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Hello - sorry this is long but I want you to have all the details so I can get as much help for my girls as possible.
I have two Dane, females, half sisters, they share the same dad.

One will be 2 years old in October 2020 and her sister will be 1 in May 2020.

The first girl is Lady and she is my first GD after only owning GSDs so this was a big change. Her training was going great and we did as every puppy does had a couple of toilet accidents, more than I'd ever experienced with a German Shepherd mind you, then when she was just shy of 8 months she started messing in her crate constantly. I would go to bed and get up 5 hours later and she would be laying in it because her crate was the size it should be so she could be comfortable without room to mess. I would go to work, as I had done for months at this point and 4 hours later come home for her lunch and there would be mess, the again when I finished work another 4 hours. This was a routine I'd had her in for months without huge problems then all of a sudden this happened. I reached out to the breeder and she told me sometimes Danes go backwards a little then it corrects. So I gritted my teeth and got on with it sticking to our routine, fast forward 2/3 months and my mother in law wants to visit the breeder so we go and apparently when the breeder was ill she had a friend help her and accidentally mixed the male in with a female on heat. (Please note this is a very good, registered and (UK) Kennel Club approved breeder who has done many shows with her dogs, so these dogs are very well looked after)
Anyway, we see that there are two girls left, unfortunately they are 14 weeks old and one of them is leaving the next day. My partner and I discuss it and we agreed to get Lady's sister, enter Ava. 14 Weeks of long dangly legs, scared of her own shadow.
The introductions go great, Lady loves having her there but still has to be reminded to 'play nice' as she is much bigger. Ava at this stage was not toilet trained to the stage I had gotten Lady to by 14 weeks of age. So I knew there would need to be more work put in. Again we got Ava a crate for her size - she is now actually taller than Lady. Ava was put right into our routine so we expected accidents until she was settled and able to hold for that time, so there were extra trips made outside for bathroom breaks on account of this, and then we spaced it and it got so much better. Now during this Lady was taken to the bathroom more too so it was both of them needing brought into the routine of holding it longer.

Something clicked, both my dogs were house trained, they could let me go to bed at 12 and get p at 6am for breakfast, 4 hours at work and lunch break and then another 4 hours and home. We were great. The Ava, who is the most excitable of the two was cutting her tail on her crate bars from wagging. A very pricy vet bill later we bought Ava a travel crate - wheels not attached - as it is plastic on all sides with no bars to cut her tail. Only problem is the biggest one we could afford is a little smaller than what we would have liked, but this was temporary because I want my girls to have time in the kitchen with the crates as beds but the doors open to them so it's ok for the moment. At least what we thought.

For the next few weeks Ava's tail healed, and Lady started pooing in her crate again. This would be maybe once a week, not even the same times. Sometimes when I first wake up its there, then two weeks with nothing and one lunchtime it could be there. And Ava, not to be left out would pee in her crate and again both would lay in it. This eventually eased off on its own, they were told in louder than normal voices that it was 'naughty' and 'you know better', I do NOT and NEVER will hit my dogs.

And here is the issue to date - 12 March 2020 - due to personal family issues we are having to apply to foster my husbands niece, she is 2 and we don't know her. She has lived around dogs. But never something as big as a Dane and we weren't planning kids ANY time soon but this one was urgent and we didn't hesitate. Not everyone will like this, but unfortunately my work has changed and I need to work all day and due to the travel for this fostering we do not have the funds to pay someone £15 per day, per dog to come in for 15 minutes. I am working all day to make sure we have the money to travel as IF his niece is placed with us I will be dropping my hours and only working 5 hours a day, four days a week MAX. Now the dogs did 6 weeks with no issue with me currently working all day(full shift), no mess when I got home, massive fuss made of them every chance I get and out for an extra walk a day to their favourite field. Then on Monday 9 March I come home and Lady has pooed in her crate. I go to bed and come down at 6am as normal and she has pooed again.

And then on Wednesday 11 March my husband and I got home at the same time, both Lady and Ava had pooed in their beds. They were bathed - again. And we were all in the livingroom, the girls finishing drying off when Ava got up and started pawing at her sister, I told her no and to lay down. She squatted to pee, so I got up and ran out to the garden with her following and she finished her pee there. I made no move to shout at her or punish her in any way. We all go back to the room and Ava lays down with Lady and it couldn't have been more than 10 minutes when I see her stand up and there is another puddle of pee under her, she peed laying down. This time I did shout 'Ava no!'. And then again my husband (as both girls are the double of each other) leaned forward on the couch and said is that Lady at the back, Ava is getting big... at the mention of her name Ava got up and peed again. All of these were cleaned, all of these were followed by trips to the garden. Then, thankfully it was bedtime. So toilet (garden) then bed. I was in bed for 12:52 as I use my phone as an alarm so that was the last time I seen. I was woken up by Ava barking, I looked at my phone 1:37am, I go down the stairs and Ava has peed in her crate, a waterfall. Both girls go outside, I clean the crate (I had to put them into the garage while I cleaned only because we have a foot of snow and they were very cold.) then I put both girls back to bed, note Lady had not done anything in her crate and refused to go outside (due to snow). My alarm goes off at 6am and the second I stop it Ava is barking. I go back down and she has peed AGAIN. I cleaned while they had breakfast and then I went for a shower for work. While getting dressed my husband said to me that, 'social services are going to do a pet assessment but getting it organised has slowed things down, we could just say don't do the assessment and if we are getting (niece) then we will give them back to the breeder' as per our contract with them. And I would be lying if I didn't admit I thought that was a good idea. If we get the 2 year old I don't want to have a house covered in pee and poo. And if we don't we can try(I don't know what at this stage though) to fix this issue.

But on my way to work today my heart broke. Lady was bought for me after a miscarriage, she is my baby and I love her with everything. She's a supermodel in terms of looks in the Great Dane world (I may be biased) and she just knows exactly when I need cheering up and sits in front of me or my husband and then tilts her head backwards to look at us causing all her wrinkles and droopy bits to flop over, its so cute and fun. And Ava, she has the manners of a saint, never an issue on a walk doesn't pull of run away when off lead, LOVES her people so much, she's a daddy's girl and she just loves to be fussed. Happiest when with her sister and her people. I had only come to terms with the fact after the assessment Social Services COULD say we need to give up our dogs, we met grandparents taking on their grandchild that had to do exactly that, so it does happen. But they have great temperaments and are really gentle around kids, of course always supervised. So there was always this sliver of hope we could keep them. But this, with what is going on, broken hearted, I think my husband may be right all this with a 2 year old that did not have a good start to life it will be a lot and my husband helps me but he is in the army, so when he's home he does help but it does fall on me which will be what happens if we get our niece.

Is these something I am missing? Is there a better training technique? Should I hold out and let social services do the assessment? If we do get told we can keep them will it help that I'll be home more often since I will be working 17 hours less? Or is it better for them to go to a different home? Will someone take two Danes? I think Ava really needs Lady as she is still scared but with Lady she is brave.
 

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Ok. Breathe.

If it was just peeing, I'd have wondered UTI but since it's pooing too, I wonder if they just haven't learned properly that outside is where to toilet. To be honest, the time they are crated is a long time - 8 hours in the day plus overnight (and the crates sound small for the length of time they are in there). And crates are not a solution to toilet training - they can help in so far as dogs will prefer not to toilet in their sleeping place, but if they have to go, they have to go.

And how much exercise and outdoor time do they have? It sounds like it can't be much so increasing that would be a good step too.

So, you have some priorities to work out. I'm guessing your niece is number one, so on that basis - if you have more time at home because you are working fewer hours, you can do more work on toilet training.

So get the social services assessment done, with a clean house and go from there maybe?

Then on to the toilet training itself, there is no point in telling them naughty, or they know better, after the event. All that does is make them think that you coming home = you being cross. They will have no idea why.

Toilet training happens when the ability to hold their toilet matches up with the desire to hold it in order to earn the lovely reward you will give them for going outside. We always recommend a vet check to rule out medical causes before tackling behavioral ones. But failing that, back to basics with toilet training. That means taking them out more often than they need, so that they keep their bladders and bowels empty. When they toilet outside, immediately praise enthusiastically and reward with something fabulous like roast chicken or frankfurter sausage, maybe something that is only used for outside toilets. And TAKE them, dont just let them out - you need to be out there with them so you are right there to make the reward immediate so it is clearly for toileting and not for anything else. The idea is that they will learn to hold their toilet so they can get this reward, so be generous.

Clean up with accidents with enzymatic cleaner and leave it down for ten minutes to work before cleaning it up. Don't scold, that risks them learning to fear your reaction and avoid you if they need to toilet - the opposite of what you want. Dogs cant make the distinction between you being annoyed at them TOILETING, as opposed to toileting INDOORS. So if they think toileting makes you cross they may sneak off to another room or wait until you are gone in order to avoid hour reaction. Dogs are very good at reading our body language so try to not even roll your eyes or sigh. I actually wonder if this may already be a factor to some degree - them waiting until you are at work or in bed, then soiling their crate.

You mentioned your mother in law, can she help with some of this?

If you can invest time in training them and exercising them, hopefully it will work out for all of you. But if that is too big a commitment, perhaps rehoming them would be best for everyone. Only you can take that decision.
 

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Ok. Breathe.

If it was just peeing, I'd have wondered UTI but since it's pooing too, I wonder if they just haven't learned properly that outside is where to toilet. To be honest, the time they are crated is a long time - 8 hours in the day plus overnight (and the crates sound small for the length of time they are in there). And crates are not a solution to toilet training - they can help in so far as dogs will prefer not to toilet in their sleeping place, but if they have to go, they have to go.

And how much exercise and outdoor time do they have? It sounds like it can't be much so increasing that would be a good step too.

So, you have some priorities to work out. I'm guessing your niece is number one, so on that basis - if you have more time at home because you are working fewer hours, you can do more work on toilet training.

So get the social services assessment done, with a clean house and go from there maybe?

Then on to the toilet training itself, there is no point in telling them naughty, or they know better, after the event. All that does is make them think that you coming home = you being cross. They will have no idea why.

Toilet training happens when the ability to hold their toilet matches up with the desire to hold it in order to earn the lovely reward you will give them for going outside. We always recommend a vet check to rule out medical causes before tackling behavioral ones. But failing that, back to basics with toilet training. That means taking them out more often than they need, so that they keep their bladders and bowels empty. When they toilet outside, immediately praise enthusiastically and reward with something fabulous like roast chicken or frankfurter sausage, maybe something that is only used for outside toilets. And TAKE them, dont just let them out - you need to be out there with them so you are right there to make the reward immediate so it is clearly for toileting and not for anything else. The idea is that they will learn to hold their toilet so they can get this reward, so be generous.

Clean up with accidents with enzymatic cleaner and leave it down for ten minutes to work before cleaning it up. Don't scold, that risks them learning to fear your reaction and avoid you if they need to toilet - the opposite of what you want. Dogs cant make the distinction between you being annoyed at them TOILETING, as opposed to toileting INDOORS. So if they think toileting makes you cross they may sneak off to another room or wait until you are gone in order to avoid hour reaction. Dogs are very good at reading our body language so try to not even roll your eyes or sigh. I actually wonder if this may already be a factor to some degree - them waiting until you are at work or in bed, then soiling their crate.

You mentioned your mother in law, can she help with some of this?

If you can invest time in training them and exercising them, hopefully it will work out for all of you. But if that is too big a commitment, perhaps rehoming them would be best for everyone. Only you can take that decision.
Thank you for your comment. They get an hour in the morning, on lead brisk walk with my husband and myself, or just me if he is away. And then they do have roam of the garden for an additional 45-1hr when I am cooking dinner. And then at night, depending on how dark it is its either off lead in an enclosed field until they are tired or on lead for another hour to hour and a half. I am pretty short so it does take longer to cover the area we walk in.
The crates helped in the beginning with toilet training like I said, they are now more for Ava chewing and Lady pooing in the house.

Telling them off after the fact I know doesn't do anything, it is purely said in anger but I want to be truthful with this so that I can find the cause and solution for this. That is as angry as it gets, no eye rolls or physical telling off.

I do go out with them, I admit my husband doesn't. But I am out there standing in the garden, rain, hail or snow. They are raw fed anyway, so I will have a think on treats to use as a special reward. They have very sensitive stomachs.

I will try bringing it back to basics and seeing if that can kick this into gear. Unfortunately it is just my husband and I due to being based about 300 miles from family.

I think I am struggling with this more as I have had 7 German Shepherds in my life, for the entirety of their lives, from 9-10 weeks all the way to the eldest 15 years, and never experienced anything like this. Using the same methods, same hours. But it is a different type of breed so this may be where I am going wrong and why I am finding it so hard to deal with the idea of having a 2 year old around them. I'd never have batted an eye at bringing a child of that age to live with us when my shepherds where their ages.

I have no issue with the time and personal commitment, my issue is the time when a child of that age is around dogs needing trained to such an extent even after being trained previously. I guess I had the thinking that once they are trained they are trained. The praise for toileting outside has never stopped, it was never rewarded with food more belly rubs and fuss making, I still go outside with them at midnight, and 6am and every time I usually do no matter the weather. They still get their exercise, more now that they are older and can take more as the breeder suggested not doing too much too soon when they are little.
 

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It is interesting about the different breeds, and when people say ”it's all about how you raise them” I want to yell ”no, it's nature AND nurture” and this illustrates it so well. There's a reason why we dont use terriers to herd sheep - I'm not saying it couldn't be done but it's a lot more work when you are working against something like a breed trait, or a different level of independence vs. handler focus in the breed.

I'm afraid this will take a lot of hard work and commitment but I wish you well. Let us know how it goes?
 
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