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Help! Significant trouble housebreaking 6 month old

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Hi all. Happy to find this discussion board as I'm at my wits end trying to housebreak a 6 month old. Welcome any suggestions as I've tried several things and it feels as though the situation is getting worse.

Detailed Background (apologies for length):

I've had border collies and currently have a 9 year old very quiet BC.

Puppy is 6 month old male, not neutered. Acquired from breeder 5 weeks ago. Unclear level of housebreaking, but was told he was housebroken.

Drinks tons of water, mainly in the evening around dinner and after.

Accidents happen mainly in evening, but just started this morning as well.

2 kennels on main floor and one in bedroom for night time. No accidents in bedroom kennel, but will pee in main floor kennels (cage kennels). These kennels are small. Will pee on rugs, tile, in most rooms. Has peed 3 times on couch.

Attempted: 7 day routine based kennel housebreak training; giving a high value treat when goes outside (only started 5 days ago.....but accidents have increased since then).

He has playtime in house and outside, with training times. He is kennelled when I work in morning for about 3 hours and afternoon for 3 hours.

Accidents seem to be related to times of high water consumption...except for this morning when he went outside, did not consume water, told me he needed to pee and then peed while I got my coat on.

He is telling me 50% of the time when he needs to go out.

He does not appear to totally void his bladder except in the morning.

No issues with pooping inside.

I am doing training with him daily and he learns really fast....just not on this.

Very intense eater. A little food agressive, but I've solved that. Feeding a large breed puppy food at breeders recommendation. (she said until 1 year).

This week, checked for UTI/worms and all clear. My vet feels it may be behavioral and just had me start the high value treat when he pees outside 5 days ago. I also believe it may be behavioral, but the behavioral is related to him consuming tons of water....almost like his food. Maybe to keep other dog from drinking? I don't want to restrict water, but am having a tough time. Could it be his food? Treats? Today I started feeling it begin to impact my relationship with him after 3 accidents last night...amidst taking him outside 5 times in the span of 1 hour. Finding it hard to be positive and need encouragement!

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Guessing its a habit, and hes comfortable peeing inside no matter what you were told. Were this my pup I would treat him as if he was 6 weeks old, and completely and radically start over with housetraining. I would do the following:


1. block off all rooms he could potentially sneak off to. Remove all extra rugs etc on the floors, even pick up bigger room sized rugs when you can. Remove bedding from his crates. Nothing absorbent to soak up pee, if he pees its a puddle he has to deal with.


2. Keep him tethered to you at all times with a 6-10 foot leash, if not attached I would put him in the bedroom crate. You want NO ability of him to start to pee and you not notice. Put a small crate in the downstairs kennel so he can't get away from pee when he pees. He may pee once or twice before he realizes if he does he has to sit in it.


3. Carefully control the amount of water he gets, if he is healthy limits on how much water he drinks at any one time won't hurt him. Its possible when he "tanks up" he loses a little control of his bladder. Offer small bowls throughout the day.


4. Take him out a LOT and quietly praise and offer a treat any time he goes. Start pairing a pee outside to a word you will use so he learns peeing outside is a thing. At my house its "do your thing." Eventually you want him to go when cued. The goal is taking him out so often that peeing inside in unlikely. When he pees outside, stay outside for a bit. Some dogs need 2 opportunities to void before they empty.


5. Resist the urge to be or get mad when he goes inside, you don't want him to decide peeing in front of you is bad. Its not really that helpful at this stage anyways. If hes attached to you, then he will have minimal opportunity to do so.


Its a lot, and a PITA, but do it now, and eventually it will get better. But you have to break the cycle of peeing inside and help him see peeing outside is what you want.


Be sure to clean up any accident areas with an enzymatic cleaner so there is no lingering odor to attract him to that spot again.

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What is the actual potty schedule? At 6 months I wouldn't wait until he tells you he needs to go out. Take him out before that point. If he drinks lots of water, take him out 10 minutes later, then again 20-30 minutes after that. Praise/reward for peeing outside. Take him out also after he has been active/exercising. In the house, I would do everything that rushdoggie just suggested. Do not give him the opportunity to go in the house.

Good luck! A little hard work now will pay off later.

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Hi Rushdoggie, thank you for your response!! May I ask a few additional questions and share a bit more info so I'm clear?


All points: I work from home and on confernce calls for up to 3 hours at a time. I can't keep him tethered to me at those points due to inability to leap up and take him out. Should I put him in bedroom crate?


Point 2: One of the kennels that he has peed in, is a small cage. It is hard to get away from his pee. He has peed in it with a towel in there. So, I can try no towel, but when he pees, do I leave him there or take him out. Seems like if I jump up to take him out, he is rewarded for peeing in his crate, but just want to check as I'm not sure its healthy to sit in his pee. (he can squeeze to one end).


Point 4: I've used "potty potty potty" any time he pees since he arrived


Point 5: I say a loud "no" and whisk him outside (hard to do this quickly this time of year when you have to bundle up). I don't get mad (sad/disspointed/frustrated...can't say that these don't cross my mind!)


Answering waffles question: Potty schedule: first thing in morning and within 15 minutes of breakfast. 3 hours later (he is crated durig this time). Play/free time outside and nside for 30min to hour. Take out. 3 hours crate. Then 1-2 hours outside/inside play and training time. Then his dinner with outside before and within 15 min of dinner. (he drinks the tons of water during this part of his routine). Leave free roaming with me until 9pm when I have dinner. Take out prior to my dinner. Then crated while I eat and watch TV. take out before bed. The evening is the worst when he does the major water consumption. He did just pee inside for the first time this morning after just taking him out 10 min before....while I was putting on my coat.


Does this sound behavioral?

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Above suggestions were great so I'm not going to repeat.


Couple things to throw out here. . . .


Puppies often can't really control their bladders and don't have sufficient warning themselves to give you time to get bundled up. Some puppies take longer to develop this control of their functions and recognizing warnings. I adopted a puppy like that last January, and if he gave the least indication that he might have to go, I just sucked it up and ran outside with him no matter how cold it was. Would it be possible for you to leave a coat right at the door that you can grab and actually put on after you go out?


It's possible you might be missing his signals. Puppies already have short attention spans so it can be easy to miss when stop doing whatever thy were doing and start looking for a place to pee. Watch for that change of interest and the nose down sniffing out a spot to go.


Yes, take him out as often as possible, just like you'd do with a new puppy. Every hour would be ideal, but if you know you're going to be occupied for three hours on a conference call, make sure you withhold water for maybe an hour beforehand and that he gets to go out right before you put him in the crate. Then take him out as soon as you get off the call.


The most important thing, as others have said, is to be as diligent as you can possibly be to prevent him from making mistakes in the house. If there is an accident, either in the crate or elsewhere, try not to react at all; just ignore it. If you can catch him in the beginning of the act, say something loud but not angry to interrupt him in the act and then whisk him right outside. If it's not in the beginning, it's too late to interrupt. Just scoop him up without saying a word and take him out. Always, always, always praise when he goes outside.


You don't mention what time you feed him in the evening. At six months he should be able to go to 2 meals a day. Try feeding him his evening meal no later than 5:00 and give him free access to water until 7:00 or 8:00 depending both on what time you go to bed and how late he can manage to have water and sleep through the night. You can maybe give him a biscuit or a few pieces of kibble (no more than 4-5) when he goes to bed, but no more water. He'll live overnight without water and it sounds to me like tanking up on water late at night may be part of the problem.


It may or may not be relevant here, but dogs drink a lot when they're stressed. See if you can get outside your head for a bit and observe the situation objectively. Is it possible there's some reason he's feeling stressed, especially in the evening? Moving to a new environment can often be stressful for a dog or puppy, but after 5 weeks I'd think he should be pretty well settled in. But he may be responding to your frustration in ways you're not aware of.


Finally, did the vet do a urinalysis? If not it might not be a bad idea to ask her or him to do one. Not saying your vet isn't a good one (I have no way to know) but it wouldn't be the first time even a good vet's missed something. If you don't start seeing improvement soon I'd be inclined to do a follow up.


Best wishes figuring this out.

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Hi Rushdoggie, thank you for your response!! May I ask a few additional questions and share a bit more info so I'm clear?


All points: I work from home and on confernce calls for up to 3 hours at a time. I can't keep him tethered to me at those points due to inability to leap up and take him out. Should I put him in bedroom crate?

I would, yes. I would take him out prior, then put him in his crate maybe with a chewie. At 6 months he should be able to hold for 3 hours.


However, if hes not realized he can do that, he might have an issue. If possible, can you get someone to let him out at the 90 minute park for 1 or 2 calls, or excuse yourself for a few minutes, then back in his crate? I know when I did those I was able to use a headset ad put it on mute, might work. If anyone asks say you were taking a "rest break" lol.

Point 2: One of the kennels that he has peed in, is a small cage. It is hard to get away from his pee. He has peed in it with a towel in there. So, I can try no towel, but when he pees, do I leave him there or take him out. Seems like if I jump up to take him out, he is rewarded for peeing in his crate, but just want to check as I'm not sure its healthy to sit in his pee. (he can squeeze to one end).


I, honestly, would probably have him sit with it for a few minutes. Then a bath. Maybe a cold one. OK, maybe just cool. :) A natural consequence of peeing in your crate. Too bad, so sad, you don't care for being wet or baths? Maybe you should hold it then.


Point 4: I've used "potty potty potty" any time he pees since he arrived

Perfect. Hopefully over time this will be a cue for him to know "this is the time to go." This helps because he will learn that he needs to pee when the opportunity is made for him, nit just when he feels like it. Assuming he is normally healthy, he sounds like he just doesn't care to hold it much and if he feels any urge he needs NOW or he will just go where its easy.


Point 5: I say a loud "no" and whisk him outside (hard to do this quickly this time of year when you have to bundle up). I don't get mad (sad/disspointed/frustrated...can't say that these don't cross my mind!)


Its hard, it will be harder when hes pee soaked from a bad choice while crated. Grit your teeth, be neutral.


Hang in there. It won't happen quickly, but it will happen.

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I see you have received a lot of good advice so I won't repeat but I have a few thoughts -


I see you said he did not have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Did your vet check for urine specific gravity? Or do a urinalysis? USG is best done with the first urine of the day so you take him out on leash and be prepared to catch a sample with a clean (not sterile) ladle or similarly-suitable utensil or bowl. If for some reason he has a below-normal USG, your vet may want to run some blood tests to check for kidney function. He is very young for kidney issues but it would not hurt to check.


Also, abnormal thirst can be indicative of diabetes. Again, not wanting to be an alarmist, but this can be readily checked by your vet with a simple test.


I see that you said that the breeder said he was housebroken. I do not know where you got your pup but wonder if the breeder was being honest with you. Also, he may have been doing well in whatever situation he was in previously and, as others have mentioned, you might be missing his signals, his routine may be very different, or he is simply not dependable.


I have found with my pups that, whether I was more diligent or less diligent in my house training approach, my Border Collie pups were simply not dependable until about six months of age. They are young, active, adolescent, preoccupied, and, like human children, sometimes just don't place a high priority on peeing when and where they should, leaving off taking care of business until they can't hold it any longer!


Another management idea you might try is limiting his water later in the day. That might help him to shift more of his drinking to earlier in the day and also put less volume in his bladder for later in the day and overnight.


You seem to be trying to think this out and make it work, and I wish you the best of luck in solving your problem!

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I will 2nd the advice above (all very good) and just reiterate:


As Sue said, I would try to dig deeper into if there is a medical issue. Sometimes the results could be incorrect. Sometimes you could test for something that is just developing and the test comes back negative, but if/when repeated a few days later, the test could be positive. So UTI?? or something else? I would ask for more diagnostic blood work if the UTI test came back negative again.


Will he go potty within the first few minutes that he goes outside? If not, do not let him stay outside and play. Bring him back inside and into a crate (with a couple of pieces of kibble). Take him outside in 30-45 minutes (unless he starts whining first) and repeat. i.e. he should pee pretty fast. If he doesn't, he doesn't get to stay outside and play, he goes back in his crate. BCs are notorious for holding it if they think that they can play instead. One think I have had to do is to teach all my dogs that they have to pee first, before they get to play. Of course, once they do pee, they get reinforced verbally, with a treat or two (when they are pups) and THEN we get to play.


Good Luck.

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Thank you everyone for all your awesome advice! I'm armed with great ideas from everyone! And really feel the BC love. :rolleyes: Just to answer a few of the questions:


UTI was morning catch and problem had been going on for 2 weeks before we ran it. He has no other signs of a UTI (eg, blood in urine, straining, pain on urination) so I'm OK ruling that out at this point. That said, I totally concur that there is a chance this still could be health related, even an uncaught UTI and will certainly feel better if I check all those boxes. Thanks for ideas.


He pees right when we go out because I use the potty potty potty words and he does seem to know we're not playing or doing anything unless he goes. In the morning, I typically get a long pee. The rest of the day, they seem to be "I'll just give her a little pee so I can get my treat and move on to playing".


I'll report back in a few days....as long as my hands haven't fallen off with all the cleaning....

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A few thoughts -

Any salty treats or food will encourage water consumption.

Lots of soft dog treats are loaded with salt. What food is he eating?


Activity will 'get things moving' so befor and AFTER play/training I would make an effort to take him out to potty or stop playing and encourage him to pay attention to business of going potty.

Males Never fully empty bladder :) they seem to always some reserve. Most of my dogs pee multiple times in a row, even adults. Pups I believe get distracted and 'forget' they have to go. This may be part of his issue. Sounds like when he goes out get playing and then realizes when inside he has to go. Taking a quiet walk before and after any play sessions should help and a long walk before he is crated for your call.

Just a thought but if he is "into food" I would watch if the treat starts distracting him.

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I second Sue R's excellent advice about checking a urine specific gravity. It's an inexpensive and simple test that can give a lot of information. Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) can cause excessive thirst and excessive urination and sugar will show in the urine, but a less common condition called diabetes insipidus can cause excessive urination with a low specific gravity being a cardinal sign.


Keep us posted, and thanks for doing all you can for your youngster!!



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Denice mentioned an important point, one which has been a situation with our bitch but not out dogs - some dogs/bitches do not empty their bladder in a first urination, even when that seems to be a very copious one. Our little Megan, who is the marker in the pack (not the boys), retains a significant amount of urine after a good pee. Since she was also a submissive urinator when she came to us, we learned (the soggy way) to make sure that she goes at least twice when her bladder is likely to be more full, or she will still have quite a bit left "in reserve". This could possibly be part of your pup's issue.

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BCs are notorious for holding it if they think that they can play instead. One think I have had to do is to teach all my dogs that they have to pee first, before they get to play.


I had to laugh because I thought only my 12 month old BC did this. :) It's gotten worse with all the very cold weather because she doesn't get to spend as much time outside. She used to go outside, I'd say "go potty", she'd go, and then we'd play. But as of the last few days, we'd go outside and no matter how many times I prompted, she'd hide behind a bush instead - her signal to start playtime. It finally dawned on me to put her on leash, and she immediately went. Then off came the leash and playtime began!

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Hi all. Again, thank you for all othe great information! Just a quick update on how we're doing:

  • We initiated many of the recommendations, including taking him back to the beginning of training, keeping him with me, removing towels from crates, etc
  • I've begun a transition to a new dog food of which I'm more confident of the sodium level (could not find sodium level in the original food) and is a high quality adult food
  • Allowing water in small portions regularly throughout the day and avoiding any "tanking up" in the evening.
  • Replaced all treats that had could have a high salt content (I believe 2 of the treats I had recently initiated were higher in salt)
  • Confirmed that urinalysis vet ran last week looked a Urine specificity and any sugar.....all normal
  • I've even had my other bc go on a doggy vacation with his favorite aunt for a few days so that he is out any stress and I can 100% focus on pup

So far, Merlin is responding to everything. Signals are clearer....although I'm surely experiencing some trips outside to exchange a token small dribble pee for a high value treat....at this point, I'm totally OK with that! :mellow: And I'm well armed with "that's just how they are" (eg, I'd rather play than pee) so I know how to handle.


Definitely feeling better than I was when I posted 2 days ago. Of course, this is not an indication of the future, but hopefully, a beginning. I'll keep this group posted and thank you again, for taking the time to share your wisdom!


Leslie the more confident fur mom and Merlin the extremely clever pup

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Sometimes the answer is just backing up and starting over again from the beginning.


Think about yourself when you're trying to learn something. If you miss a step somewhere along the way and then you try to keep going without picking up the missed piece, you're not going to learn the new thing very well, or it'll take you a lot longer to learn it. But if you back up and start again at square one, you'll get it.


Great to hear he's doing better. Be prepared for some backsliding her and there; it's part of many learning processes. But now if it happens you know what to do. Just back up a step or two and and soldier on. ;)


Good work, both of you.

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Hi all.


Well, it's been a week....and (knock on wood), not a single accident. Merlin is occasionally telling me he needs to go out by leaning against or looking at a room divider or door that moves us from the room we are in toward the door we go out to potty. I am also learning to read his other signals if he doesn't directly tell me. He enjoys and responds well to the praise and treat when he pees outside.


For anyone coming along and reading this post later, here is what I did using the wonder advice above:

  • made sure it was not a health issue by running urinalysis (no UTI, normal urine specificity, and no sugar)
  • removed all towels/rugs from day use crates; left towel in night crate (he never had an accident in the night crate)
  • keeping him with me constantly or in crate
  • really looking for and learning his signals (my other border collie got a vacation at his favorite aunts for 5 days so I could really focus on Merlin for a bit)
  • because he can tank up on water in the evening (and plays with the water bowl), water is limited in the evening and given in small portions many times throughout day (I will eventually go back to water anytime when I am confident we've learned to always go outside)
  • changed food to one I was confident on salt level being acceptable
  • removed all treats that could be salty (tanking up on water seems to be dissipating so this could have really been a factor)
  • high praise and high high value treat when peeing outside (was already doing this, but really stepped it up)
  • use a word while he is going potty (mine is "potty potty potty") - was already doing this, but listing it as something extremely useful
  • encouraged second pee (using the potty words) before returning inside if 1st pee was short (and yes, he does occasionally need a second pee)

I also contacted and leveraged guidance from his breeder who was wonderfully supportive and helpful.


I know I'm not out of the woods yet and that the occasional accident will be part of the learning, but a week without an accident seems to mean Merlin and I are learning and are headed in the right direction.


Thank you all! You rock and have helped bring sanity back to my world (and my other Border Collie's world too)


Leslie, Whitley (my 9 year old BC) and Merlin, the pup

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