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It's not the nicest rug in the world, but you like it. So, apparently, does the dog--but for different reasons.
At first, it was an inconvenience; stepping on a damp patch first thing in the morning. But he keeps going back to the same spot and peeing, despite your best efforts to clean the area.
The whole situation is very frustrating. Not least because you work hard at getting rid of the smell, but a friend told you that the cleaning fluid contains bleach and is heightening the urine smell to the dog.
If you can't punish the dog and shouldn't use household cleaners, then exactly how do you end this anti-social habit?
Unfortunately, peeing in the wrong place (such as a rug) is habit forming. This is because urine contains a number of scent markers that are highly attractive to dogs and mark the place as an area of interest. Continued peeing keeps the signals fresh and will repeatedly draw the dog back to re-offend.
Therefore, it's crucial to develop a strategy that involves retraining the dog as to where the correct place to go to the toilet is, alongside a rigorous deodorization of the area. Even then, this requires considerable dedication and patience, if you are to win out in the end.
Tempting as it is, never punish the dog. This is liable to make matters worse, rather than better, and damage your relationship to boot.
Be prepared for the long haul when teaching a dog not to pee on a rug. How long he takes to drop the habit will depend on how well established it is, and how consistently you apply the rules. You will need a variety of cleaning equipment and props, such as:
- Paper towel
- Tin foil
- Biological washing detergent
- Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- Food and water bowls.
- A collar and leash
The Remove Markers Method
Understand the idea
To a dog, scent is a powerful means of leaving messages. Their pee is especially potent as it can warn other dogs that this patch is already taken or it can comfort an insecure dog because he's marked the area as his own. In addition, a strong urine smell marks an area out as a toilet, which draws the dog back, as he believes it's the right place to go. Getting rid of any lingering odor is therefore critical to successfully training a dog not to pee in a particular place.
Blot up fresh spills
If your dog has done a fresh pee, mop up the wet using disposable paper towels. It is best to use a disposable product, since the smell can linger in sponges or clothes, even after washing.
Wash with biological washing powder
To clean up the area, first test an inconspicuous part of the rug with the cleaning solution to make sure it is colorfast. Use a solution of biological washing detergent and work it well into the rug, then rinse well with clean water. Repeat this as many times as necessary until the water comes away clear.
Now rinse with bicarbonate of soda
Once the area is cleaned, apply a solution of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). This is a great deodorizer and can help neutralize any odors that aren't detectable with the human nose, but are to your dog. Work this solution in well and then rinse, as before, with clean water until you are convinced the area is totally clean.
Dry the area
Blot up excess moisture and if the weather is cold and the rug risks remaining wet for a long time, use a hair dryer on a warm setting to speed up the drying process.
Expert behaviorists advise the only way to be sure of getting rid of the odor is to clean using the method above, once a day for two to three weeks. This extreme is because of the dog's sensitivity to smells, which can detect lingering urine markers way beyond basic cleaning.
The Discourage Rug Use Method
A wider strategy
Preventing a dog going back to a favorite (but inappropriate) spot requires a multi-faceted approach with thorough deodorization, making the area less attractive to pee on, and potty training the dog to go in the correct place.
Caught in the act
If you catch the dog in the act of urinating on the rug, do NOT punish him. However, it's fine to screech or squeal or make some alarming noise that interupts his train of thought and stops him mid flow. Then grab his collar and whisk him straight outdoors to the place where you do want him to urinate.
Never punish him during or after he pees on the rug. The dog won't link the punishment to the rug, but to you, which will make him more secretive and he'll probably hang on until you leave the room to pee on the rug.
Make the rug less attractive
Dogs are less likely to pee on surfaces that splash back. Although it will look a little odd (it's a price worth paying), cover the rug in tin foil while you are retraining the dog.
Use dog psychology
Dogs are less likely to soil in places where they eat. Again, in the short term while you break the dog of the habit, try putting his food and water bowls on the rug. He'll be much less likely to foul close to important resources such as food.
The Beef Up Basics Method
Take stock of the situation
Assess why it is the dog is soiling the rug. Review his potty training and see if he has slipped into bad habits (he's stopped asking to go out) or is he being asked to hold on for too long between comfort breaks and therefore chosen his own spot? The latter is easily sorted by setting yourself a reminder on your phone to let the dog out every couple of hours or so, and then praising him when he does pee outside.
Keep the dog under your watchful eye at all times. Keep him on a leash attached to your wrist and if he makes to go toward the rug, then take him straight outside. Praise him when he then pees in the right place.
Cut down on his opportunity to soil the rug when you can't be there to watch him, by crate training. Only confine him to the crate when he is happy to go inside, and don't abuse the crate by keeping him in it for hours on end.
Give the dog plenty of comfort breaks. Hot spots for wanting to wee are immediately after waking, after eating, and every few hours. Therefore make a point of taking the dog out when he wakes, after meals, and every couple of hours.
Stay and praise
When the dog goes outside, stay with him so you are there when he toilets and can praise him. When he gets rewards for peeing in the right place, he'll start to hold on so that he can pee in the right place and earn a tasty treat. This, along with making the rug less attractive as a toilet, should sort the problem.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 02/08/2018, edited: 01/08/2021