Housetraining dog can take weeks, even months, to really perfect. Please don’t correlate difficulty with housetraining with your dog’s intelligence. It’s not his fault if he doesn’t know where to go potty— dogs don’t instinctively understand that they should wait to go outside when they have to relieve themselves.
In their eyes, this concept is highly unnatural, so you need to patiently teach it to them over time. Think of housetraining dog in the same way you’d potty train a child —the more effort you put in up front, the faster you’ll achieve success. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, remain vigilant for six straight months, no matter how well you think it’s going. Just when you think you’re getting somewhere, you can experience a major setback if you become overly confident and let your guard down.
I’ve seen this happen with my students more often than you can imagine. It’s unfortunate so many dogs wind up in shelters when people get fed up with housetraining dog issues because with a little training that scenario is highly preventable. The key to success is understanding that, barring medical issues, you can and will housetrain your dog. And as long as you’re very consistent, it really doesn’t have to be that difficult. In this chapter, I’ll teach you what you need to know to get through this important stage of training.
The Four Basic Rules Of Housetraining Dog
1- The Importance of Routine
The first basic rule of housetraining dog is establishing a routine. Dogs thrive on a consistent schedule. Plus, keeping a routine is a crucial element to housetraining dog because it helps you know when your dog will likely have to go out. That starts with feeding your dog at around the same times every day and removing his bowl between meals. Dogs typically will have to go potty about fifteen to twenty minutes after eating.
Also, make sure you remove your dog’s water dish two hours before bedtime during housetraining. How often should your dog go outside during the housetraining phase? Very often! In general, one-month-old dogs can hold it in for one hour, two-month-olds for two hours, and so on. However, regardless of your puppy or dog’s age, you shouldn’t expect him to hold it in longer than three or four hours while he’s housetraining.
If you work outside of the house all day, either come home periodically during the day to walk your dog, make arrangements for someone else to do this, or consider doggy daycare. Paper training is also an option if you want to do that long term —more on that later in this chapter. At the very least, walk your dog first thing in the morning, right after he wakes up from a nap, ten to twenty minutes after eating or drinking, after playtime, and right before bedtime. With a puppy, you will also likely need to get up in the middle of the night once or twice to let him out for that first week or two.
When you walk your dog outside, never leave him unsupervised. It’s important for you to be there to praise him and reward him for doing his business outside. When I housetrain dogs, I will generally say something like, “Do you want to go potty?” before I let them out. I then let them out in the yard, on leash, so that I can guide them to a specific area and remain very quiet. Don’t be surprised if your dog checks out the yard and sniffs around or tries to play for a few minutes first. This is normal. It’s best to wait it out and ignore your dog’s efforts to play. (However, this applies to potty breaks only! In other areas of training, it’s very helpful if your dog wants to play and engage with you.) Spend a good ten minutes out there with your dog if necessary.
Ten minutes can seem like thirty, so adjust your expectations. If your dog goes potty, say “Yes!” and then after a one-second pause say “Go potty!” as he is finishing up. Be very deliberate and purposeful in your tone, as though you are teaching a new phrase to a young child. No need to be loud or say this a dozen times. Once is just fine. Then promptly follow the phrase up with a reward and genuine encouragement right there outside (more on rewards in the next section). If your dog doesn’t go potty after ten minutes, then bring him back into the house and put him in the crate or other small contained environment he likely views as his living area, or keep him tethered to you. Try taking him
2- The Power of Rewards
The second basic rule of housetraining dog is that creating positive associations with housetraining is very important so that your dog will want to go potty outside. In other words, give your dog a special reward to look forward to after he uses the proper spot. I’m not saying you have to do this every day for the rest of his life—just during housetraining dog.
Such rewards come in two major forms: food or play. For food, treats that your dog loves will work well. Again, a small piece of real meat like boiled chicken really gets a dog’s attention. Another option: if your dog is very playful, you can instead encourage a five- to thirty-second play session immediately after he goes potty. A play session can be defined as anything that your dog really enjoys, like chasing you around, playing tug-of-war, or a game of fetch. The idea here is to have fun! No matter which reward you choose, while you are waiting for your dog to go potty, stay boring and hide any toys or treats.
After he goes, then reward him and praise him lavishly. Just pretend like you’ve won the lottery every time he is successful outside, and he’ll start realizing that he just did something that resulted in life getting way more interesting. For a more sensitive or nervous dog, you may want to tone down the excitement a bit. Otherwise, lay it on thick! Bottom line: Your goal is to teach your dog that going potty outside unlocks the most fun version of you—plus a special surprise! This may take several days to a few weeks for your dog to understand. Once he does, you can bet that housetraining dog will become a lot easier.
3- Handling Accidents
The Third basic rule of housetraining dog is handling dog accidents. You should never punish your dog for having a potty accident. Doing that is like punishing an infant for going in his diaper. Old-school training encouraged pushing a dog’s face into his mess or even hitting him with a newspaper—I can’t think of a quicker way to not only compromise your dog’s trust but also greatly delay his progress. As I’ve been emphasizing, if you want the best results, focus on what you like instead of what you don’t like.
When you catch your dog in the act of going in the house, interrupt him immediately by distracting him with a high-pitched voice or by clapping your hands and take him outside to finish up. Then reward him heavily for doing so in the right spot. If you don’t catch him in the act, scolding him after the fact is counterproductive. Instead, just clean up the mess and make sure you’re supervising your dog as much as possible to prevent future accidents. Remember, your dog is not to blame here. The only thing to blame is the lack of a controlled environment or your consistency.
4- Cleaning Up
The Fourth basic rule of housetraining dog is cleaning up. When your dog has an accident in the house, do your best to eliminate odors; if you don’t, your dog will be drawn to those spots over and over again.
Dogs like to go potty where they and other dogs have done so before. Even though you may not be able to see or smell a stain after you clean it up, your dog can detect it with his extremely sensitive sense of smell.
Look for an enzyme-based odor neutralizer that breaks down the scent. You can find such products at pet supply stores, online, and in some grocery stores. Do not use ammonia, vinegar, detergents, or other similar chemicals. They aren’t effective, and they also may attract your dog back to the spot.
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