Have you ever had a house training problem —  with a 3-year-old dog?

As you know, a 3-year-old dog is old enough to be house trained – in fact you probably went through house training earlier as a puppy (i.e., 3 months of age). Well now that puppy is a 3-year-old dog, and you find yourself dealing with house soiling all over again. Maybe your dog is house soiling when the you are gone from the house or even when you are home but are preoccupied — like in the shower or somehow not giving the dog your full attention. The first thing you should ask yourself is, “What’s changed?”

This can happen with dogs — not all dogs but some dogs — that don’t have structure in their lives or have lost that structure. They lack or have lost a clear leader to which they can turn for guidance. And some dogs are more fragile than others, which means that in a very unstructured environment, arbitrary changes that come about in their life can often times have adverse affects on them resulting in house soiling issues. It may be something imperceptible to you.

Here’s just a few of the things that can cause problems in house soiling:

  • new puppy or dog
  • new baby
  • moving
  • divorce
  • new house mate
  • company that comes and stays for an extended period of time (i.e., a week or more)

The one thing that all of these changes have in common is that it challenges the dog’s “pack status” or routine because in most every instance, the owner is forced to divert their attention to other matters. This causes the already unstable house dog to “worry” about its place in the pack. House soiling often follows.

A once-trained dog just needs reassurance of your leadership and their place. Sometimes it can be an easy fix by simply revisiting some basic house training rules. You can use temporary crating or gating when you can’t watch your dog.

But it goes without saying that dogs place extreme high value on solid leadership and a strong foundation of routines on which they can count. The more fragile the dog, the more they are affected by change.

As always, be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010