Heartbreaking decision

This is one of those things that I’m not sure why I am writing about it here, it’s just kind of therapeutic in a way I guess.

About 6 months ago, my wife and I rescued a long-haired dachshund from the local SPCA. I always liked the idea of a rescued pet instead of one from a breeder. Anyway, we saw Sweet Pea and fell in love with her immediately and she with us. She has a very timid personality, when we call her she slowly slinks over to us. She is completely passive. Before we got her, she was abused for almost 4 years by never being allowed out of a very small cage. Not one single time. Yeah, there are assholes all over.

Sometimes when we take her outside, she just sits there and shivers like she’s afraid we are going to beat her. Of course we have never laid a hand on her except in a loving way.

As far as house training, she had a rough start but really seemed to be turning a corner over the past couple of months. Believe me, this dog gets taken outside all the time! I joked with my wife that we live our lives based on the excretionary lifestyles of a 10-pound wiener dog. But this is where the decision comes in. She has completely reverted and goes to the bathroom inside all the time.

For instance, yesterday I actually felt well enough to walk a couple of miles, first time since my oral surgery a few weeks ago. I took Sweet Pea out twice before I went walking, she did nothing both times. I then walked and was only gone about 20 minutes. Came back to both poop and piss on the carpet. She really hates being left alone, so I’m sure she does this after getting mad. But I can’t worry about that, she is slowly going to ruin about $8,000 worth of carpet! When I leave in the morning to head to the salt mines, we have to lock her in the guest bathroom which while not tiny, is also not big. She has destroyed the door by chewing and scratching it on the inside. She has even managed to start chewing up some of the grout between tiles and loosening one tile.

We have given this 6 months. Last night while talking about what to do, both my wife and I were crying because just the thought of losing Sweet Pea kills us. We really love this dog and she really loves us. She loves laying on the couch with us while we watch a movie or sitting with me in my easy chair while I play games. She has quickly become a big part of our lives. But I just don’t know what else to do. We’ve tried everything from training pads (she chews them up) to going outside every 15 minutes (gets old very fast!) to different foods, etc. We even took her to my vet and she said Sweet Pea is probably just very scarred from the abuse and this would take years to undo. We don’t have that kind of time and resources.

So it looks like Monday I have to take her back. They don’t euthanize at this chapter, so at least she has a chance with another family. But for now, our hearts just break at the thought of not having her here any more.

Crate train her. Never leave her alone except when she is in her crate.


I adopted a beagle mix who had lived in a shelter for all 3 years of her life and we struggled for the first week, then I instituted hardcore crate training. No issues since. None.

If the dog was really confined to a small cage for several years, it may have destroyed her natural instinct not to go to the bathroom in the crate. I’ve heard a number of cases of puppy mill dogs that were abused in this manner that are never fully housebroken.

That being said, if you haven’t tried it yet, crate training is a good suggestion. It sounds like there’s a combination of housebreaking behavior with seperation anxiety here, proper crate training can solve both problems (crate is safe happy place when you’re not home). She might be afraid of the crate at first though, especially if it reminds her of her abuse cage.

That being said, if you’re at wits end and need a short term holdover while the crate training kicks in, some of her anxiety might be relieved by using a doggy relaxation pheremone spray. They mimic doggy mothers pheremones which relax most dogs. That might help a little in the meantime.

A Thundershirt is worth a try. They have a money back guarantee if you’re concerned about that. It sounds like an odd idea, but it absolutely does work. There’s some dogs it just won’t help, of course, but very few. At the most, it will completely erase her anxiety. At the least, it will help tremendously.

They make puppy pad holders, have you gotten one of those? She may not be able to chew it up from there. Also, fake grass pee pads exist.

Does she get along with other dogs or cats? It sounds like she might need a friend, if she could handle that.

Oh yeah, thundershirt is absolutely absurd sounding, but I know from 2nd hand experience that it really can help.

Crate train ftw!

I’d go with crate training too. We have a pair of permanent residents we adopted, and we have a rotating line of dogs we’ve fostered, and crate training has been a huge help for us to teach new arrivals how things are done.

Remember to make the crate an inviting place, and don’t just shove the dog in - we use treats to coax the dog into the crate, and leave the door open so they can go in and out on their own. Only once they can go in on their own and settle down to we start closing the door. We also keep the crate where we are, so there’s no separation anxiety - this may be your living room, your bedroom, etc.

Our house training procedure is to start off by taking the dog outside. I’d give the dog 10-15 minutes to do their thing. If nothing happens, then back into the house, and into the crate. Wait one hour, try again. When success happens, heap on the praise and love, and give them an hour outside the crate with you (then back in for a few hours.) The first few cycles of this can be very long and hard, and require a lot of patience. You may go out once an hour for 12 hours straight. You may have to get up in the middle of the night to get them to go if they didn’t go before bed - when we have puppies, we always take them out at 3-4AM for a middle of the night bathroom break.

It’s hard work, and requires a lot of patience. But, you’ll have fewer cleanups, and a solid plan can be far better than worrying about if you’re doing the right thing.

Crate training should certainly be your first step. Keep in mind it may be traumatic for her.

Do you have somewhere you can gate her off where she can’t actually damage the carpet? Like a tiled kitchen or something? When I was raising my dog, he slowly graduated from crate to kitchen to run of the house while I wasn’t home.

You could also try a big crate, like this: http://www.amazon.com/Jewett-Cameron-Uptown-Welded-Kennel/dp/B002IT1CLW

I have two new guinea singing dogs, which are essentially small dingos. The male is intact, and they’re notoriously hard to house train, so we can’t leave them inside by themselves for long. When we go to work they get put into the big cage, which has a table high enough so they can see out the window, and a plastic box with fake grass that the female pees in, and is good for poop emergencies. They don’t mind being in there at all, and we haven’t needed to buy a new couch or carpet for years.

Since you say she already learned to do it outside and did it for a while before falling back to the earlier pattern, it’s possible that some association broke and needs to be re-wired.

Force her to do it outside. Stuff her to the breaking point with her favorite food and lead her outside until she has no choice but to poop there. It takes much patience, but it has a chance to reactivate the newer pattern.