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How To Re-Train The (Not) Trained
Didi’s Dogs

DEAR DIDI: I have a Cairn Terrier that I got from a rescue facility. While there for only a short time they let all the dogs pee on the floor. He now pees daily in the house. Do you have a way to train him not to pee in the house? He is neutered, three-and-a-half years old, a very active male. He mostly pees on walks only. – Terrier Dad


DEAR TERRIER DAD: Congratulations on your new addition! Obviously while in a kennel environment dogs have no option other than to use the facilities in their kennels. However, your dog is three-and-a-half years old so we don’t know what kind of routine or training he might have had before ending up at the shelter. He could have been a free roaming loose dog, outdoor dog, or in a home that just didn’t care. It could even be the main reason he ended up homeless, who knows!

The biggest mistake I tend to see when people adopt adult dogs is thinking all the potty training and puppy chewing behaviors will be over and done with. They won’t have to deal with it. They bring the dog home and turn it loose in the house. This can be a big mistake in many cases. He hasn’t earned that kind of freedom yet. Keep him on a leash in the house and hold onto that leash or attach it to an appropriately heavy piece of furniture to act as an anchor. If he is on an eight foot leash he has plenty of room to roll over, take a nap, play with a toy, but he can’t be wandering off peeing somewhere while you aren’t watching.

I would expect him to pee in the backyard before going for walks and I would not let him do it while on the walk. He may get the idea that walks are for peeing and marking territory. It promotes an attitude you may not enjoy in the long run and you will not like the consequences should the day arrive where you can no longer take him for those walks. Dogs can learn new routines and habits much easier than us silly humans! Besides keeping him on a leash around the house let’s also help him learn his new routine by giving him a solid feeding schedule. He should be eating once a day and the bowl should not be left down all day long. Leaving bowls down sets up finicky eating habits and allows the dog to just grab a mouthful randomly whenever he feels like it. This puts him completely in control instead of you.

Alternatively, pick an approximate time of day to present him with his daily meal and pick it up after 10 minutes even if he hasn’t finished. Offer it again the next day at feeding time. To help with urinating, offer water only two to three times a day. Once at each meal and then perhaps after a walk. Then you will know for sure when he is likely needing to urinate. If water is left down all day he might be refilling the water balloons every half hour or more! Accompany him outside. When he urinates, praise energetically and hurry back in the house. If you just send him out the door by himself and assume he will get his job done, you can’t be positive that he actually did his business. He might have wandered around sniffing for 30 minutes instead.

One final note: It helps to crate train a dog so he has a safe, contained space when you need to leave the house for a while. Leaving him unattended in the house can promote sniffing around and peeing. Leaving him outside while you are gone definitely doesn’t help teach him to hold it. If you need help putting this training schedule together more specifically for your lifestyle, let me know.


Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. To ask your dog behavior question, email your questions to