Q: I just adopted a sweet five-year-old Basset Hound named Trixie from my local shelter. She’s a great dog but not housetrained. How should I approach this task with an adult dog? I’d like to get this situation under control as quickly as possible.—Puddles in Pennsylvania
A:This is a very common issue; I am so glad you asked. Many new dog owners wing it, mime it, or assume their dog will somehow transcend the language barrier and understand the words “go to the bathroom outside!”
Dogs are den animals and they derive their sense of security from small spaces and a routine. Often shelter dogs have had no choice but to go the bathroom in the same area where they sleep. So to solve this confusion as to where to go potty, we have to bring Trixie back into her puppyhood, briefly. Trixie needs to learn how to flow within your lifestyle and daily life and you can easily show her how. I call this process “Feng Shui with Fido,” my method that teaches dogs and owners how to flow together in daily life.
Create a space in a central part of your home like a kitchen or even a hallway by using a baby gate, rather than by shutting a door. Put a dog bed, chew bones, and water in that area. Think of this area as her Four Seasons.
Getting Trixie to flow with a structure within your daily routine is key. Begin gating her for an hour or two when you are home. Play music to help any separation anxiety calm down. When you take her from this comfy area, always put her on a leash and say “outside” or the words “go potty” and take her there. Slowly increase the time that she is gated and build a routine around potty-breaks, walks, love, and hang-out time with you, loose in house, for one month. Free time should be based on potty success. Taking her to a potty spot on a leash is your ticket to speedy success. Doing so shows her where to isolate the act of piddling from playing.