TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Dear Carla,
I just got a one year old Boston Terrier/Chihuahua. He’s from Sacramento and has never seen snow until yesterday. Needless to say, he hates it. He is apparently potty trained, however he does not potty when I take him outside and has already had a few accidents in the house. The other problem is that when we take him out we have to go downstairs and put on his jacket. It’s hard to catch him in the act and take him outside.
Do you have any advice?
Small dogs, puppies and dogs without much fur, like Vizslas and Weinmariners, often do not like to go out in the cold weather to potty and getting the jackets on can be a problem when you are in a hurry.
Although I don’t recommend pee pads for use in potty training, in this case it may be the easiest transitional solution. Alternatively, a product commonly used by dog owners who live in high-rise apartments is an indoor patch of synthetic grass with a drainage mechanism for cleaning. Over time this would be a more cost effective and environmentally friendly solution since the pee pads are expensive and must be disposed of.
Before you begin, clean any places where he’s already had accidents with a enzymatic product like Nature’s Miracle. Any residual urine odor will encourage further peeing.
Whether you opt for the pads or turf, put it near a door so you can gradually move it outside when the weather gets warmer. Place your dog on a leash and walk him to the area just like you would take him outside. As he’s going, give him a potty cue (e.g. “go potty”) and give him a treat reward when he goes in the designated spot.
If you are using the pads, don’t feel like you have to use a new pad every single time as some odor will entice him to go on the pad again. Since he’s little, he likely won’t pee that much and you can pick up the poop and flush it. With that said, you will need to change the pads frequently or your house will stink!
Once the weather warms and he happily goes outside for walks, select a specific place near the house and make it the designated pee/poop area. Always have him go in this place and then reward him with a walk afterward.
This routine will encourage him to go at the beginning of a walk which is helpful in bad weather. Continue to use the potty cue and reward him with a really good treat when he goes outside. Hopefully, he will adjust to the snow over time and will learn that he gets good treats outside.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.