Dog Potty Training & Socialization. Ask A Trainer! #3


Does your dog’s behaviors leave you scratching your head? Feeling like you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked? Why not ask an expert? Animal Wellness Magazine has teamed up with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers to bring you a Q&A that’s all about training! Just leave us a comment on Facebook. The APDT will address several questions every week! Answers posted on Thursdays.

Q. How do you do this potty training thing? I have tried crate training, puppy pads, taking him out every hour, rewarding him for going outside, I tried using a bell at the door, telling him we are going potty when we go out, cleaning with vinegar all the areas where he has an “accident”, giving him trouble, then when he started to hide it and I would find it, I stopped giving him trouble. Been doing this for 2 months. Never has it taken this long before. Please, any suggestions would help. –Becky Kellert

A. Hi Becky, it’s hard to answer because it would be helpful to know the age and breed of the puppy and also where the dog came from. Depending on these factors sometimes it can take longer than others to house train. I would also avoid “giving him trouble” – you don’t want the puppy to associate anything negative with you and this can often teach them to eliminate out of sight but doesn’t teach them to do the desired behavior (going outside). Also I wouldn’t use vinegar – dogs have a highly developed sense of smell and a lot of typical household cleaners won’t remove the odor, so even if you can’t smell it, they still can and this can encourage them to go. Any pet store will carry specific cleaners that have enzymes in them that will remove the odor from the dog’s point of view. I have some good resources you can look up, many times housetraining can “go wrong” because methods aren’t tried long enough and depending on the dog it just takes more patience and consistency (and believe me, I sympathize, just brought home a 9 week old puppy!).

We have handouts on both crate training and housetraining on our website here: and also we have a free webinar on housetraining that you can watch here (and we’ll have a crate training one coming up in January 2014).

I would also suggest having a trainer come to your house for a session. A lot of times there are things that we may be missing that a trainer can pick up by discussing your daily routine. You can find people in your area at our website at I would also suggest having a vet check up to make sure the dog does not have any medical issues such as a urinary infection. Stay positive, I’ve housetrained tons of puppies and some get it really fast and some take a couple of weeks/months, just like kids they’re all different.

Q. I have 2 Pugs; they are only a month apart in age and have been together since they were 6 months old. They are now 3 ½. I got Willow first, then Freya. They do everything together- eat, sleep, play- but also fight. I can pick Willow up to cuddle but if I pick Freya up, she will start to growl at Willow and Willow immediately starts to just stare at Freya, then Freya will jump down and the fighting begins. Also, when someone comes to the door they will fight or if I go out without them Willow will attack Freya. How do I stop this? It is very hard to deal with. –Tammy Smith-Fahey

A. Hi Tammy, this is a situation where I would strongly recommend having a professional come in to help you as aggression between dogs can be very serious and can continue to escalate. I would examine the things that trigger the behavior, such as you mentioned picking them up, and avoid doing those things in the meantime. And if possible keep them separated or crated during high stress times, such as having visitors. You can visit our website to find someone near you at

Q. I have a 1 year old Terrier mix that I rescued from the side of the road at 8 weeks of age. I brought her home and she tries to dominate my 4 year old Lab/Boxer mix who is a sweetheart and not alpha at all. How do you deal with an alpha pet in the house? I can’t figure out if she is just this way because of her breed or her early life abandonment and living in the woods. Any suggestions? –Michelle Ferguson-Tirpak

A. Hi Michelle, trainers don’t really use terms like dominate and alpha any more as our understanding of dogs’ behavior has changed over time with more research into how they interact with each other. Often a dog that does, what we would call in the past, “dominate another dog” is behavior by a dog that is less secure and anxious. There could be a lot of factors that have created this behavior, such as her early life before you found her, her breed, etc. She may have missed out on some socialization opportunities. I would strongly recommend having a professional come in as this behavior can escalate and someone who can sit down with you and take an entire history can determine what specific factors are contributing to the behavior. You can find someone near you at There’s also a good small booklet you might find helpful – it’s called Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-dog Household and the authors are Patricia McConnell and Karen London. You can get it or

Q. My 3 year old Boston Terrier doesn’t know how to socialize with other dogs – no matter how friendly they are. It seems all he does is run away from them, often bumping into people or furniture. The only time he is calm around pack members is walking beside them on a leash. Is there anything I can do to rehabilitate this behavior? –Nicolle Fox

A. Hi Nicolle, every dog is different about their comfort level with other dogs. It may be that your dog missed out on some early socialization with dogs, or had a negative experience that caused him to be nervous around dogs. With a fearful dog, you always want to move at the dog’s pace and not force any interactions because this can stress them out more. It does sound, though, like he has potential since he can walk on leash next to another dog. Two good resources are Help For Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde and Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell (you can get both at or Basically you want to work with him on conditioning his responses to other dogs at a low level of stress and associating positive things with other dogs so they no longer become fearful. So, this could mean having him at some distance away from dogs, whether it’s 10 feet, 20 feet, or more depending on what distance he can see dogs and be relaxed. This is also a situation where a professional can be helpful as your timing is very important. I would suggest checking out both books and working with someone who is experienced with fearful behavior in dogs – visit to find someone.

Q. I have a pack of four: two males and two females. My males have gotten into a few pretty bad fights. What is the most effective way to reintroduce dogs that are part of your pack after they have gotten in a fight? –Karen Krasowski

A. Hi Karen, this is a situation where I would strongly recommend having a professional come in to help you. Aggression is very serious and there’s a danger of harm both to your dogs and to you in trying to break up fights. I would actually keep them separate and supervise any interactions until you can work with someone to determine what is causing the fights. There can be a multitude of factors that can contribute to this behavior. You can visit our website to find someone near you at

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