A Primer on House-training a Greyhound
by Lynda Adame
House-training is one of the cornerstone behaviors that can make or break the placement of any dog, especially an indoor dog like a greyhound. As a placement representative for an adoption group, I stress the importance of house-training on each home visit and again at the time of adoption. As a foster home provider, I have quite a bit of experience in house-training greyhounds. Luckily for us, greyhounds are relatively easy to house-train and it is rare that one will have extensive or chronic problems.
Kennel trained vs. Housetrained
Ex-racing greyhounds are what is referred to as kennel trained. This means they are accustomed to regularly scheduled turnouts at the track or adoption facility and generally do not urinate or defecate in their kennel or cage. Unfortunately, kennel trained does not always translate to being house-trained, so new owners have their work cut out for them. If you purchased your greyhound from a breeder or adopted from a group that uses foster homes, the same tenet applies as well; a greyhound that is house-trained in its foster or breeder’s home may not continue to be house-trained in its new home. Again, new owners have their work cut out for them. Ex-racers are used to being told when to potty and are not in the habit of communicating their need to go out. New owners need to watch for signs of a dog moving into position to mark territory (boys are easy to catch since they typically lift their leg) or intently sniffing the floor (females are harder to catch in time).
In the New Home
Once the new dog is home, the first 48 hours are crucial and owners should expect them to be the most stressful. During this time frame you should commit yourself to house-training the dog. Like most other behavior problems, this is much easier to correct and fix when caught and dealt with early.
The first job as owner is to immediately take the dog to the spot where you expect it to go to the bathroom. Give it a chance to go potty, and begin to praise it as it goes to the bathroom. I use a high pitched voice, telling the dog “Good Potty” over and over again. My neighbors can always tell when we have a new dog in the house as I’m out in the backyard cheering, clapping, and squealing in delight. The more drama you can muster up, the better. From day one, I use the same keyword —potty — whenever I praise the dogs for eliminating in the appropriate place. In time they begin to associate the word with the act and this proves helpful when asking them to potty in a new or strange situation. It’s important that the greyhound learns right away where it is appropriate to potty.
If the dog does not go at this time, continue taking it outside every 20 minutes until the dog does go. At the very least, I recommend keeping the dog on a leash until it potties outside the first time.
The Umbilical Cord Method
In my house we typically keep fosters on a 10-foot leash the entire first day. The leash is attached to the dog’s collar on one end and to a human’s wrist or waist on the other end. This is referred to as umbilical cord training. There are many good reasons to do this besides aiding house-training and bonding. An umbilical cord keeps the dog out of trouble; there can be no counter surfing, no furniture chewing, or no cat chasing without you being right there to correct it. If the dog begins to pace and sniff the floor, or is caught in the act, the owner can quickly respond by rushing the dog outside.
Whether you use the umbilical cord technique or not, do not give the new dog free run of the house. Close off access to rooms other than the one you are in and keep the dog near you. Follow the dog around and give it verbal corrections as needed. I’m not saying hound the dog, but follow it, watch it, and keep an eye on it. Your best bet is to stop unacceptable behaviors immediately and set the tone of what is acceptable for the dog. Watch for prolonged sniffing, squatting, or leg lifting, and immediately take the dog out to potty if you see this behavior.
Remedies and Retraining for the Suddenly Unhousetrained
If your dog has been house-trained for some time and suddenly begins to eliminate in the house, I suggest you take the dog to your veterinarian and have it checked for (among other things) urinary tract infections, spay incontinence (females), and Ballinitis (males). There’s no point to using behavior modification on a dog that has a medical condition.
If the veterinary exam shows no medical causes for the inappropriate elimination, then move on to the remedies described below.
An obvious solution to house-training problems is the use of a dog door, which gives the dog free access to the backyard. This solution works well for many people and many dogs. However, it is not a guarantee of success. If a dog door does not work for your situation, try some of the suggestions that follow.
Greyhounds seem to thrive on a schedule, so set up a potty schedule again and stick to it. I typically let my dogs out first thing in the morning, again after breakfast, upon getting home, again after dinner, and once again at bedtime.
Again, restrict access to the entire house. A simple way to accomplish this is to shut all of the doors in the house so the dog does not have the chance to slip into another room and potty. During the first few days of retraining this restriction is often not enough. You should keep the dog within eyesight when you are home until you are sure that it understands the appropriate place to potty. Put bells on the dogs collar, if need be, so you are alerted to its movements. The umbilical cord technique can also be used to keep an eye on the dog, and I highly recommend you give it a try. If you see the dog start to get in position, you give a very loud, very definite “No!” Grab the collar – gently or you may get bitten – and take it outside (remember: you’ve been following it, so you’re there to do this, right?). Go outside with the dog and stay until it potties. When it does, praise it in a high pitched happy voice, saying “Good potty, good potty.”
What should you do when you have to leave the dog alone? Again, restrict the dog’s access to the house. With newly adopted or foster dogs, I typically use a baby gate stretched across the master bedroom doorway to keep the dogs in this room. Since the master bedroom is where we all sleep, confining them to this room taps into the dogs natural instinct not to mess where it sleeps. For dogs that need a little more confinement, you can use a crate or an exercise pen. Crates often are a controversial topic. However, when you are working with a dog that is having a problem with house-training, a crate can be a necessary tool. Exercise pens are often set up to form a small fence around the dog, confining it safely.
If the dog seems to go in the same spot over and over, clean the area well, and then feed the dog on that spot. This will help inhibit the dog from going there again.
Some people resort to using a doggie diaper, especially on older dogs with incontinence.
If you’ve been following this advice and the dog is still having a chronic problem, consider that the dog might be suffering from separation anxiety. There are quite a few good articles on this subject in past issues of Celebrating Greyhounds.
More than anything, cleaning up after accidents thoroughly is an important part of the behavior modification process. Although a bit expensive, a carpet-cleaning machine is an excellent investment for any dog owner and makes clean-ups a snap.
– Ed note: Many fine deodorizing rug-cleaning products are now on the market that are safer to use on carpeting than the peroxide concoction. Nature’s Miracle is still pretty good but be careful of it soaking through if you have hardwood floors under the carpet.
* Soak the wet area up into a thick towel or paper towel. When no more moisture soaks through, dilute the area with some plain water and soak this up. Douse the area with Nature’s Miracle, place a white towel over the area, and let that dry. It takes a week or two for the enzymes to fully clean the area. If there is still a smell after a week, douse the area with more Nature’s Miracle.
* Vacuum the wet area with a carpet-cleaning machine. When no more moisture sucks up, spray the area with plain water and then suck the liquid up again. Douse the area with Nature’s Miracle, place a white towel over the area, and let that dry. It takes a week or two for the enzymes to fully clean the area. If there is still a smell after a week, douse the area with more Nature’s Miracle.
* Combine 1/2 cup of 3% household hydrogen peroxide mixed with one-teaspoon cloudy ammonia. Saturate spot with this mixture. (Be sure to test area for colorfastness just in case.) Cover spot with a good thickness of white (and I stress white) paper toweling. Place something heavy (a gallon jug of water works great) on spot and let sit three to four hours. After the three to four hours remove paper toweling and neutralize with white vinegar or Nature’s Miracle. According to Lee Lavery of Greyhound Guardians, Inc., this will not bleach your carpet and it works wonders. This works on blood, bile, potty accidents, ink, and even red liquid potpourri. Sometimes if the stain is very bad you may have to let the carpet dry out for a day or two and repeat the process but I have never tried anything that works as well on all kinds of stains.
Audrey Carr and Lou Ellen Davis. Housebreak Any Dog, the Permanent Three-Step Method
Don Aslett, Robert Betty (Illustrator). Pet Clean-Up Made Easy
CG F 99
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