There are a couple of the issues at work here. First off, you need to be thinking about these dogs as puppies rather than full-grown dogs, particularly with a new rescue. We go through this problem here lots of times and even have to worry about some of the dogs that have been here for awhile and are perfectly housebroken. They can have times of regression and in such times you need to take remedial actions to correct the problem.
The first thing to do is to make sure the you are clean up the accidents in the house with a cleaner that has enzymes in it. Do not simply clean it up with odor removers or stain removers because the stain will remain in the carpet and even though you may not be able to smell it your dogs only require a few molecules of urine (remember their amazing sense of smell!) in order to get the signal that there is urine there. If there is urine there already, in their minds it must be an appropriate place to go to the bathroom.
Secondly I would crate these dogs again the entire time they are out of your sight. You need to treat them like puppies and not to trust them one bit. The more accidents they have in the house, the more this becomes a habit and they begin to think that the house is an appropriate place to go to the bathroom. You need to break this habit but the only way to do so is to completely avoid presenting them with an opportunity to go to the bathroom inside. This means they are either with you or in their crates. You let them outside to go to the bathroom and bring them back in and put them immediately in their crate. If you feel bad about it you can take them out after a half an hour and let them go to the bathroom again and then once again bring them back inside and immediately to their crates.
This only allows them to go to the bathroom outside and prevents them from having any mistakes. No mistakes means no bad habit forming. This remedial program may only last as long as a couple of days or it may go as long as a couple of weeks. Trust me though, you won't regret it even though they may be restricted for a little while. Some of the rescues pick up on this very quickly and are housebroken within a couple of days but some still refuse to learn even after a week or two. We are in the midst of the same problem here at the moment and until we can be assured that there will be no accidents in the house, the guilty parties are crated unless supervised.
Page last updated December 20, 2003. All material Copyright © 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. and Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
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