I’ve been working on housebreaking issues with a couple who own a 5 year old female English Bull Dog. After evaluating their dog and their relationship with their dog on the first lesson, I found very little structure or walks with their dog. With no structure, it is not uncommon for dogs that are insecure in their sense of place to house soil or mark territory in an effort to feel more secure. Additionally, their dog was spending way too much time in the crate due to their long work hours. This also created a lot of stress and anxiety in their dog.

I got them started on providing structure in their dog’s life, getting their dog out for walks and working on obedience training 3 times daily for just two minutes. While this is not a lot of obedience training (just 6 minutes daily), it began to give their dog a sense of working for leadership rather than feeling responsible for it himself. If these obedience exercises are repeated consistently, it can provide a serious “jump start” on their leadership and structure. We also did frequent sits on walks and added a come command followed by a sit – then released to a walk again. Food treats were necessary to keep him focused at first but he was weaned off food treats after a few days of frequent sits on walks.

Meanwhile, back inside. I made a recommendation to “upgrade” their dog’s accommodations during the day to “first class” and consider hiring a dog walker mid-day. We got a pressure gate – complete with a door for their extra large kitchen. Here’s how their email updates to me went:

Day one after the first lesson: “Everything went well today. No accidents. Once we got home and took him outside, we went out to the grocery store after work and he was fine while we were gone.”

Day 2: “No accidents again today.”

Day 3: “Hey Jim, no accidents again today!”

Day 4: “He was alone all day today again and still no accidents!”

Day 5: “Unbelievable! No accidents again today! We even went out for a bite to eat and a musical and no accidents then either! Wow! This is the longest ever.”

On our first lesson and evaluation I also discovered that they were over-feeding their dog with an inexpensive dry dog food with lots of cheap carbohydrate fillers on a once-a-day feeding schedule. We changed the food out over a four day period to a high quality dog food, cut back on their dog’s intake amount and began to feed twice daily with walks before and after feeding. They had to get up a little earlier to accommodate the new schedule but it was well worth it for them. Dogs that eat only one meal a day run the risk of developing hunger tension from having no food in their system for half of the day. This could exacerbate things and possibly cause other behavioral issues as a result of the hunger tension.

Given the age of the dog (5 years – old enough to hold his business) it was time to begin giving their dog more space but for shorter, controlled periods of time after work and on weekends while keeping up the leadership, exercise and training program permanently in place as his “new structure” or routine with them. This meant short trips like “pick up the dry cleaning” and “gas up the car” kind of trips then gradually increasing them to longer periods of time out like grocery shopping, dinner out or even dinner and a movie while there dog has free run of the kitchen and den. Later as things really progress, they can open up their house again just as before but free of any house soiling issues.

They have since reported including their dog in more of their activities like visiting Starbucks Sunday mornings and enjoying a latte and they are now looking into renting a “dog friendly” beach house for the weekend with early, cool morning walks.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010