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Charlie, when we first got him (and the couch, pillows and blanket he has since destroyed

Charlie is an American Pit Bull Terrier. We found him in Charles town, WV in 2011. He is what some call a West Virginia trunk dog. He was in very poor condition when we found him and needed immediate medical attention. He was about a year old and only 23 pounds, now he is a healthy 45. It turns out that Charlie was being used for dog fighting.

Charlie has a multitude of behavioral issues; some have been resolved (or resolved enough that we can handle it). When he first came home he was not potty trained or crate trained. He had horrible anxiety relating to food and separation. He would get into anything and everything resulting in several trips to the vet and so much money down the drain I’m afraid to add it all up (shoes, books, tv remotes, coffee table, couch, rugs, door trim ect.). He was also aggressive with people that he did not see on a regular basis. We had him with a trainer for a while to help with the aggression and it has gotten much better.

The real problem we are left with now is that he still urinates in the house. He has no medical issues and he knows that he should not go in the house; he will even ask to go outside if we are in the room with him. He is walked frequently and does not lack for attention. His separation anxiety has gone way down, so I don’t know if that still plays a factor. Here is what I do know: He will pee anywhere and everywhere in the house: carpet, hardwood, rugs, table legs, playpen, clothes (he even peed on my sisters bed once). He does not favor one area over another. He will pee even if left for a short amount of time and was walked right before we left. Sometimes he will look me dead in the eye and pee right in front of me (not often). He knows that he can go out whenever he asks, but still chooses to pee inside.

On days where we leave him to go to work we tried crating him but he has broken out of every cage we bought. It got to the point where he was hurting himself (he would push the metal with his face and cut himself and even chipped a tooth). Then we tried to confine him to the spacious laundry room (he can pee in there all he wants and I wouldn’t mind cleaning it up), but he would chew at the door and trim, further harming himself and our home. In our old house we would gate him to the basement rooms and he was like Houdini, somehow getting out even if we used a gate that went seven feet high. Finally I have given up and let him stay in our living area, which he loves bc it has a big comfy chair (called Charlie’s chair) and we spend most of our time in there with him. It is carpeted and he pees in there probably at least once a day. I can’t even find where the pee is half of the time. We have gotten the carpet cleaned, but it was a waste of money bc he just continues to pee. The room smells horrible and we can hardly spend 5 minutes in there without wanting to cry. We reluctantly got him a prescription for a small dose of Prozac about six months ago; it’s helped with the aggression and anxiety, but not with the urination.

What do I do? Any sane person would probably have given this dog up years ago, but I love him. He is the smartest (like take over the world smart), most loving dog and I would rather my house smell like piss then give him up, but I’m hoping someone out there has some suggestions.

Thank you, Kate

P.S. Charlie is neutered.

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  • Is he neutered? And if not, would you consider having him neutered? It may help both the marking-issue and any remaining aggression. Also... he looks adorable! – Layna Aug 18 '15 at 10:34
  • When you tried to crate train him, was the crate in his favorite room? You might try putting a cushion on his favorite chair for a week, then move it into a crate that is next to his chair. But don't just put him in the crate when you are gone, have him sit there while you are in the room with him watching TV, etc. and reward him for going in there. If you can get him to identify the crate as HIS space in the room, he may feel more at home there. – Beartech Aug 18 '15 at 17:11
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    When the dog is housebroken, you will need to replace the carpet AND carpet padding, because it has likely leaked to that level by now with all of the accidents, and especially the ones you can't find ; it is likely contributing to the smell issue (worth noting the eye-watering smell strength is hazardous to human & animal health). I would not bother with prof. carpet cleaning at this point because of this. In extreme cases, you may need to spot-treat subflooring spots (once the carpet is up and before the new carpet gets laid down) with Killz, a paint primer that also blocks odors. – rlb.usa Aug 18 '15 at 17:35
  • One simple tip for separation anxiety, in case that plays a part or is still somewhat of an issue, is to give him a special treat every time you leave the house. Or dog gets a bit of dried duck every time we leave and is only allowed to take it as we're going out the door. He very quickly starts giving us the look if we hang around too long once the treats come out – ThomasH Aug 26 '15 at 14:49
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We had this problem with the rescue dog we adopted a few years ago -- he was at least 2 and unneutered, so his marking behavior was well estabished. When we first got him home, he was literally leashed to me at all times -- where I went, he went. When we left the house, he was in a crate. Then as he started getting the idea of going outside, he was off-leash but never out of my sight. Slowly we let him get farther away, but still, if he heads off down the hall by himself (to a place where he used to poop), we're on him right away.

Sounds easy, but it took over a year. He peed in two bedrooms, pooped on the dining room and hall rugs, and peed so much in one spot in our bedroom that we finally had to have the carpet pulled up and laminate flooring put in (we were going to do that anyway, but he helped us to get it done sooner :) ). The problem is that no matter how much vinegar or Nature's Miracle you use, you can never really, really get rid of the smell.

How long is he left alone during the day? If we have to leave Hugo for more than three hours, he goes to daycare that day (which he loves). Can you work on the crate training apart from the peeing problem, so that he sees his crate as a good thing? Where he might want to lie down and have a little nap with the doors open, while you're home?

I don't now if any of this helps -- but I wish you luck. Oh, and never punish him for going in the house (this is pretty hard sometimes), just praise him to the skies for going outside. Even with treats.

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  • Age at house breaking is a major factor with each dog. I had a Jack Russell who I adopted at 18 months old. He died last year when he was 13. He slept with us.I never could fully house break him. The best I did was to anticipate when he normal pee pattern. Not time but behavior. Still even walking up to 5 times a day, he peed. Every morning if I was slow getting up he peed on a bedroom chair. I had to rush him outside within seconds of him jumping off the bed. After many trials, I found Urine Be Gone and Clorox Urine Remover to be great. Most of the time they removed the stain and smell. – Learned Man Apr 13 '20 at 22:07
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First, with that history, and the problems you have confining him, this will most likely need time. But you sure seem to have the patience!

Usually, confining him to an easily-cleaned area should help. Are you still working on that, or is that still out? The laundry-room you mentioned sounds like a good place to keep him when he is alone, but he has to feel that he is "at home" there, too. If you could get him to accept the laundry-room, and he marks in there, too, you at least have a place you can easily clean. Why is that helpful? Removing the smell will help VASTLY in breaking the dog of that habit.

But let's keep him in le living-room: can you imagine temporarily covering the carpet with some white sheets? That will help you see WHERE the dog marked. When you see he marked, clean the carpet, removing the smell (the way to do this really depends on the carpet. Vinegar helps, but the carpets colour may suffer).
If you see him marking, yes, correct him. But do it with a clear "no" (which I suspect he knows), no aggression at all. Ideally, you have a week or two where you can watch him permanently, but I know this may just not be feasible.

When outside, praise his peeing where he may do it VASTLY. Peeing outside is absolutely AWESOME to you.

Lastly, in case he is not neutered (you don't mention it, so I suspect he is not?), consider neutering him. This may help both with the marking, and any remaining aggression-issues.

Good luck with him, you did something really great rescuing and helping this dog. (And he looks absolutely adorable on that picture.)

Expandign from helpful comments: From @rlb.usa Yes, try care trainign or the laundry-room again:

You will need to get your dog to be comfortable with the cage. Put a blanket over the cage so it is more peaceful and quiet, and always leave the door open. Have treats inside to lure the dog in, praise and pet, and in the initial phases, do not obstruct them from leaving. It took my dog a year also to be comfortable with crate. The crate needs to be a positive experience.

Also: Treat room:

You might also have a lot of success in the 'treat room' technique. It trains the dog that said room has treats in it, and they decide they do not want to relieve themselves in a place where food can be found. Basically, randomly put treats in that room, so when the dog periodically/randomly checks that room, sometimes there are treats!

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    Wanted to expand on @Lanya's answer. Crate training is THE way to housebreak your dog, but it has not been successful because of the confinement issues. You will need to get your dog to be comfortable with the cage. Put a blanket over the cage so it is more peaceful and quiet, and always leave the door open. Have treats inside to lure the dog in, praise and pet, and in the initial phases, do not obstruct them from leaving. It took my dog a year also to be comfortable with crate. The crate needs to be a positive experience. – rlb.usa Aug 18 '15 at 17:28
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    +1 for Laundry room or any other room that does not have carpet. You might also have a lot of success in the 'treat room' technique. It trains the dog that said room has treats in it, and they decide they do not want to relieve themselves in a place where food can be found. Basically, randomly put treats in that room, so when the dog periodically/randomly checks that room, sometimes there are treats! This technique will not work with an entire house, but it can work on a room or two; I was able to curtail my housebroken dog from a particular room this way. – rlb.usa Aug 18 '15 at 17:31

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