Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
How to Potty Train a Basset Hound
Learning how to potty train a basset hound may sound to many prospective puppy owners like a daunting task. You may have heard that basset hounds are particularly stubborn and that they are therefore very challenging to potty train, but how true is that?
Yes, it's true that basset hounds may pose a few extra challenges, but these are not impossible to overcome. You can take a step in the right direction if you learn a bit more about this breed and how bassets hounds think.
It doesn't take rocket science. All you really need to do is be very patient and consistent and make sure to lavishly praise when your basset hound gets it right.
Despite what you may have heard, basset hounds are not stubborn, nor stupid, they just were selectively bred for their powerful sniffing capabilities. It's not their fault if their nose happens to get in the way of the potty training process at times.
Because they were bred to work at a distance from humans, they are also independent thinkers so they like to do things their way. Gentle guidance and positive reinforcement (using stinky treats!) can accomplish a whole lot if you make it worthy!
Let's face it: Basset hounds are quite unique dogs with unique characteristics, which is why you were drawn to them in the first place! So accepting a few challenges along the way is necessary if you are enamored of this breed. And with those adorable faces, who can't forgive them for a few mishaps?
Use the Right Products
Basset hounds are scent hounds, and as such, they are equipped with a body and mind specifically crafted for sniffing. For a good reason, many love to humorously call them "the nose on four legs." When it comes to this dog's sense of smell, it ranks second only after the bloodhound.
With a powerful sniffer as such, bassets can pose some extra challenges in the potty training department. Equipped with a very powerful sniffer, basset hounds will readily identify areas of past accidents. To dogs, the smell of past accidents is the equivalent of a bathroom sign. In other words, it tells them, "This is your bathroom go here." No wonder why puppies and dogs feel compelled to potty over and over on past accidents!
It is therefore imperative that you clean potty accidents as soon as possible and use the right type of products. This is even more important with a breed like a basset who, with their sensitive noses, can sniff even the smallest traces of old accidents.
You want to therefore invest in enzyme-based cleaners or odor eliminators such as Nature's Miracle or Zero Odor Pet Stain Removers. The enzymes in Nature's Miracle products "eat up" and digest organic matter, versus other products that just simply attempt to mask smells. Zero Odor instead works by eliminating dog odors on a molecular level.
On top of the right cleaners, you also want to invest in a black light, so that you can use it in the dark to identify and thoroughly clean up any missed spots which will glow in the dark when hit with the light.
Warning: Never use ammonia-based products to clean up any accidents. Ammonia is contained in urine, and therefore, it will turn the area into an olfactory spotlight that will draw your basset hound puppy there because it smells like a bathroom!
Some breeds, generally those that have been selected to have a keen sense of smell (eg. beagles) can be difficult to housebreak not because they are stupid, but because they scent any previously area ands return to it.
— Dr. Karen Overall
Keep an Eagle Eye
While close monitoring is essential when potty training any puppy so you can quickly identify signs your puppy has to go potty, this is even more valid when it comes to basset hounds. Basset hounds are equipped with a very low body. Indeed, their name "basset" derives from the French word bas, meaning "low."
Being low was a great advantage in the olden days when these dogs were heavily used for hunting. Their ears, touching the ground, helped stir up a scent, bringing them to their almighty noses' reach.
However helpful for hunting though, their low-set bodies pose a challenge when potty training considering that it's easy to miss when they are right about to have an accident.
You may therefore have to make sure that when your basset is kept free around the home that he's watched with an eagle eye for pre-potty cues such as stopping a play session and wandering, sniffing around and circling. At these signs, the puppy should be quickly escorted out.
At times when close supervision is not possible, your best bet is to keep your basset hound inside a correct-sized crate in the hopes that, should nature call, he will let you know (by whining, barking or pawing at the door) before soiling inside the crate.
Then, once taken out, if he has successfully peed and pooped, you may then enjoy his company again in the home, but make sure you keep him in a small area so that he's always in your sight and it's best if you have an unobstructed view, meaning no furniture blocking your view.
While close observation and taking your basset out at the first pre-potty signs is good, it is even better if you can take him out before he even shows these signs so that you don't risk being too late in taking him out.
Make it a habit of taking your basset out every time he wakes up from a nap, after meals and right after playing. Feed at specific times and keep a potty training schedule. You may initially have to take very young puppies out every half hour at first, and then as the weeks go by every couple of hours, and so forth.
Keep Up the Task
Your basset hound may really need to go potty once you take him outside, but there are times when the almighty nose may take over. So you take him out, convinced that he has to potty, but then he's suddenly on a hot trail, wandering with his nose to the ground. He probably just forgot he has a bladder.
It's important instead that your basset learns to first do his business, and that his leisurely sniffing for pleasure should happen only after he is done, otherwise you'll be stuck with a dog with a habit of asking to go out just for the fun of it and then pottying later once he's done nosing around. Elimination should be a top priority!
To help your basset stay focused on going potty, you may find it helpful to keep him on a long leash and that you take him directly to his potty area as soon as you get out of the door. Only once your basset has peed and pooped in this area, you can then go on a nice stroll or play.
If instead he is spending too much time sniffing in the potty area and not doing anything, then escort him back inside and place him in the crate again or leashed to you (stick nearby the door) so that you can you quickly escort him back to the potty area again as soon as you notice any pre-potty cues or after some time.
To further keep up the task and evoke quick pottying in the designated area, you may find it very helpful training your dog to go potty on command. Your basset will learn to associate your verbal cue, "go potty!" with the act of going potty, which comes in extra handy in speeding up the process.
Create an Official Potty Area
Remember how a few sections earlier we discussed how, to a basset hound, the smell of traces of previous accidents evokes further accidents because those traces tell him "this is your bathroom?" Well, you can take advantage of this phenomenon to create an outdoor potty area.
To help your basset recognize an official potty area, it helps to place there some previous poops. So if you have some poops you haven't picked up yet that are randomly laying around in your yard, scoop them up with your pooper scooper and place them in an area that you wish to turn into your puppy's new bathroom. You may have to do this only initially for a day or two. Once your basset pees and poops there, he will recognize that's where to go.
If you are using pee pads to potty train indoors, then to draw your basset hound's attention (and nose!) to the area, you may find it helpful to collect with a paper towel a bit of urine from a previous accident and pass it on the pee pad. You may have to do this only initially so that your basset hound learns where his new potty area is. Alternatively, you can try some pee pads with special attractants, such as ammonia (remember ammonia smells like a bathroom to dogs).
Make sure you always praise and immediately give a stinky treat (think freeze-dried liver, green tripe treats or cod skin treats) when your basset hound has successfully used his potty area. Make sure he has finished up though, otherwise you may interrupt him midway, and then he'll finish up at home! You may have to keep your treats in a treat bag or pocket so as not to distract him too much.
Be Gentle With Your Basset
Generally, puppies under the age of 12 weeks are just like babies, meaning that they have no bladder or bowel control. By the time your puppy realizes he must go potty, a puddle is right there. As tempting as it may be, it's important to be very patient and understanding. It's not fair to have high expectations for untrained puppies who simply need our gentle guidance (and lots of repetition and positive reinforcement) to learn.
Even, later on, as your basset attains more control, refrain from the temptation of scolding him right after having an accident. These will only put a big dent into the potty training process.
Bassets, although they have a reputation of being stubborn, are very sensitive dogs. They are good-natured and don't do well with stern corrections, especially when they are trying to learn something. If you scold your basset for having an accident, your basset will likely start trusting you less and less.
On top of that, he will learn to associate your presence and going potty with punishment. What happens next is they he will likely start peeing and pooping when you are not around or not looking. This means you may no longer have those important pre-potty signs to alert you which are so very important in the potty training process.
If your basset hound has an accident, simply clean it up and make a mental note of it. Evaluate what went wrong and maybe write the time down so that you can keep track of its timing and you can take him out the next day, just a little bit earlier.
- Karen Overall MA VMD PhD DA Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, 1e, Mosby (July 24, 2013)
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli
cjmo75 from Tempe, Arizona on June 27, 2010:
Excellent information. These tips will definitely help when I get my puppy in 3 weeks!