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Hi, I have a gorgeous little shi tzu who up until recently has been house trained and toilet trained, but in this last week has had numerous daily 'accidents' and its driving me crazy! He's had a couple of poos inside (which he does in secret, and always the same spot) and multiple pees each day (not in hiding, and not in the same spot, often right in front of us...) He is taken out the back often, and still asks to go out too. Is there anything I can do at all to stop this? I'm taking it right back to the beginning with him and highly rewarding the outside business, interrupting any time I see him about to go inside, and he's now getting a row when he does it (or attempts to) inside too, so he knows he's doing wrong...

My trainer says he has too much freedom in the house, hence the marking, but I really don't want to have to crate him through the day when we're home if there's another alternative, so wondered if anyone had any suggestions for me to try?

Thank you!
 

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First, a visit to the vet's will rule out any health issues.

If that is clear, then going back to the beginning as you are doing is right on the mark.

You can use baby gates or exercise pens to limit his access to additional rooms. These are great to use because the dog can move around and be a part of the family, yet you can keep him from sneaking off to potty.

I will add a big kudos for not wanting to simply crate him and wanting actual training advice and seeking alternatives to crating. Crates are a good tool, but they are not the only solution and it's better to teach a dog how to live in your space than to simply cage it.

In the U.S. , the USDA Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Chapter 1, Subchapter A—Animal Welfare– Part 3, Standards, dictates the amount of space needed for a “primary enclosure” for a canine as:

measurement of animal nose to tail, plus 6 inches, X measurement of animal nose to tail, plus 6 inches = the required floor space in square inches. To determine the required floor space in square feet, divide the square inches by 144.

This is the minimum size for an enclosure for a dog in a laboratory. Crate recommendations for our pet dogs are much smaller than this and we often crate our dogs for 15+ hours per day. Something seems very off.
 

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A sudden change like this might warrant a vet check to make sure he's not dealing with a UTI or other issue that's impacting his behavior.

Outside of that, has there been any changes in weather or things going on around your house (construction, neighbor's dog outside more, kids riding skateboards, etc)? I had a period with my younger dog where he was fairly reliable, except on rainy days. Once I noticed that pattern and started stricter and more frequent potty trips on those days, he improved quickly.

You can try to restrict him to the room you're in if you don't want to fully crate him. This does require you to be attentive and ready to act the moment you spot pre-potty behaviors, so you still might want to crate for activities that prevent this, like showering or cooking dinner. But, for most dogs, the stricter you are about preventing accidents, the more quickly you'll be able to allow them more freedom.
 

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..and he's now getting a row when he does it (or attempts to) inside too, so he knows he is doing wrong...
THIS is concerning. Punishment (loud voice etc.) can REALLY backfire in potty training. That is why he "sneaks off to poop."

You need to clean the places he has pooped or pee'd with a really good enzymatic cleaned. If the places are w2w carpeted you may NEVER get the smell out completely.. and the dog will continue to use those spots.

You're trainer is correct. Too much freedom is the problem assuming this is a training issue and not a veterinary issue. Even if it IS a veterinary issue,the longer it goes on, the more ingrained the behavior becomes.

Smaller space. Baby gates and HARD floor. Use x pen or other physical barrier to keep him out of the areas he has used to potty. Strict vigilance and frequent trips outdoors and TOP value reward for going outdoors (deli meats! Cheese! Whatever he goes crazy for!!).

When you cannot watch him.. absolutely CANNOT... then a crate.

I don't know of any conscientious dog owner that crates for 15 hours a day... before I retired I used full size kennels (two in my basement for inclement weather and two outside when it was nice). Dog(s) was/were with me rest of the time.. and it still was not 15 hours. If you need to crate a dog 15 hours a day you probably should switch to Goldfish.
 

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I don't know of any conscientious dog owner that crates for 15 hours a day... before I retired I used full size kennels (two in my basement for inclement weather and two outside when it was nice). Dog(s) was/were with me rest of the time.. and it still was not 15 hours. If you need to crate a dog 15 hours a day you probably should switch to Goldfish.
Unfortunately, I have seen this. Often. People don't realize just how long their dog is in the crate. So I always try to offer non-crating solutions for issues - because we just don't know how much time that dog is already crated and the person asking for help just reads "crate" as an answer and the dog is crated that much more often.

Look at it this way:

I only crate him without breaks during the night. I work 8 hours and am 15 minutes from the job. During the day when I'm at work, he gets three potty and exercise breaks. When I get home I take him out and he only gets crated during my dinnertime.

It sounds fairly reasonable.

But do the math:

I take him out to potty at 6:00 am, I put him in his crate at 6:35 am while I shower and dress, I take him back out to potty at 7:20 am and put him back in the crate at 7:45 am when I leave for work. At 10:00 am, the neighbor takes him outside for a 30 minute potty break, at 10:30 am he is placed back in the crate. At noon, I come home from work and let him out to potty and play. At 12:50 pm, I put him back in the crate and go back to work. At 2:30 pm, the neighbor returns and takes him out to potty. At 2:45 pm, he is put back in the crate. At 5:20, I return home and take him out to potty and play and do some training. At 7:00, I put him in the crate while I fix and eat dinner. At 8:00 pm, I take him out and he potties and plays and we relax on the couch. At 10:30 pm, I put him in the crate for the night.

That actually ends up to 17.25 hours of actual crate time per a 24 hour day. And yet, because "he is taken out three times while I am at work", it doesn't sound that intense in casual conversation.

If you crate, you should spend a week and log every time the dog goes in and out of the crate. Then you can see how much time the dog is really locked in that space. And then, when a trainer or vet or anyone recommends crating as a solution, you can consider it and make a choice based on actual numbers and not on a false " feeling" that it is not too much crate time.
 
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It's possible he may have a UTI. I would take him to the vet to clear any medical issues.

If he is medically cleared, going back to step one is a good choice. Sometimes dogs need house training refreshers, especially when they're young.

Please do not scold your dog for having an accident. Scolding dogs for having an accident only teaches them that going in front of you is bad, not that going in the house is bad, so that's why your pup may be sneaking off to go. Make sure to clean the accident areas with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle to eliminate the scent completely, which may be confusing the dog.

You can use baby gates to keep the dog in the same room as you so you immediately notice if the dog is going to have any accidents. Close doors so the dog can't sneak into other rooms. You can use a tether to keep the dog near you at all times. Some people will even use an exercise pen to keep the dog confined to one area, too. All require supervision so you can quickly interrupt if the pup is going to have an accident.

If you have to do something where you absolutely can't watch the dog, such as showering or taking care of other personal needs, the crate is probably the best option, but if this is a medical issue and the dog physically can't hold it, that won't matter at all.

And yes, as Daysleepers said, the better you are at preventing accidents the more quickly you can offer the dog greater freedom in the house. Being strict isn't forever, just until the dog proves that they're potty trained!
 

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Just going to jump in here and reiterate what others have said: do not ever scold your dog or make any punishment or even look cross at your dog if she goes in the house. All that does is make her go off to do it in secret (as you can see) and it confuses the dog because she really does not know what is right or wrong here. She is not doing this on purpose to annoy you, she is confused. Please take our word for this because if you continue to punish her or give her a row you will only make things much worse for her and it definitely will not help with this problem. Might even make it worse.

Instead, as I have heard someone say, if she has gone potty in the house, take a rolled up newspaper and hit yourself in the head with it for not being attentive enough to her training and not getting her outdoors often enough that it prevents this happening.
 
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