House Training

Housebreaking can be one of the most time consuming aspects of training your dog, but its rewards will be valued by you and your family for the rest of the dog's days as a member of your household. Sure, it takes a few weeks of your time and a lot of patience to house-train any dog, because even the smartest puppy will make mistakes, but it's better than cleaning up and stepping in messes for years.

It will help you to remember that your dog really wants to be clean, because canines and wolves are naturally clean animals. Consider the situations below, and decide for yourself which dog YOU would rather be:

Rover lives with Mary and Jim and their four children. Jim goes to work at the local factory while Mary takes care of the house and the kids. Two of the children are in school all day; the other two are preschoolers at home with Mom. Today Mary is taking them to the grocery store. Returning with the groceries, she opens the door and heads for the kitchen. Rover, meanwhile, heads out the open door. He knows what's coming.

"Rover", Mary screams. "You stupid, stubborn pig headed dog! Come back here!" Mary has just stepped in the package Rover left for her in the kitchen. Rover slinks through the door, and Mary whacks him in the head. She drags him into the kitchen by his collar, shoves his nose in the mess, and whacks him again, this time on the nose. After shouting at him, telling him how rotten and dirty he is, she shoves him out the back door into the yard, where she leaves him in sorry isolation for the rest of the day.

Mary then calls Jim at work, and tells him that this time she's really had it, and he had better take that "stupid dog to the pound, tonight!" Poor Rover.

Fido lives with George and Arlene and their daughter. Both adults work and their daughter June attends the local high school. Today George has arrived home from work first. Fido joyfully greets him, knowing that it's time for his walk and dinner. George, happy to come home to a faithful companion who has just completed another day of valiant guard duty, speaks affectionately to Fido, scratching him behind the ears and telling him what a good dog he is.

After changing his clothes and collecting the mail he and Fido go for a leisurely walk, during which the perfect pooch does his stuff, and they both return home to find Arlene and June in their cozy kitchen preparing dinner. Both women are also overjoyed to greet their canine companion. Happy Fido.

Which dog would you rather be? And more importantly, which dog would you rather have sharing your home?

Follow a Program

The way to house-training success, and to have a Fido rather than a Rover, is to follow carefully and patiently the program explained below:

CONFINEMENT is the first rule of house-training. Carried out properly, your dog won't mind being locked up for a spell. A lot of you are probably shuddering right now at the prospect of cooping up your dog, but keep in mind that there is a difference between confinement and incarceration. You're not putting your dog in jail; you're just making it easier for him to become house-trained.

Dogs are by natural instinct den animals. In the wild, dogs are wolves sleep, give birth and raise puppies in dens. From the day they are born, puppies learn not to eliminate in the den. For the first three or four weeks of like their mother licks away their elimination. Thereafter she makes it perfectly clear that soiling the den is a no-no - elimination is to be done outside. Mistakes - and young dogs make plenty of them - are corrected with a quick shake and a growl, and a smart pup learn quickly not to "go in the den."

Confining your pet is akin to the dog living in a den and it successfully taps into your dog's natural instincts. Most dogs will not soil their den, the place where they sleep, making the whole house-training process easier and less stressful.

There is several ways to confine your dog. One is to buy a baby gate (or pet gate) and enclose a laundry room or small bathroom.

Crate Training

Another option is to purchase or make a crate to serve as a den. It should be big enough for the dog to stand up in and turn around comfortably but small enough so the animal can't sleep in one end and eliminate in the other. If you are crating your dog, and he's using it as a toilet, it's probably too big.

If your dog is a breed that grows very large, you either need to plan to purchase larger crates as he grows, or you can buy a create large enough for a full grown dog and simply block off part of it while the puppy is still small.

Often the new dog owner will wait: "But if my poor Fido is confined to a crate all the time, it's just like putting him in jail! That's so cruel."

But using a crate effectively doesn't mean you should lock up your pooch all the time. In fact, a very young pup shouldn't be left alone in a crate for more than three or four hours, and dogs older than nine months for no more than eight hours. If you work or go to school you should consider confining the pup with a gate in a bathroom or another area large enough for a bed, food and water dish, and papers for the pup to eliminate on.

One word of warning: If you do decide to confine your dog, never use his crate as a form of punishment. The puppy should only associate his crate with good things. . .treats, toys and affection from you!

SCHEDULING is the next step in successful house-training. The schedule you set up will be determined b y your work habits and sleeping patterns. But keep in mind that a young puppy's needs are different from those of an adult dog, and time wise, you won't have much flexibility until your pet is older.

A mature dog develops a greater degree of control over his digestive processes and can "hold it" for longer periods of time. In the wild, the natural order of things is for a young puppy to eat, eliminate, play and sleep. Your schedule should make provision for the puppy's elimination immediately after his dinner.

ELIMINATION is the fourth step on the way to successful house-training. Find a place for your pooch to eliminate, and make sure he has regular access to it. The place you choose will depend on your lifestyle. If you are a country or suburban dweller you may be able to simply open the door and let the dog out. But if you live in the city or and apartment you will probably have to walk your pet.

There are a few more tricks of the trade that will make the housecleaning process easier and less of a hassle for both you and your dog.

Every time you take your dog out to the bathroom; repeat a trigger phrase over and over until he begins to get down to business. Then praise him lavishly. The trigger phrase can be something like, "Do your business," or "Hurry up" or "Go potty."

There are several reasons for using a trigger phrase. First, when your dog is in an unfamiliar place and you tell him to "Do his business," he will, no matter where you are. Second, you will be able to train him to go at the beginning of a walk, or go in a hurry if it's stormy or you need to go someplace.

Be Consistent

Another secret to successful house-training is being consistent. A full week of concentrated house-training is better than a half-hearted month. Follow the schedule, praise your pup lavishly when he goes in the proper place, and your pet will be completely house-trained with a minimum of fuss.

But what do you do if, despite all your best efforts, that dog still goes in the house?

You say you've tried everything and your patience is running out - FAST. Just remember that as every human isn't destined to be a brain surgeon, every dog isn't going to be a house-training genius. Some dogs simply aren't very smart. Some have been mishandled. And some are just very, very stubborn.

Sometimes a dog will eliminate in the house because of human error. The test trained dog in the world will have a hard time holding it if you forget to let him out before you go to work.

Sometimes a dog is just ill, or in the case of an older dog, may be having trouble with his bladder or bowels. When an older dog, with an excellent house-training track record, suddenly starts having accidents in the house, be patient and have him immediately checked out by your vet.

Correction is a Must

Correcting your dog when he eliminates in the house is a must, and there are right ways and wrong ways of doing it. Never, never, hit your dog and rub his nose in his mistake. You'll only make him more difficult to handle. Never, never, call your pup to you to punish him. You'll only make him wary of you.

Never, never, punish a dog for an accident that happened hours earlier. He won't remember something he did that long ago.

And finally, try not to let your dog see you clean up his messes.

When you must correct your dog, do it firmly buy humanely? Carry him or walk him (you can grab him by this collar to do this) to the site of the accident. Give him a couple of shakes and a swat under the chin, telling him all the while in a gruff, growly voice, what a bad dog he is.

Say something like, "No, Bad Dog." Then walk him to the door and out to the spot where he was supposed to go. Leave him out for awhile, and then let him in.

If you can't leave him out put him in his crate for a little while. This will give you a chance to clean up the mess so that he doesn't see you doing it.

If you have an older dog that has never been house-trained, you must start from scratch, the way you would do for a puppy. Schedule him and confine him. Clean the house thoroughly, making sure there is no trace of previous accidents and punish him when necessary.

It shouldn't take very long for an older dog to get the message, but if it takes time, you must be patient with him. When the house-training habit isn't ingrained in a dog from the very beginning it can take a long time to undo the damage. But be assured, eventually the message will get through.

Sadly, officials at pounds and humane societies across the country will tell you that the number one reason dogs are turned over to them is a problem with house-training.

With that in mind, you must correctly house-train your pup from the very start, and that way he won't become another sad statistic on the destroyed page of a pound ledger and a lingering, unhappy memory for you and your family.