Last week, I wrote about dogs and how I believe that they can never be 100% trained. I was referring to obedience training and how reliably they will listen to us. This week, let’s talk again about reliability with training, this time house training (or as some people still call it – housebreaking).

When we get a dog, either as a puppy or an adult rescue, we have to teach them not to do their business in the house. By sticking with a routine and having a lot of patience, most dogs catch on quickly. Some take longer than others. But once they get it, dogs are good about not soiling the area where they live. There are exceptions, such as puppy mill survivors who ate and slept in their wastes. It can be difficult to train these dogs not to go in the house after years of living in cages 24 x 7. Dogs from hoarding situations act similarly to puppy mill dogs because they have been allowed to go in the house.

During the lifetime of a dog, housetraining manners can come and go. Various factors influence why they may have accidents. Illness can cause dogs to inadvertently go in the house. Bowel problems can be caused by digestive issues stemming from diet (the dog may have ingested something that made him sick or his food was switched too quickly) or disease. Urinary accidents can be a result of urinary tract or kidney infections, thyroid problems and other diseases.

Housetraining accidents may also be due to a change in the dog’s environment. Possibly a new dog came into the house and the dog may be marking his territory. Or the dog’s owners’ schedules changed. Anxiety can also be the root cause of housetraining accidents, with separation anxiety as the top reason.

Old age is a common cause of loss of control. Older dogs may simply not be able to hold it very long because of muscle weakness, no different than incontinence in older humans. Canine cognitive disorder may also be to blame.

After ruling out health issues, whatever the reasons for why a dog may occasionally forget his housetraining manners, the solution is the same as teaching housetraining. Go back to basics: a schedule and routine, frequent trips outside, confinement to a small area (crate or one room) and watching the dog constantly.

It’s not the dog’s fault but it is our responsibility to find the cause of the problem and take steps to correct it through patience and love.