Dogcharmer: Alex hits the Terrible 14s

Hi Tom,

Here is my 14 week old golden retriever Alex sitting on top of my 4 year old Brady. You could say he was a bit of a problem kid (Alex and Brady). Overall he’s (Alex now) a great pup, but like most puppies his age, he seems to be rebelling and regressing in a few areas. The main thing that concerns us is that it is still not clean. He was doing so well until about a week and a half ago. Since then he has had accidents (#1) around the house about three to four times a day, especially when the whole family is at home. We are consistent and firm. I don’t know what we are missing. Your expertise is certainly welcome and appreciated. I look forward to hearing your response as we need to nip this in the bud immediately!

Thanks Tom!


Dear Dennis,

People think it’s funny when I say, “It’s amazing how my life revolves around feces and urine!” But, even if the dog loads the dishwasher, takes out the trash and does the laundry, if he poops or pees in the house, it gets old very quickly!

Dogs, like wolves, have what’s called the “den instinct,” which means they don’t care where they eat and sleep. The term “dirty dog” comes from the dog that will pee or poop in its crate and doesn’t care to lie down in it. So the goal is to make the crate its den, which quickly expands to the room the crate is in, followed by the whole house becoming the den. Dennis, you want Alex to like his crate, which is accomplished by feeding one or two of his meals there and enticing him several times a day by saying “go home” (or whatever) and throwing treats in the Fund. The crate should never be used as a punishment!

Whenever Alex is not in the crate, he must be observed. Always! A three-foot-tall, eight-panel metal exercise pen will make it easier to confine with someone when not in the crate. If he enters the house without being caught in the act, you take a half step back. If you suddenly see him start sniffling intensely, he’s probably looking for the right place to pee. If he starts pacing back and forth, he’s about to poop. Seeing one or the other, it’s time to say, “Alex, do you want to go out?” and take it out immediately. the moment he finishes his stuff, tell him what a good boy he is with a treat. Then bring it back into the house. Ideally, the moment you see him begin to relieve himself indoors, you want to stop him with a firm “Uh-uh”, or some sort of noisemaker, stopping him by startling him. In burglary mode, it might be a good idea to let him trail a four-foot flat nylon leash on a harness with the handle cut off (less likely to get caught) that you can quickly pick up and pull out. When it cannot be observed, it is lured into its den with treats.

Dogs are very attracted to where they smell – and Alex has 200 million scent cells in his nose, compared to 5 million for us. It is therefore important to eliminate the smell of an error. Use an odor neutralizer like white vinegar or Nature’s Miracle to clean. Just like we don’t have meals in the bathroom, if Alex continues to cook in the same area, try giving him multiple meals in that area, incorporating that area as a dining area, as opposed to a toilet. If you are diligent, a reliable break-in will quickly follow.

Good luck and congratulations on your new family member,

Tom the dog charmer

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