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I have 4 small dogs, mama Chihuahua and 3 of her babies who are almost 2 yrs. old.  I have always been a free feeder and have a "doggie" door. Coco, the mama, who is now 8 yrs old, has always been house trained but I have not been able to get these boys broken.  I do not use a crate, but now understand that would have been best when they were young. I guess I just assumed Coco would help show them the way and that they would prefer going out to do their business, since they could go out at anytime. Wrong!!  I am just getting the "kids" on a supplement called Dinovite and in order to make sure they all get their share I am going to have to start feeding on a schedule and this may help with the process since I know they will need to go out approximately 15-20 minutes after they eat but they have had this nice big house with beautiful wood floors to do their business on for 2 years, why would they want to change? ;-(.  I thought I had a good handle on it when the pups were about 4 months old, but found out I went about it all wrong. I did the nose rubbing and put them out, but found out I just scared the poor babies and they found a secret spot which was my whole upstairs. My 2 legged kids are grown and gone so I only go upstairs about once every couple of months to vacuum and dust. Well I hadn't gone up for a couple of months and when I reached the top of stairs I was SHOCKED at the site. It looked like a poop bomb had gone off up there. So I didn't have a handle on the training at all. Stairs are now blocked but again they love my wood floors. If there is any advice at all that you can give me that may help, I am here to listen. Thank you in advance. The girl who loves her poopy dogs.

Answer
Hi,
Although it is going to be hard, you must start over, completely.

Here is an article I wrote several years ago for a training session I was giving, it will help you see how dogs think:

Dogs will naturally keep their dens clean, it is an instinct.  When they are babies they will try and get away from the sleeping area and then go to the bathroom.  The older and stronger they get, the further they go away from the sleeping area to go to the bathroom. When a dog is crate trained and left in the crate longer than his physical ability to “hold it”, they are forced to go to the bathroom in their den and will adapt to that way of thinking.  The dog must now be housebroken starting from the beginning. They must learn to keep their bed clean again by being confined again to a room (not a crate) where there is a bed and pads/papers  so they can start to keep their bed/den clean.  An ex-pen can be used also.  This must be followed up with constant surveillance until the dog is stable in their habits.  
The premise is to give your pup a choice of going to the bathroom in their bed or on the papers/pads you have provided.  Put a bed on one end inside a room (a laundry room or bathroom or kitchen will do) or ex-pen.  Leave six inches between the bed and the papers and put the pads/papers down inside the whole rest of room/pen….  I recommend the puppy pads with the housebreaking scent to start, then you can switch to any kind of papers.    Make sure the bed is washed and clean…maybe even a new bed. Now when he/she is left in there she has the ability to pee somewhere other than her bed…Also she is used to smelling like her bed, she must be washed as well.  Otherwise she will try to make the bed smell as she does.  As the days go by, and once she starts going on the papers instead of the bed, I want you to pick up a small portion of the papers and reduce the size of where she can go, leaving more space between the bed and the pads.  As she learns to go more and more on the pads, you will be able to pick up more until you are down to one pad.  This pad can now be put near a door and eventually outside the door.   She must be praised when she goes on the papers.
At the same time you are doing this you will continue to take her out and treat her when she goes outside.    Make sure to read all of this so you understand more on how a dog thinks.
A common mistake is made if you have a dog confined to a bathroom or kitchen area, and he starts becoming housebroken in that area, most people think that  “WOW!  MY DOG IS HOUSE BROKEN AND HE CAN NOW HAVE FREE RUN OF THE HOUSE”.   NO!!! You may be thinking that, but the dog is thinking (when he gets out of the room) “I am out of my den now so I can go to the bathroom here.”  Do you see how they think?  They keep their den clean.  So you have to teach them that the whole house is their den, one room at a time, not just the kitchen.  To do this, you must  housebreak…. dogs   in each room of your house..  When first introduced to new rooms, the dog should be kept on a leash which is attached to your waist.  This way you can correct  or praise the minute your dog even sniffs.
Another mistake that is made, is in the mornings….when a dog first gets up, he has to go relieve his bladder.  So we let them out and he urinates outside or on the paper/pad.   During the time he was sleeping, his bladder filled. When it filled, his kidneys said  “Oh the bladder is filled I better not send anymore urine there until he empties it.   So in the morning the bladder is emptied and the kidneys immediately start sending the stored up urine back to the bladder.  Sooooooo within about 20 minutes or maybe less,  the dog has to go again.  And if you are not there to let him out, he might just go wherever he is at the moment.  Keep him with you after he gets up.  Keep watching him so you can watch for signs of restlessness or sniffing.  When you see this, hurry him to the door saying,”Do you have to go out?”   and “good potty”  when  he/she does, etc.  If you do this often enough he will get the idea.
Naming the act is the best thing you can do.  Eventually the dog will go when you give the command “Go Potty”.  Just keep saying “Good Potty” every time he does it right and eventually he will ‘get it’.


so now that you have read this, confine them to a small area and start from day one and make sure they go out at least five times per day.
Nancy

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Nancy Perry

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You can ask me anything on dog training, dog breeding, dog grooming. What type of dog you should get. Pertinent facts about different breeds. I am also specifically knowledgeable about terriers and the diets that help maintain coat excellence. I have trained and helped owners train their dogs.

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I have worked in dog training for 35 years. I have been a dog groomer for 25 years..

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Certified trainer with Petsmart Certified Groomer with Petsmart

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approximatedly 2 to three hundred clients since 1993

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