In the old days, dog owners “housebroke” their dogs, pushed their noses in mistakes, and screamed in rage when the pooch made a mistake on the rug again. Today we’re more enlightened.
Housebreaking takes a combination of effort, understanding, and direction on everyone’s part. It requires consistent conditioning and repetitive exercises for several weeks and may take up to six months before your dogs can be 100 percent housebroken.
Realize that a puppy should have a schedule, that he should be taken to his outside relief spot last thing at night and first thing in the morning as well as after meals and naps, and that he should be praised when he does his duty.
If the pup does not relieve himself, put him in the crate for a few minutes, then try again. Most puppies will not soil in their crates if they can possibly help it.
To assist you with housetraining, here are a few tips to help you with the process.
- Make sure he does not have a bladder infection, intestinal parasites, or other medical reasons for his failure to signal that he needs to go outside.
- Feed on a schedule and take the puppy outside to the appropriate relief spot within one hour after eating.
- Restrict your dog freedom in the house through the use of a crate. At night secure your dog in a crate but do give her one last opportunity to go outside before you go to bed
- Don’t play with the pup until he relieves himself.
- Take him out on a leash to his bathroom spot so he learns to relieve himself under your control. Give him the “potty” command and stay with him, softly praising him verbally as he relieves himself
- Any time your dog defecates or urinates outside, she deserves some supervised free time in the house to play ball or just wander around being with you. This will help your dog appreciate her responsibility to relieve herself in the proper spot.
- Stand like a tree and have your puppy move in a circle around you. If he loses focus, give a leash correction and repeat the command, “go potty.” You are doing this so the dog isn’t exposed to new smells that might distract him from eliminating.
- If he doesn’t urinate and defecate within 10 minutes, bring him inside and place him in his crate for 10-15 minutes, then try again. Continue this routine until he is successful, and then praise him as if he just won a blue ribbon.
- As each day goes by, allow more freedom between bathroom exercises to see if she will use her spot to relieve herself
- Keep the bathroom spot clean by picking up feces every day. Cleanliness prevents worms and spread of intestinal viruses and infections and cuts down on smell that might bother the neighbors.
- If the puppy does urinate or defecate inside, he should immediately be taken outside to the appropriate spot. (Keep a leash near each door to the house for easy access just in case.) Always follow up with loads of praise
Failures in housetraining are human mistakes, not puppy errors
The puppy does not understand that carpets are for walking, not bowel relief. If eight-year-old Steve is told to take Sam outside after the pup finishes his dinner and Steve is busy watching television and says “in a minute” or ignores the request altogether, and if Sam then dumps on the floor, it is not the puppy’s fault. It is also not the child’s fault. Mom or Dad tried a shortcut by making the child responsible for the dog’s behavior and that never works.
Never punish for mistakes
Effectively housebreaking a puppy requires consistency and good use of positive reinforcement. Make sure everyone in the family is on board with the process. This ensures that the rules are adequately followed and will not result in the puppy’s confusion.
While the puppy relieves himself, give him praise and only after he successfully completes the task should you give him a treat. Otherwise, the puppy might incorrectly associate relieving with receiving a reward and will expect a treat every time he only gives a squirt. Correctly using treats will increase the chances of the puppy repeating the desired behavior in the future.
Once you’re fairly confident that the puppy understands where to relieve himself, scold him for mistakes, but don’t spank, scream, or push his nose in the mess. The spot should be cleaned up, preferably with an enzyme odor eliminator. (If the pheromones are left untended, the dog will find it again, even if people cannot detect any smell.)
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