can try one more time. If they attempt to mark again “Ahh, no Pee” and take them home. Repeat this every few days until you can safely take your dog to the park, petco, etc and they do not even consider marking.
Anyone see a pattern here? We are showing the dog that there is not a single place they are allowed to pee except the back yard, the place in the front yard where they can go before they load up in the car. Eventually you will tell them they can pee at new places on command, but for now you are limiting them. Dogs do not generalize. You have to show them “You do not pee in my house. You do not pee at tractor supply. You do not pee at the park. You do not pee out hiking. You do not pee on my sisters things. You do not pee on grandma’s bed”. After you have done about 4 of these, they typically get the concept and will only need reminders. The key is consistency.
Step six: After a week zero freedom and no marking, you can decrease the trips you take outside to pee. After another week of good behavior and decreased trips outside, you can block off a very small area where you spend time and let the boy off leash for a little bit. With training we only change one variable at a time. If you increase the time between trips outside, make sure he is good with that before increasing the area he is allowed to be free. If you watch TV in the evenings, you can put a few expens around the couch / tv area. This will allow the dog to play a bit but not enough freedom to wander the house and pee on the foot-board of your bed. Again, treat this dog like he is 7 weeks old. After one or two TV shows, take him outside and ask him to go pee. You can now make the trip outside off leash. Watch where he is marking. If he is marking someplace like the bar-b-que grill I would tell him Ahhh and call him over to the area you want him to use. Clean up the grill as described above. Pretty soon you will be able to say “No, go pee in your spot. Do not pee there.” and the dog will get it.
The number one thing you need to be doing is watching your dog. Make it a habit to check on him if he moves. When he is up playing, watch him. When he is sleeping, you can zone out a bit, but remember to zone in on him when he moves. If you are busy and cannot watch the dog, crate time.
Step Seven: Increasing the size area he is allowed off leash OR decrease the number of times you take him outside to pee. Do not change both at the same time. After a week or two of no issues in the small area, you can increase his range. “My dog is fine as long as I am watching him” is the number one thing I hear. That person moved past this step to quickly, and didn’t pattern train the dog to stalk and keep them in view 100% of the time. They are right, if the dog wanders off into another room, he might mark, so we train the dog to stay with us. If your dog is ready, having no issues while on leash in all situations, maybe he can now have the entire living room during TV time, but he isn’t allow in the hall, kitchen, dinning room, or bedrooms. Make sure he stays in view. If he wanders behind the couch (and isn’t playing tag or something with another dog) make him come back around where you can see him. You need to stay focused on him. When you move rooms, call him to follow, maybe set up exercise pens, play yards, or baby gates in different areas of the house to limit choices. He is to be your shadow, even following you into the bathroom. He needs to learn to stalk you and stay in your view. If he walks out of sight, call him back and tell him to down while you wash your face and do your hair. It should become habit for him to wake up when you move, follow you, collapse into a sleep mass when you stop. River now has this down to a science and he was a horrible marker in his last home! You can do this, but you can’t go from “You are tethered to me, be good” to “You are free to go do whatever you like, I’m not watching you anymore”. Gradually, it will be his automatic response to keep your dog within sight for both you and the dog.
Step Eight: Allow him limited freedom. Maybe he is a heavy sleeper, so you can leave him out of the crate at night. This was River’s first reward for good behavior. He had access to the bedroom while we were sleeping, then I started leaving the bathroom door open. Then lastly my master closet. Once I knew he was safe at night, I started taking down pens and gates around the house, but would always call him to follow me when I moved. He now automatically follows me everywhere and even though the house only has one room blocked off for pups in training, he doesn’t venture away from me. It is to much of a habit for him to wake up when I move and follow. This is a good thing.
Step Nine: Maintenance. There will be times when they lose their minds. If you have intact girls, watch for marking when girls come into season. Same deal. Keep them crated, tethered, or outside during this month until you are sure they are not going to make a poor choice. River peed on a crate a girl was in once. He only did it once and it was like he realized it when he did it… “OH geez. Bad CHOICE!”. He was crated and tethered the entire time the girls were in season. He HATED it and hasn’t done that again. When you visit family, limit access until you know he will be safe. Dogs are not stupid, but they do not learn as people do and they need training in each new situation. It will take you a while to cover all the aspects, but each time you have to step back in training, the dog will grasp the idea much faster. “Oh yeah, ok. Same rules. Yeah I get it. I can’t pee here either.”
This training is made much easier if your dog knows down stay. Here might be a typical day for a boy in this training situation. Wake up, open crate and put leash on the boy. Take him outside and ask him to “Go Pee”. Lots of praise for peeing. Let him empty his bladder, but don’t allow him to go pee on twenty things. This is the wake up and go pee moment. Back inside. Make coffee and have dog down next to you while you get a few things done in the kitchen. Ask the dog if he wants to go play for a few minutes. Take him out back and turn him off leash. Go shower, get dressed, etc. Go get dog, put back on leash. Walk over to bush and ask him to go pee. If he doesn’t say “Ok, but you better not pee in the house!” He is now leashed to you as you make the kids lunches, walk out to the car to start it so it warms up, then back inside to get everyone going. He is with you the entire time. Load him up in the car as you take the kids to school. Once back home, take him again to pee. Back in the house, put him in a down stay as you gather up all the bowls to make breakfast for the dogs. Everyone goes crate for breakfast. After that is done, on leash again, outside and ask him to pee on his bush. If he goes lots of praise and let him off leash to go “Potty” and play. Leave him outside for a bit to run off steam. Call all the dogs inside, he goes on leash even if walking straight to the crate. Crate up the dogs, go shopping / work / etc. When you come home, back on leash, outside to potty on command, then free time to play with the other dogs. As they come back inside, he goes back on leash. It is time to get the kids from school. Crate the other dogs, load up the boy in the car, head to school and pick up kids. Go to the park after school and train the dog while the kids play. After park, go home and when you get out of the car you ask the dog to pee on the bush out front. Back in the house, let all the dogs outside to play for a bit while you start the kids homework. Bring him back inside on leash and he will lay in the kitchen as you work on dinner. If he has a strong down stay you are much better off, as he can be off to the side. You decide to surf facebook and get some emails done while dinner is cooking. You give him a bone to chew while you are busy. He is tethered next to you. He is laying down, so he can’t mark. You can focus on emails. Dinner is ready, so move back outside for another pee break. You put him on a down stay on his mat while you eat dinner (or you crate him) After you are finished eating, feed all the dogs in their crates, then outside to pee. Take the dog on a short walk. Back in the house for some TV time and cuddling on the couch, dog is tethered to you and enjoying the family time. TV show is over, back out to pee and maybe play, weather willing. You decide to take a hot bath before bed, so you bring him inside on leash and have him do a down stay next to the bathtub. He is loving all the attention, why would he want to be somewhere else when he can hang with you. End of day, off to crate for a nice long sleep. Repeat daily for at least one month until the dog is fully habituated to stalking you when in the house.
This was incredibly long, but if you have a dog who is marking in the house and you do not want to resort to diapers, this method works. You might spend a few months getting the training right, but think of the years of happiness a well mannered male will bring to the entire family.