House Training a Dog

Teaching your dog how to behave in your house is no small trick. Think about it; they’re dogs. They’re genetically predisposed to cave-life, a free-ranging toilet, nature’s toys, and an interactive community. They’re not too home proud. Sure, we’ve pulled a domestica­tion trick or two, but we cannot transform a whole species. Be patient with your dog. Don’t take anything for granted. Sure, dogs shouldn’t soil the house, but some do especially pups.

Not on the Rug:

Dog-do on the carpet is perhaps one of life’s more wrenching sights. I hear the following quote daily from my clients: “She knows it’s wrong! Just look at her eyes; guilt’s written all over her face.”

No, it’s not—dogs don’t feel guilt. They really don’t. You might be noticing fear and confusion, but after-the-fact corrections won’t help your long-term goal. If you have a housebreaking problem, you need to accept that your dog doesn’t know much about your home. Approach this project with a level head. Your dog isn’t human—never will be—but, fortunately, she can be potty trained to go outside or on papers. Here’s how.

The Outside Routine:

Large Potty Training
Large Potty Training

The most important aspect of house training is establishing a routine, as follows:

  1. Select a Spot: Pick an area to potty train your dog. If it’s outdoors, you must take your dog there before you walk him.
  2. Blaze a Trail: Be consistent. Follow the same path to your dog’s area each time you potty her. Use the same door.
  3. The Attention Factor: Don’t greet or praise until after your dog has pottied.
  4. The Command: As your dog is eliminating, say “Get busy.” Eventually, he’ll go on command. It’s no small miracle.
  5. The Reward: Once he’s pottied, greet, praise, and walk him as usual!

Your pup will need to go after feeding, exercising, napping, and isolation. Use table 9.1 as a guide.

Lay Off Corrections:

Getting mad makes you look foolish. You’re getting mad at a dog. As much as you think she’s human, she isn’t. Even though I’ve heard it a thousand times, I’m still not con­vinced that “dogs understand.” You can interrupt the process if you catch it, but lay off all other corrections.

Interrupting the Process:

Interrupting the Process
Interrupting the Process

If you catch your dog in the process of eliminating in the house, startle her. Clap your hands as you say “Ep, Ep, Ep!”; jump up and down like an excited chimp—whatever it takes to get her to stop. Then direct her to the elimination area as nothing happened. Praise her for finishing.

Keep Your Dog Confined:

Use your Teaching Lead®. Crate your dog when you’re out and at night if she’s not stationed. You’ll be able to grant her more freedom after she learns the rules, but not now.

Keep the Diet Consistent:

Avoid changing dog food brands unless directed to do so by your veterinarian. Dogs don’t digest the way humans do. Their stomachs can get upset if you change their diet. Lay off treats for a while until they’re housebroken.

Watch Water Intake:

Watch Water Intake
Watch Water Intake

Dogs, especially young ones, drink water excessively if they’re bored or nervous. If your dog is having peeing problems, monitor his water intake by giving your dog access during meal times and as you take him to his area. Be careful not to dehydrate your dog. If he looks thirsty, let him lap! Remove water after 7:30 p.m. Give him ice cubes, which absorb faster into the blood­stream, if he needs a drink.

Learning Your Dog’s Signal:

Once you have the routine down pat (give it about a week), interrupt it. Instead of chanting “Outside,” lead your dog to the door. Wait until she gives you a signal to continue. If her signal is subtly staring at the door, call her back to you and pump her up, “What is it? Outside? Good dog!” and out you go. Repeat the process in rooms farther and farther from the door or her papers.

Puppy Considerations:

Puppy Considerations
Puppy Considerations

Puppies need to go out more frequently than older dogs. Really young puppies, younger than 12 weeks, may need to go out every hour or two. Believe it or not, there is a pattern to their elimination habits. Puppies go after they sleep, play, eat, and after long bouts of confinement. Be patient. Some train in days; others take months.

Still, Having Difficulty?

If you’re still having problems, go through this checklist to ensure you’re doing every­thing.

  1. Limit your dog’s freedom unless he just pottied in the right place and you can watch him 110 percent.
  2. Crate or isolate your dog when you’re out.
  3. Use the Teaching Lead® to keep your dog with you when you’re home.
  4. If your dog eliminates when stationed, you may be giving him too much freedom. Two to three feet is appropriate, depending on the size of your dog.
  5. Are you giving the dog attention before she eliminates? Wait instead and let the dog earn your love by eliminating in the right place!
  6. Give your dog five minutes to do her business. If your dog lingers, crate her for 15 minutes and start from the top.
  7. Are you following a consistent routine and encouraging everyone to do the same? Consistency is key!
  8. If you’re still having problems, seek a professional animal trainer or behaviorist. Good guidance will leave you wondering why you didn’t opt for it months ago!

All You Need To Know About House Training:

  1. Dogs aren’t born knowing inside from outside. You must show them the ropes!
  2. Housetraining is a matter of order and cleanliness. Dogs like both. Keep them confined and give them a routine to follow.
AgeTrips to the Spot
6 to 14 weeks8 to 10
14 to 20 weeks6 to 8
20 to 30 weeks4 to 6
30 weeks to adulthood3 to 4

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