Housetraining for all Breeds and Ages
Housetraining can be one of the most frustrating trials of having a new dog. Unfortunately for our carpets, dogs come with an instinctive set of behaviors that include, among other things, “eliminate when you feel the need.” Here are some tips for teaching your dog where it is appropriate to “go.”
Supervise like crazy! Do not let your new dog out of sight until he is trustworthy, or unless you know his bladder/bowels are definitively, assuredly, beyond-a-doubt empty. You will have success much faster if you prevent “accidents” at all costs. Have him wear a leash around the house. Put your dog on a feeding schedule so you know when he’s most likely to have to “go.” Young puppies should be taken out after eating, drinking, waking up, playing, AND every hour, (or even ½ hour for small breeds), so set a timer. Consistency is key in all animal training, so get everyone in your household on board with the plan. For when you’re not home (or too busy to supervise) an ex-pen, playpen, baby gates, and/or crate are very useful because most dogs (luckily) come with an instinctive drive to keep their “den” clean. These tools are not a replacement for training or exercise, but restricting your dog’s freedom is sometimes appropriate – you wouldn’t give the car keys to your 10 year old child, would you? Your dog can have more freedom when he’s ready.
Reward success (as in, dog eliminates where you want him to) immediately after he’s done. This means you and the treats must go outside with your dog. Do not punish “accidents!” This is ineffective and can actually be detrimental. Studies show that although animals remember the past, they have a very difficult time associating what’s happening now with what happened then – meaning that your punishment after the fact is ineffective. Worse, if you punish your dog while he’s going, you can teach him (very effectively) to hide in the back bedroom next time he has to go. If your dog has an accident, it’s YOUR fault for not supervising closely enough! Scoop him up and carry (or herd) him out the door ASAP and then reward him for finishing up in the proper place.
If you feel you’re doing everything right and it’s just not happening for you, seek professional help. Even the best tennis player in the world has a coach. Your dog may have a medical problem that makes housetraining difficult; ask your vet to make sure he’s healthy. Next, consult a Certified Professional Dog Trainer for help (see ccpdt.com) – this is a very common problem and there are all sorts of ways to get success!
- Get everyone in the household on the same page.
- Supervise, supervise, supervise! Stalk that dog!
- If you can’t supervise, crate or otherwise restrict living space
- What goes in, must come out: put your dog on a feeding schedule
- Do not punish accidents
- Clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleaner (ex. Nature’s Miracle, Pet Odor Remover), bleach, or white vinegar
- Reward successes directly afterward
- Each dog is an individual – be patient
- Seek professional help if necessary.