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Get to bottom of housebreaking mess with new tack
Dear Doctor: I'm in desperate need of your help. I have a 6 mo. old Siberian Husky. I cannot housebreak him. I put paper on the kitchen floor when I first got him at 6 weeks old.I have taken him out and let him run in the yard for a long time. I've tied him up outside for a long time. I've even taken his soiled papers outside. Nothing works. He waits for the kitchen. He stands on the papers in the kitchen and wets and messes on the bare floor. I have to clean up after him about 6 or 8 times a day. He even goes while we are eating our meals. I sleep on the sofa in the living room so I can keep my eyes on him as there are times he goes in the dining room. I've been patient for 5 months. I want to sleep in my own bed without worrying what he is up to. I love him, but I'm going out of my mind. I can't take this anymore. Please help! Sincerely Desperate, D.G. New Castle
Dear Desperate D., Understandably! This is a firmly established problem. From the time you brought him home at 6 weeks to his current 6 months, he has learned that it is appropriate to go to the bathroom in the house (albeit on paper). He has learned that the outside is for playing and romping and sees no reason to go outside when he has been shown that it is appropriate to go inside. So he has developed a learned preference for eliminating in the kitchen and the dining room, and he also prefers for going on paper as the primary surface material. You, however, have one thing at your advantage. As a 6 mo. old male, if he hasn't already been neutered, he will likely begin to mark different areas. We want these areas to be outdoors. We wanted to have him eliminating outdoors from the start, but that is now water under the bridge. This is why paper training is obsolete. It doesn't work in most situations. Why would anyone want to encourage their dog to go to the bathroom in the house, if they can easily be taught to do it outdoors? Intact (not neutered) male dogs like to sniff out other dogs and assert their own presence through the signal-rich chemicals in their urine. So take this young male out walking frequently. In this case, I would suggest three walks per day: 2 routine walks, and one new route (each for a minimum 20 minutes). Let new walks, particularly ones where he stops and urine marks, and urinates or defecates, become routine walks, so he's engaging in the desired behavior more frequently. Do not play along these walks. Give him a long lead, 8 to 20 feet, and allow him to sniff at will and to take the time to eliminate (whether it's marking or not). As such, you do not want to have this particular dog neutered yet. Now, while you are encouraging him to eliminate appropriately, you must do a complete about-face when it comes to accidents in the house. A Siberian Husky -- six to eight times a day -- mercy! This must stop at once. This is not a situation for standard discipline. If you are attempting to discipline your dog with your voice, hands, or some tool like a newspaper that the dog will recognize as an aggressive display on your part, you may be in for bigger problems. This dog is at a prime age to become overly submissive, hand-shy and generally neurotic, if it doesn't become aggressive first. And there is no saying that both of these problems won't develop. I've seen these things happen more often than you might think. Remote activated shock collars, or zappers, as I like to call them, are highly effective tools if you know how to use them appropriately. And when you know how to use them appropriately, you don't have to use them very often, or very long. Knowing when and how to use them, and which kinds to use, I have stopped a wide variety of behavior problems which conventional treatments could not help. In this particular situation, where well-timed discipline that the dog respects is essential multiple times per day, and you don't want the dog associating the punishment with you, there is no better way to alter this established routine. Of course it goes hand in hand with providing a new alternative. This is where the walks come in. A word of warning: Remote activated shock collars should not be used without the guidance of an expert who is experienced with their use. One final comment: By being able to predict when this dog needs to go to the bathroom (through knowledge of schedule, environmental factors, and the dog's communicative displays or gestures), a person can become far better prepared to successfully resolve a problem such as this.