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Question: Should we go back to house training square one, continue on the current path, or restart somewhere in between?

Background: We adopted our Beagle/Dachshund mix in March. She was estimated as being around 1 year old. She seemed to have great house manners, so we assume she spent some time in a house before coming into the shelter as a "stray," but we started the house training process as if she were a new puppy. She was crated at night and when we were gone. She had some accidents in the crate, but not many, and she soon moved into our bedroom at night and has NEVER had an accident at night since her first week in the crate (I think due to some initial nervousness). We gradually increased her freedom from the crate to an exercise pen attached to the crate, and gradually added panels to the pen to give her more space. (If you read one of my previous posts, you'll know she had some issues with the pen. Thanks to your help, we think it was because that's where she was when she returned from being spayed and was in her cone collar, but that issue was solved after returning to the crate for a week after the cone came off, and then setting her up with the exercise pen attached with the crate where she could come and go through the crate's two doors. As well as some positive conditioning to the pen....FYI - She learned to love the pen quickly when she discovered that it rains cheese in the pen.) Over a 4-6 week period, she had maybe three accidents in the pen outside of the brief period of issues associated with the pen/cone collar anxiety. At this point we decided to take the pen away and just allow her free access to our giant kitchen with her open door crate/bed. This has gone REALLY well for about a month. I think she maybe had one or two accidents early on in giving her free reign of the kitchen, but was, what we thought, to be pretty well housebroken. All of a sudden she's started going to the bathroom at odd times of the day, despite not changing her feeding schedule, or any other aspects of her routine, and she's peed and pooped in the kitchen at least 4 times over the past week. - Keep in mind this dog only poops once every other day (raw is wonderful!), and has typically only peed once, sometimes twice per day (no, she doesn't have any health/medical issues - it concerned me early on when she was in her foster period and I contacted the shelter and after that have talked to my vet about her bathroom habits several times - she's been cleared as healthy - she just doesn't pee much despite having 24/7 access to water that she drinks plenty of). So to me, for a dog that was only peeing once or twice per day, four times in the house in one week seems like a lot! I cringe at the thought of going back to square one, but will do whatever I have to, I just don't understand why things were going so well and what changed?

Also of note, she never really got very good at asking to go out. Since she doesn't go that often it just always seemed like we take her out more than she ever needs to go. For example I take her out every morning before I leave for work, and she almost NEVER goes at that time. I still give her the opportunity just because I hate the thought of leaving her for 8 hours without the chance to go. She usually pees when I get home from work, but isn't bursting. She waits patiently for me to put my stuff down. Goes out, runs around and plays and then eventually pees after a few minutes. Sometimes she poops after work, and if not she'll go before bed, if she pees twice during the day she pees again before bed, but rarely in the morning. She sticks to this schedule even when we're home all day. When we first got her I took her out almost every hour and then slowly backed off when I realized she just wasn't going.

It's been hard to really reinforce asking/going outside since she goes outside a lot and doesn't go. When she has been having the accidents it's been in the evenings if we leave for a few hours. She's been holding it during work hours, goes when we get home, and then either poops on the floor if we go to dinner or pees again on the floor.

As I said, health concerns have been ruled out by the vet several times, including recently.

Thoughts?
 

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Is you leaving her in the evening for a few hours after work a new development? It sounds to me like maybe she's got the hang of your routine during the day, but not for your evening activities. If you're at work all day and leaving her in the evening, that's quite a lot of time for the dog to be alone, so as well as possibly her not being adjusted to that in terms of bladder capacity, it could be evidence that she's finding your absences stressful. It might be worth putting up a camera while you're out to see how she behaves, and working on separation anxiety protocol in the evenings if need be. Also make sure she is getting plenty of activity and attention!

Another thing that might help you would be putting her pottying on cue, so you can be sure she will go before work and before you head out in the evening.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Is you leaving her in the evening for a few hours after work a new development? It sounds to me like maybe she's got the hang of your routine during the day, but not for your evening activities. If you're at work all day and leaving her in the evening, that's quite a lot of time for the dog to be alone, so as well as possibly her not being adjusted to that in terms of bladder capacity, it could be evidence that she's finding your absences stressful. It might be worth putting up a camera while you're out to see how she behaves, and working on separation anxiety protocol in the evenings if need be. Also make sure she is getting plenty of activity and attention!

Another thing that might help you would be putting her pottying on cue, so you can be sure she will go before work and before you head out in the evening.
Leaving in the evenings is not a new activity, but definitely not a regular routine like our weekday work schedule. We might leave in the evening for an hour or two to go to dinner or the store maybe once a week, if at all. She's not a super high energy dog, but gets plenty of physical and mental exercise, and doesn't seem stressed when she's alone. She's not thrilled when we leave, but if I leave her with a peanut butter stuffed kong and sneak out before she notices she remains settled. I agree that I was concerned our work schedule might be too much for her to be alone so I had tried doggie daycare, and aside from the expense and inconvenience of going out of my way in the morning, she was SOOOO tired in the evenings that she didn't want to go for walks, or to the park, or play in the yard, she just slept from the minute she hit the car. When we're not doing something active with her, she's either laying on the couch with us or if I'm up doing things around my house she finds a spot to lay in whatever room I'm in (i.e. she's not bouncing off the walls or begging for physical activity), so daycare didn't really seem necessary.

You are correct in that the accidents have mostly been happening when we leave for a few hours on the weekends or in the evening, outside of our regular work schedule. We don't really have a pattern to those comings and goings, but we haven't really changed the frequency of random outings in the entire time we've had her. We do try to plan our random outings around her regular potty times. For example if we go out to breakfast on the weekend we get up take her out at her normal time, take her out again before we leave (rarely does she potty in the morning), leave later than we would for work and come home in an hour to find a mess. During the week she would have held it until we got home at 5 p.m.

I have been trying to work on the "potty" cue, it's just been difficult since she doesn't go very often I feel like I don't get a chance to reinforce it frequently enough to make it "stick." And honestly I probably haven't been doing a good enough job of instantly rewarding the "potty." So thanks for the reminder of how important that can be to help her! Yesterday she had pooped in the kitchen when I came home from work (the first work-hours accident), but had held her pee and peed soon after she went outside. Her accidents have all been in the same spot in the kitchen, I do clean well with enzyme cleaner, and last night I took some advice from a kikopup video and moved her crate to the spot where she's been going. Her bed and water are in the crate, and she is fed in there as well. We'll see how that goes.

On a side note, she was also a terror last night in her obedience class. She went from being the star of the class, first dog to do the heeling pattern off leash, lazer focus on me the entire time, jumping at the chance to do everything I ask; to last night being a complete fruit loop, ignoring me, be highly reactive to the other dogs (which she did the first night or two, but we're now half-way through our second class and I thought she had moved well past that). She seems kind of old to be entering the terrible adolescent phase, especially for a small dog, but that's almost what it seems like.....

I really appreciate everyone's support on this forum. Even when I know that I need to stay positive and keep rewarding good behavior, you all give me the encouragement I need to stick with positive reinforcement and keep from getting too frustrated!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Sigh. She had pooped on the floor yesterday when we got home, but peed soon after I took her out. I've been consistent in using the cue "go potty" and treating each time she goes to the bathroom outside, but since I really re-started this process she hasn't pooped outside at all for me to reward, just pee. Last night she didn't pee at all again before bed (there were two rabbits in the yard, and she doesn't go if there are ANY distractions), and she didn't go again before I left for work this morning. Today I came home to both pee and poop on the floor. Again, I know that is a LONG time for a dog to hold it, but she had been doing just fine on this schedule with no accidents for several weeks. I'm taking the route of going back to square one on crate/potty training. I think a big part of the problem is that she doesn't use the opportunities she does have to go out when she's too distracted. Sometimes she starts to walk like she's about to squat to pee, catches a glimpse of a squirrel and forget about it. She doesn't pee and doesn't even attempt to pee again for hours. Hopefully she'll pick up on the "go potty" cue, but I am still worried that she just doesn't go enough to reinforce it enough to really stick. I certainly appreciate any advice, words of encouragement!
 

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Could you walk her somewhere less distracting? Or work on your "leave it", and maybe a "look at me" to get her attention off the things that are capturing her attention?
 

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Could you walk her somewhere less distracting? Or work on your "leave it", and maybe a "look at me" to get her attention off the things that are capturing her attention?
We are actually working on all of that, and she's doing MUCH better. She doesn't completely freak out about most everyday distractions like the dogs next door and the rabbits unless they get super close, but she does keep her ears pricked and her attention on them. She'll "look at me" when given the command, and will focus on me enough to do what I ask in increasingly distracting environments, but she won't go to the bathroom. That being said she goes to the bathroom A LOT when we got to the dog park. She pees several times, and usually poops once or twice, no matter how recently she had peed or pooped before we got there.

Unfortunately, I don't know anywhere less distracting than our back yard to take her when we're home. We live in a pretty quiet town. Not a lot of cars going past, or people walking around, just a colony of rabbits and some neighboring dogs.

Question: My thought was to really try and focus on "go potty" training. I stopped doing other training in the yard and the only command I give/treat she gets in the back yard is for going to the bathroom. She could use some more work on look at me and leave it, which I'm continuing to do elsewhere, but do you think it's a good idea to stop those training sessions in the back yard, or keep it up? I guess my thinking was to try and make it very clear that the only thing I want you to do when we enter this space is go to the bathroom, but I also get the logic behind doing the leave it/look at me training in hopes of making her more comfortable and wanting to go faster. If only we could just talk to them......
 

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Yeah, it could definitely be a good idea to have a dedicated potty area, and to make the garden nothing but a potty free zone. Perhaps taking her straight out on leash to a specified spot and not letting her futz around will make her build more of an association with going outside and get her into a routine. And of course high value treats and praise for her going there. The build up of smell over time will also encourage her eventually. If you have a stretch of time over the weekend you could really "dose her up" with water-diluted reduced-salt chicken broth and take her straight out to the spot to get her kick-started.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
If you have a stretch of time over the weekend you could really "dose her up" with water-diluted reduced-salt chicken broth and take her straight out to the spot to get her kick-started.
Ohhh. That's a great idea! She's a super fast learner so I'm hopeful that if I could get her to go more frequently to reward her more frequently she would catch on. Thank you!
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I can't take credit for it, it's a tip I've seen given out on the forum and it seemed quite a useful idea for your situation!
 
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