housebreaking with iron bladder

Hi all,

New rescue dog mom here, likely to a Basenji mix who is named Pedro.
(I was told that it was a terrier mix but a lot of its qualities make me think its more Basenji- stretches like a yogi, licks himself clean, tan/white color, furrowed brow and bat ears, super agile and will canter like a horse at faster runs, sits/squats to pee and poop. The only thing that is less so is the fact that he is less "sight hound" but has to sniff EVERYTHING.)

He is 6 months old and sweet as can be, if a little timid (but has not shown any signs of aggression with fear, just very wary of new things and can be slow to warm to new people and dogs). Just a few days into adoption he already enjoys walking/jogging with me and snuggling in the evenings, starting to learn "sit", "down", etc.

However, housebreaking has been a bit of a bear. I was told he didn't have daily accidents at the shelter, but still made mistakes here and there. For the most part he has been pretty good about pooping outside.
When it comes to peeing though, I am baffled.........Pedro will hold his pee for 10, 12, even 14 hours!!!

This is despite walking him more than 4-5 times per day, with at least 2 of those walks being 30-60 minutes and the rest at least 10-15 minutes. Yesterday he had an accident inside once at 530am (I get up early for work and made the mistake of letting him wander around off leash after a meal, even though I was watching and he was with me the whole time), then peed once at doggie daycare at 1 pm afternoon then literally did not pee for 18 hours afterwards (although he did poop), despite the fact that I walked him twice in the evening, for over an hour this morning (in all kinds of environments-- busy city street, quiet wooded park... on grass, gravel, rock hills...)... and then again for 20 minutes right after feeding. And then he finally peed in the stairwell right as he was walking into day care.

Here are all the things we've tried:

  1. Going out every 2-3 hours with crating in or very close supervision in between and going out at the slightest sign of sniffing or circling. And we go straight outside if he whines in the crate for more than 3 minutes continuously (ie it doesn't seem like a "hey why are you ignoring me" cry)
  2. Trying different environments and surfaces (at first we thought it might be anxiety about city streets since he's a bit shy... but he had no problem starting a poop in the middle of a crosswalk with oncoming traffic yesterday... sigh)
  3. Lots of praise and/or treats with the poops (I personally have yet to see him pee outside but I'm sure the dogsitter is praising him on the occasional walk pees he's seen)
  4. Strict feeding schedule (sometimes the timing is off by an hour or two, but gets fed twice a day and access to fresh water 4-5 times a day... nose always seems wet and skin taut so doesn't seem like he's dehydrated)
  5. Trying to interrupt accidents (I will say "hey!" or "no!" and try to pick him up into the bathtub to finish there... then immediately take him out after... but usually he will just keep peeing despite my attempts then continue to play outside without any additional elimination). I don't have enzyme spray yet but clean up right after, and he has not had accidents in the same spots yet. He has squatted to pee during the 2 accidents i've witnessed so I don't necessarily think he is trying to "mark"

He has not soiled his crate, so I guess that's the only thing working in our favor. And most of the time, he will willingly go into his crate (often voluntarily goes there to relax after eating or a busy day at daycare, and/or easily goes in with a treat to coax. Rarely do I have to gently guide him by his collar, but I have NEVER had to pick him up or force him in so far and he doesn't seem anxious about it so he seems to be mostly fine with it. The only time he whines is if he feels like he is lonely and bored-- ie I am in another room and he is not tired enough to sleep-- but even that will often pass after a few minutes with the crate covered).

He also doesn't seem uncomfortable when peeing, so I don't think he has a UTI or other health issue, although I'm certainly worried he's going to give himself one at this rate.

My next step is to spend a weekend where he is either crated (mostly) or umbilical corded to me and the rest of the time outside for 48 hours. i assume at some point he will pee outside and I will be on hand to shower praise and treats lavishly to start the positive reinforcement. But it is really tough to "catch" that moment when I have to work and he only pees once or twice a day. Unfortunately I don't have any vacation coming up and can't spend a week just doing the above.

Also we haven't had a really rainy day yet, but I'm worried how those days as well as the cold upcoming winter months are going to go when neither of us will necessarily want to spend 4-6+ hours outside a day.

If the strict weekend crating technique doesn't work.... any other thoughts???

I suppose the two other factors to take into account are that I am first-time dog owner (have had small pets before, and work daily with young children... but I find the techniques I use on my puppy work well on children and vice versa thus far 😂 ) and that he is spending a lot of time at doggy daycare right now (but he always seems happy when I pick him up, he is learning to socialize well with the other pups, so I don't think there's any concern for more anxiety there... and I have asked my sitter to start being more rigorous about crating for short stints for most non-outside time as well)

Thanks so much in advance from a new worried dog-mom!

last edited by mjfilez

Mine was the same when we got her and still kind of is. One big thing, she would never “relieve” herself in the presence or under the watchful eyes of others (humans and especially other dogs!) Have you tried not watching?

Also habitual pee time ended up working for her... fed in morning, poop and wee time... fed at night, poop and wee time... before bed... wee time, we had to leave her out and use the word “wee” to encourage her... (she picks up words/ names/ actions really well)

Some days I come home to let her out in the middle of the day and she just stands there staring at the daisies growing...

My dad gives her a “pee” treat, but it can take rescue dogs a while to settle and feel comfortable....
Maybe use a command word if you see him wee so that when he needs to go you can communicate? Remmy will always tell us when she wants something and we go through her list, “do you want to wee? Poo? Drink? Food? Cuddle?” Etc and she will do the tippy tally paw dance to let me us know the correct option...

But mostly give it time. Basenji mixes are odd enough, but really wonderful! X

@mjfilez said in housebreaking with iron bladder:

access to fresh water 4-5 times a day

I am sorry, but you just give him water 4-5 times a day? Younger puppies I cut off liquids after 8 pm, but they have access fully the rest of the time. I would encourage a LOT of drinking, like adding no salt chicken or beef stock to the water. Full enough of a bladder and you'll have more opportunity to see him pee outside.

However, please let the vet check him. He could have a medical problem that needs treating.

A Basenji who lives near me - will ONLY pee away from home. The owners have to get him to the woods before about 9.30 and once there he pees a BUCKET full. I haven't actually timed him but am sure he pees for a minute at least. Once that is over, that is it - nothing more for the rest of the day, or through the night. Next morning a race to the woods and another marathon pee.

He is now about 5 years old and this has been the livelong habit. He seems fine though.

Put cold water down and leave it down. I have two large bowls in the kitchen and fill them as soon as they get lowered.

I use 'be clean !' to mine and they know what is expected of them. Try to teach him some word of command and establish the routine. Food - outside to pee. Regularly at the same times each day - as far as that is possible.

But get a vet to give him the once over - it might be something is wrong somewhere

Dogs can be variable but six months of age seems young to be holding it for such extended periods. Seems like you are approaching it the right way. May just take a while. Shelters are not the greatest place for dogs to learn peeing protocol. If the longer walks aren't something you enjoy I'd skip them. Ten or fifteen minutes should be long enough for him to pee if he's so inclined. That should save you some time.

This may be controversial but if he's been pad trained I've always put out a pee pad on the theory that controlled peeing on a pad is a whole lot better than uncontrolled peeing on a carpet or bare floor.

I am sure that you are praising him but probably not in a way that gets his attention. I had to house train a 6.5 year old Basenji. It only took 2-3 weeks but I had to make a complete fool of myself praising him loudly and effusively. My neighbors were a little concerned about my seemingly erratic and lunatic like behavior while walking Valentino BUT he was trained quickly and completely. During those 3 weeks there were accidents in the house but I just ignored him, cleaned it up, then took him on a walk and behaved like a lunatic with compliments when he peed.

Good luck!

Can I add my 2 cents worth? To control him inside, we sometimes use a belly band. This is a cloth band about 75mm wide and capturing the willie, but not the testicles (if he still has them). Tie it with velcro so that it can be adjusted to his size, firm rather than tight.

The other thing is to get him into the routine of going outside. We push ours outside after a meal, and use the phrase "Go potty", and it works. The males seem eager to go and piddle, but sometimes the females are reluctant, especially if it is wet. You just have to be persistent. I have taken the original for a walk in the rain, until she went. All the while I was chanting the phrase, and finally she gave in after a couple of hundred metres, and found a drier spot under a bush.

When they have an urge to go, they knock on the back door, so that they know that they go outside to piddle. Some people hang a bell on the door handle so the dog will ring the bell when it is time for a piddle or an empty their bowel. Must praise them when they go, especially when it is raining. When they empty their solids, they are on their walks. Sometimes they will go multiple times, so after a result do not head inside immediately. Praise is always good. they will then get the idea of going when they are out. The bitch will always have a big piddle and then about five minutes later she will have a bowel movement, whereas the males will piddle at the front gate, and then at a pleasant spot (we live in the country), they will empty. make sure you pick up their droppings, while praising them. They will get the idea that you collect the stuff, and try to contribute more outside.

You are doing well, and keep trying to train him to go outside. One girl I had could hold on for 24 hours if it was raining, but then she found under the eaves of the roof was a place to stay dry while having a piddle. Praise when they do it outside is good.

Thank you so much for all the comments! It’s helpful to know that there are others out there with quirky pee habits also...

Yes, I always leave fresh water available, but outside the crate. I personally watch him drink 3- 4 times a day though may be more, I am assuming the day care makes water available as well although I could certainly ask to make sure. I also roughly approximate the volume he “needs” by weight and I know he is probably getting that but I will try measuring exactly. And I could try flavoring more to see if he drinks more. He is crated for about 6-8 hours overnight, and 1-2 h at a time during the day for potty training purposes only if I need to step away and do errands. Otherwise he can go drink whenever, play or snooze next to me, etc, I just don’t trust him to have free reign otherwise yet (he will either chew/swallow something or have an accident otherwise, I’ve had to fish out a few pieces of garbage on walks). We go outside every 2-3h except for when sleeping. I’ll cut off two hours before bedtime unless we’ve had a lot of activity, in which case I don’t necessarily. I mix water with his food also to encourage drinking. Otherwise his nose is always wet and skin nice and taut, so I am assuming he is not dehydrated. But yes, I have a vet appointment in the next few days as well.

If we are in the park, it’s a little easier to let him roam on a 6 foot leash without watching him all the time but unfortunately on busy city streets that’s not always possible. I am careful to look for “cues” as well on our walks as well, for pooping it’s been more obvious squatting, so I will stop everything and shower praise (and a treat if I have it) within a minute after (sometimes it’s hard to do it right after if he poops in the middle of a busy city street and I’m trying to body block the area to avoid the ire of others, plus keep him from wandering more than 3 feet away and clean). Just haven’t had a chance to catch him the middle of a pee outside yet to do so! And unfortunately I don’t think the poop praise generalizes to all elimination praise. But I’m hoping a full weekend dedicated to just watching for this will help. And he seems inclined to do things as much for for praise as for treats (he’s not terribly food motivated), so as we continue to bond I’m hoping my approval will start meaning more to him as well.

The longer walk/jogs are honestly as much to burn off some energy as much as anything else. And we both enjoy them as fun/bonding time so will probably keep some of them, although I agree that it probably isn’t contributing in any positive or negative way to the potty training itself. I live in NYC so Central Park is the closest to “woods” we get, but we enjoy romping through there as well so we’ll keep that going too.

We are less than a week out from adoption... so hoping we start seeing more improvements soon as he adjusts. It’s already amazing to see how much more comfortable he is with me (snuggling to nap, short jogging, enjoying easy agility tasks in the park- scrambling up rock hills, starting to learn commands etc, less startled when meeting other new dogs etc)

Again, thanks for the comments and suggestions. If anyone has other thoughts would love to hear them. Cheers!

last edited by mjfilez

he checked out fine at the vet... said while unusual, it's not unheard of for shelter dogs to have pee anxiety/adjustment issues for the first month and since he is otherwise fine to just give it a few more weeks.

he really peed in the park on a pile of leaves yesterday afternoon for the first time and was praised so loudly everyone else around me was laughing...
but then peed on the rug in my apartment lobby again this morning. at least he's not too shy to pee in front of my anymore and thank goodness i live in a very pet friendly building! 🤣

so we'll keep working on it! and anyone else ever adopts a basenji mix from the shelter and also has this issue you'll know you're not the only one!

last edited by mjfilez

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