11 House Training Problems and How to Deal With Them


I’ve talked a lot in my posts about house training issues, both as they relate to puppies and older dogs (see House Training an Older Dog) most of the time, though, I’ve been proceeding from the point that you’ll probably just be having to deal with normal house training – in other words, if you just follow certain procedures, you’ll get it done in no time.

The harsh reality, though, is that sometimes basic house training doesn’t cut it. You might end up with special issues that require something a bit different. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about some issues that are a bit outside the normal house training routine, and how to deal with them. What are you going to do if you have house training problems? What constitutes an “out of the ordinary” house training problem as opposed to something along the lines of “Here’s the back yard, so go use it,” and how are you going to deal with it?

Let’s talk about 11 problems that go beyond ordinary house training.

1. Leg Lifting

It goes something like this – you had the most wonderful little boy, playful and affectionate, and totally house trained. Then, to your horror, he started lifting his leg indoors. Why in the world would he do that?

He does it because he’s marking his territory. He’s letting you know that the house belongs to him. His house, his rules. He wants to rule the world.

Here’s the thing – he’s just a guy, and that’s what guys do. It’s really not much different than human men who want to hang it out in the back yard instead of coming inside to use the toilet. So what are you going to do?

Well, you could have your dog neutered. Sometimes that dials back the dominance a notch or two. Other times, it doesn’t and you’re still going to have to deal with the marking. If you don’t want to neuter, or if neutering doesn’t work, take him outside on lead and make sure he goes in one specific place. As to the indoors, clean up everywhere he “marks” using an odor neutralizer. And of course be vigilant – if you see him lifting his leg, take him out immediately and scold him. I’m not saying you should yell at him, but speak in a calm, neutral tone that lets him now you’re not overly happy with his behavior.

Related Content:

House Training an Older Dog
8 Ways to Finally Housebreak Your Puppy For Good
An Essential Guide to Dog Commands and Dog Training (Video)

2. Too Sleepy!

This problem is a lot like the one people have with kids – they just can’t make it through the night, so you wake up at 4 in the morning with a deposit beside your bed. The solution here could be something as simple as feeding early and offering a late-night walk.

3. My Place!

Yes, unfortunately, some dogs will find a favorite spot in the house to do their business. Most of the time, they’ll choose a spot where you won’t find the deposit for a while.

This could be a behavioral issue, or it could be due to a urinary tract infection, so before you blame your dog, take him to the vet. Keep in mind, too, that females who are coming into eat might display this behavior – it’s not her fault, but if you want to have it stopped, you will probably need to have her neutered. Then, clean up the area, and go back to basic house training to get her to go outdoors.

Another thing you might consider is that your dog is not being walked often enough, and believe me, I know this can be an issue. I hate going out in the rain and the snow, but I also know that it’s not realistic to expect my dogs to “hold it in.” So do what you know you have to do.

4. Submission Wetting

This is actually a pretty common problem. If your dog pees when you speak sharply to him, it’s because he’s submissive. And if you scold him for doing it, you’re only going to make matters worse.

So, when this happens, don’t scold your dog. Just ignore the behavior and clean it up. If you scold, your dog is probably going to feel even more stressed. Wait for him to approach you. Give him a treat. You’re not rewarding bad behavior; you’re just making him feel at ease. The problem here isn’t perversity; it’s nervousness, so let your dog know that there’s nothing to feel nervous about. Once he feels more confident, the wetting will likely stop.

5. He Pees on EVERYTHING!

This might not seem like a big deal if your dog is outside, but the thing is, if you allow it, then your dog is the boss. So, don’t let him do it. If you’re out and about and he has to check “pee mail” and post a replay every step of the way, tell him “Time to go!” and make it stick. If he objects, he’s saying that claiming his territory is more important than what you want him to do, so don’t allow it. Pull him along gently. And again, neutering might help.

6. He’s Old

There’s nothing you can do about this. It just happens. And if you have an old dog that has urinary difficulties, and you make a big deal out of it, then I just have to question how much you really love your dog. Suck it up.

The next few listings will deal with paper training. I’m not a fan of paper training – I very much prefer that Janice and Leroy do their thing outdoors. Having said that, though, I know that sometimes people do need to paper train. Problems can occur, though.

7. Dog Misses Paper

One issue can be that the dog misses the paper by a bit. This doesn’t much matter in terms of cleanup, but the trouble is that when the dog misses the paper, a scent trail is left, and the dog thinks that it’s okay to pee anywhere that there’s scent, and goes back to the same spot over and over.

To correct this, you’re going to have to pick up the paper and then clean under it. Don’t correct the dog – he just made a boo boo; he wasn’t doing it out of spite or to be dirty. Clean it up and move on.

. Leg Lifting and Missing

Another paper training issue can occur when the dog lifts his leg, and instead of his urine ending up on the paper, it hits the wall. The thing here is that male dogs do lift their legs, and they don’t always hit the target. Your dog isn’t trying to be dirty; he’s just urinating the way God meant him to. To prevent this from happening, you could try wadding up a big ball of newspaper and putting it in front of the wall. When the dog lifts his leg, it will hit the barrier, not the wall. When he hits the barrier, tell him that he’s a good boy. If you do this consistently, he’ll be aiming for the barrier instead of the wall, and voila, he is paper trained!

9. Where’s My Paper?

Sometimes, you might have a paper-trained dog that does just fine when he’s in a room where he expects to find paper, but he won’t go looking for it. This is probably because he figures that it’s a good idea to go on the papers when they’re present, but he doesn’t understand that he should go looking for papers.

So, what you need to do is crate train him. Put him in the crate at night, and in the morning, take him over to his papers. Once he’s done his thing, give him a treat and then put him back in the crate. Keep him there until it’s time for another potty break. Rinse and repeat.

As he gets the idea of going on the papers, you can keep your dog out for a while before putting him back in. When it looks like he’s about ready to do his thing on the papers, tell him “Hurry Up!” This teaches him that as soon as he does his business, he’s going to get a treat.

What crate training does in this situation is teach your dog to hold it in. Paper training alone doesn’t do that. But when you crate your dog, he’s not likely to want to mess where he lives. And if you let him out regularly, he’ll get the idea that “business” is to be done somewhere else – on the papers, or if you want to completely house train your dog, you can move the papers toward the door little by little, in order to convey to your dog that business should be done outside.

10. Dog Thinks It’s a Toy

Oh boy, papers to rip up! Yes, some dogs do think that newspapers are just fun to play with, and even after doing their business, they may grab onto the papers and pull them all over the place. They might even ingest poo while doing so, and you’ll think that’s disgusting. Your dog doesn’t know any better, though.

You might try taping down the papers or even creating a sort of “doggie litter box” with papers inside a playpen or other barrier that the dog can jump over. I don’t really like the use of “shaker cans” since I worry that the noise could traumatize the dog, but in extreme cases, you might try positioning a can full of marbles on top of the barrier so if the dog gets overly active and looks like he might mess up his “pee and poo” area he’ll get a reminder to the effect that you don’t want him to do that.

11. He’s Dirty!

Okay, I’m sorry to say, some dogs are just dirty. Most of the time, though, it’s not their fault.

Dirty behavior often originates in puppy hood, and might have its roots in puppy mills, where puppies are crated in close quarters. I talked about puppy mills in Getting the Right Puppy From the Right Breeder, and I stand by what I said in that post – if you take a puppy from a puppy mill, or from a pet store that acquires puppies from puppy mills, you’re likely just buying yourself a world of grief.

If your puppy is “dirty,” it’s probably because all he knows is an environment where he’s had to live in his own filth. He’s probably been crated all through his early life, and he thinks that wading through urine and feces is normal.

This can be corrected by getting your puppy on a schedule of regular potty breaks, and by keeping his surroundings clean. But you probably will be in for a lengthy period of readjustment. Some puppies who were born and raised in such surroundings never get the idea of house training, so you might have to accept that even when he grows up, you’re going to need to have papers all over the floor. Some “dirty” dogs never end up being house trained, but it’s pretty rare that proper training can’t overcome the issues that developed early on.

Related Content:

House Training an Older Dog
8 Ways to Finally Housebreak Your Puppy For Good
An Essential Guide to Dog Commands and Dog Training (Video)

The Final Word

Most of the time, house training is easy as pie. It’s plain, simple training. You start it early in puppyhood and you’re good to go. Even an adult dog can be house trained. Rescue dogs or dogs from puppy mills might require a bit of special attention, but even then, house training is possible. If it turns out to be really problematic… well, then you have to decide how much you love the dog and proceed accordingly.

Personally, I’d never dump a dog over house training issues, no matter how bad. Would you? I certainly hope not. Tell me your stories. Have you had house training issues? How did you deal with them? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment.