Transitioning dogs indoors

By Sindhoor Pangal, Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Nov 9, 2015, 09.28 PM IST

Toilet training, potty training
Potty training dogs to move them indoors

One of the most frustrating problems new pet parents face is when their dog pees in an inappropriate place. Dogs are often punished for this behaviour. Pet parents often reach out to me asking for the dog to be toilet-trained. But more often than not, this behaviour is not about training. It requires us to understand what leads to this behaviour and then manage it.

The problem is more exacerbated in households where dogs spend a lot of time outdoors and are allowed to visit indoors only as a special treat. I want to address the concerns of pet parents who want to transition their outdoor dogs to being indoor dogs, but don’t know how to do it. Such pet parents and dogs are often stuck in a rut where the pet parents want to allow the dog more in the house but they can’t seem to be able to do it because of the peeing.

The first thing we need to do is understand what’s going on. The dog’s peeing is not a calculated move. It’s not territory-marking behaviour either. It’s an involuntary act of the dog, a result of the hormone Vasopressin, which induces peeing. This is a direct result of increased adrenalin. In other words, a dog gets excited and the pee just comes out. Asking a dog not to pee is futile at this point. Yelling at the dog makes things worse because that will in turn further increase adrenalin. Sustained yelling or other punishments create an association in the dog’s mind that coming indoors is going to result in high stress, which makes the problem even worse. So you see, everyone is stuck in a loop.

The dog is peeing because of the excitement. The excitement is caused by yelling. The yelling is a result of the peeing. Who is responsible for breaking this loop? It has to be us, the so-called sentient beings in this relationship, is it not?
By Sindhoor Pangal, Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Nov 9, 2015, 09.28 PM IST

Once you understand the cause of it, the answer becomes blindingly obvious – decrease the excitement and anxiety associated with being indoors. There are many ways to achieve this. I will provide some options here. But there are many other ways to achieve this once one understands the true nature of this issue.

For starters, stop the punishments. If a dog pees in an inappropriate place, quietly clean it up with vinegar and let the dog be. Before bringing a dog into the house, do a slow relaxed walk outdoors. This cannot be a high-energy walk that adds to the adrenalin. It has to calm a dog down. Then bring the dog in and let the dog settle down. Relax. The more you relax, the more the dog will relax. Don’t say much to the dog. Don’t ignore the dog either. Walk the fine balance between acknowledging your dog and keeping it very calm. Give the dog something to chew on and a comfy bed to relax and settle down in. Let indoors time be “calm time”. Gradually increase the time he spends indoors so that it’s not a novelty for the dog. Aim to make the dog an entirely indoors dog.

Indoors dogs go out, get excited and pee. Outdoor dogs come indoors, get excited and pee. So make outdoors the more exciting place and make indoors more of a ‘come-in-and-settle’ kind of place. Don’t reserve your petting exclusively for the indoors. Turn the environment around. That is in your hands. Toilet training, if any, will only work after you have changed the environment. Take charge. It’s not that hard.

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