Housetraining an Italian Greyhound
This is one of the most commonly discussed topics of Italian Greyhound owners, and frequently asked questions of rescue reps. It is also one of the top reasons we get both Italian Greyhound puppies and adult dogs surrendered to Italian Greyhound rescues. Why? Well, if you look at these dogs close, they are skinny and don't have much body fat, and second don't have much fur to protect them from even mild temperatures. As temperatures drop before winter or even temporarily, when it is raining outside, or even if there is a little frost on the ground, most Italian Greyhound owners know that accidents will happen.
Here are some good tips on how to keep an Italian Greyhound from ruining your home:
Since Italian Greyhounds typically want to be around people at all times, if they sneak off the couch in to another room then they are probably up to no good. If you watch your dog close, you can probably prevent the majority of accidents in the house. When they get up and wander away, ask them if they need to go outside and you may get a potty dance reaction, or they may change their mind and lay back down.
And, keep an eye when they go outside to make sure they actually go potty and/or poo before they get to come inside. Italian Greyhounds are smart dogs, so you will often see them run in to the middle of the yard to try and make you believe they have finished, when in reality they have not. If you let them indoors before they finish, then you will likely be cleaning up after them in a short time.
Maintain a Routine
Dogs, similar to people, like to keep a routine. As a dog settles in to the house, their bathroom habits will adjust to their owner's schedule in many aspects. They will often sleep when people are not around the house, and become active while people are at home or around meal times. You dog will often develop potty and poo habits that revolve around when they sleep or eat.
When you get up in the morning, the dog will also wake up and need to go potty. When you get home from work, they will be eager to see you but also will need to relieve themselves. Make them go outside immediately in both circumstances, before they are rewarded with they attention they desire. And, don't forget to let them outside before you leave or go to bed too, no matter if you kennel them or not. (Note: We do recommend that most Italian Greyhounds should be kenneled anytime you are not at home to keep them out of trouble, and to help teach them good potty habits since dogs don't generally like to dirty places they spend time in regularly.)
Most Italian Greyhounds will need to use the bathroom within 15 minutes of when they eat or drink, so learning your particular dog's needs will help create a harmonious home. Some people find it worthwhile to pick up water an hour before they leave the house, so that accidents in the kennel are limited. And, be sure to create a regular feeding schedule at the same time of day every day, with enough time to let things settle before leaving or kenneling an Italian Greyhound.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to reinforce the behaviors you want. After an Italian Greyhound does their business outside, be sure to reward them with a small treat, and some well deserved attention. They will eventually associate the reward with the potty behaviors you desire.
Potty Pads or Litter Box Training
Depending on your living situation, you may choose to try out potty pads or litter box training for your Italian Greyhound. This may be more convenient for people who live in housing without a fenced area for the dog to use, or for people who live in cold or rainy areas of the country.
Potty pads are either disposable liners you can purchase in bulk and discard after use, or washable cloth pads that can be thrown in the washing machine with some disinfectant. If you choose to use these, we recommend you put them on a non-porous floor, such a vinyl or linoleum so if your Italian Greyhound's aim isn't the best that you will have easier cleanup if they miss or overshoot their target some.
Dog litter boxes are commercially available, but making your own isn't difficult either. A plastic container needs to be large enough for your dog to enter, easily turn around, and have high enough sides to contain any spray for male dogs. A cutout may be needed depending on the height of the box,so your dog can easily enter and exit, but don't make it too low or wide. Some people choose to use potty pads inside their litter box, and others use classic kitty litter. But, keep in mind that some Italian Greyhounds have a habit of kicking their legs after they potty or poo, so if you use kitty litter it may be spread far and wide throughout the house.
Belly Bands or Doggie Diapers
Some Italian Greyhounds just never "get it" or have incontinence problems. For these dogs you can try doggie diapers (often called belly bands too). These are made for both male and female dogs, although they are used more commonly for male dogs who lift their legs on furniture, or other things in the house. These washable cloth diapers that the dogs wear will help catch any accidents they may have when they sneak off, or for dogs with incontinence problems. Usually families who use these diapers for their dogs own a few, so when one or two are dirty, they have a few clean available too.
The Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation sells doggie diapers online, and all proceeds from the sales benefit the rescue dogs. See available housetraining products. Note: Belly bands should be used for training and for short periods of time, not every hour of every day. They potentially can lead to urinary tract infections, or irritate the belly if left on for extend periods of time.
Strapping to Arm
For those Italian Greyhounds who are really quick and sneaky about running off to potty somewhere, even when they are normally near their owner's side, you may need to resort to putting the dog on a leash, and keeping that leash tied to your arm or belt throughout the day for a few weeks. Then the Italian Greyhound will not be able to sneak away and be naughty. This may be a good option for owners who have kids or a lot of activity in the house which may distract them from the dog's needs. Often the dog may try to signal the owner that they need to go outdoors, but the owner doesn't notice the signs due to other things. Keeping the dog tied to you may help you learn the dog's schedule, signals or just prevent the IG from having an accident intentionally in another room. This method may be also particularly helpful for puppies.
Strategic Feeding Locations
Dogs in general do not like to eat where they relive themselves, so you can strategically feed the dog throughout the house, so they never know where the next meal will be given. Often dogs try to hide an accident in areas with less traffic... behind a table, in the corner of a room, or other areas where either they or the owner spend little time. So, these maybe ideal spots for feeding the dog in an alternating fashion, to keep the dog guessing. It is not recommended to feed the dog when they are alone, because they will likely need some relief shortly thereafter, and will have no alternative to having an accident. This can be done in combination with kennel training the iggy, and moving the kennel to various locations during feeding times too.
Kennel While Away
Many Italian Greyhounds cannot be trusted alone, while their owners are away from home. It is recommended that your Italian Greyhound be kenneled while you are away from home to prevent accidents. Dogs generally do not like to make a mess (either potty or poo) where they spend time regularly, and that often includes their kennel. So, if you want to get your IG in a potty routine, kennel them anytime you leave them alone.
There are two thoughts on the kennel size you need, but always the kennel should be big enough for the dog to stand up fully without hitting their head or back on the top, and give them space to turn around. Some dogs prefer smaller kennels because they feel more safe in them, but they should still be able to fully stand inside it. The first theory on kennels says you get a smaller kennel that gives the dog room to lay, but not big enough that they will be able to have a potty accident on one side, and then be able to lay on the other end. The second idea on kenneling is that you get a large kennel, and you divide it in two with a barrier so they have space to lay, and a second space to do their business on a potty pad. Either one can work and is probably a matter of personal preference and a feeling of how a particular Italian Greyhound would function the best.
And, when you do kennel a dog, be sure to pay attention to when you are feeding or watering the dog. Giving either right before they are in the kennel may make them more likely to have an accident while you are away. It may be better to give them food or water an hour before they are in the kennel, then pick the bowls up, and have them do their business outside before you put them in the kennel. And, remember to watch them when outside to make sure they do actually relive themselves rather than just poking around or playing.