How To House Break Your Dog
The process of housebreaking often brings on feelings of nervousness and worry, but the process does not have to be stressful—for you or the dog. The truth is this is a situation in which you have Mother Nature working with you right from the start while dog training. When the dogs are first born, they eat and they relieve themselves inside the den, but the mother always cleans them. There is never a scent of urine or feces where the dogs eat, sleep, and live. When they get old enough, they learn to use outside areas as they imitate their mother.
There is one of the main reasons attempts to potty train fail is because pet owners tend to look at their dogs as four-legged humans, and if a human in your household were to use the floor instead of a bathroom to relieve himself, it would be quite upsetting. But dogs are not people, and when you get very upset with a dog that has done her outside business indoors, your tone and the actions you take to show your disapproval often have the opposite outcome of the one you intended. Here are some tips to help train your dog to avoid making those messes in the first place.
Establish a Process
Whether housebreaking a dog, the first step is taking advantage of the dog’s den instinct. A crate, when properly introduced as a happy and rewarding place, provides your dog a secure haven of its very own. It’s invaluable for housebreaking because most dogs will not soil their sleeping quarters.
Start with one that’s smaller than you may use later on–one that is just big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. If the crate is too big, the dog may feel he can potty and still get away from it. An easy-to-clean plastic crate works well, or you may opt for a wire crate, which can be covered with a towel or blanket, if needed, to make the dog feel more secure. Introduce the crate in a positive manner. Get your dog used to going in the crate by tossing in small treats while the door is open. Most dogs will venture in to get the treats. Once they are comfortable going in to eat the treat, you can briefly shut the door, stand right in front and hand your dog treats through the door, then open it and let them back out. If you also use the crate to feed your dog his regular meals, he will quickly associate it as a pleasurable place.
Consistency is key! Be consistent even in which door you use to go outside, and be consistent with feeding schedules, go-potty phrases and places, as well as exercise schedules. Even if your dog just came back inside, if it drinks a lot of water or starts doing something they were not before–take them back out to potty! Sniffing the floor, circling, whining, wandering away, or heading toward the door are often signals that your pup needs to go, which means you need to be quick in taking them outside!
When an accident does happen, first use a rag or paper towel to soak up urine and/or pick up feces. Clean the spot with a good carpet cleaner, and then follow up with an enzyme cleaner formulated to neutralize odors. Once the spot is at least partially dry, spray it with a dog repellant spray such as Boundary, or with a vinegar solution, to discourage future accidents in the same area. Be sure to put your pup out of sight as you clean, so you do not unintentionally “punish” when they have no idea what has been done wrong. Never scold a pup after the fact, and never scold for crate accidents. If you catch the pup just beginning the event, a quick “no” in a calm voice, followed by rushing pup outside can sometimes be helpful.
Having problems housebreaking an older pup or adult? First, rule out a medical condition (such as a urinary tract infection) by a quick trip to the vet. If everything checks out okay, make sure you are truly observing the rule of keeping the dog right beside you whenever they are out of the crate (so you do not miss any signals).
Make it Comfortable
Don’t forget your dog’s social needs! The best place for your new dog to be crated the first few nights is directly beside your bed, close enough that you can stick your fingers in if needed for comfort. Keep in mind that puppies are especially prone to fear of being alone, as they have always had plenty of “company” from their Mom and littermates.
If you have another dog, be sure to leave it crated beside your new pup, or at least have it in the same room with your pup’s crate whenever you leave the puppy alone. This helps prevent the feeling of “social isolation” when you are away. If you do not have another pet, then try leaving a radio or TV on in the room, at low volume. If you must be away all day at work, arrange to have a neighbor or relative come walk the dog in the middle of the day, or hire a professional dog-sitter. Doggie daycare can also be a good option if you have an experienced trainer in your area who offers this service. Always check with your veterinarian’s office for references.
When You Are Away
How often do they need to go out? dogs normally eliminate a few minutes after eating or drinking, and again about 20-30 minutes later. Keep in mind that some dogs will actually poop twice in one outing, so walk them long enough to make sure everything is taken care of before coming back inside. Also, when dogs have been playing and drinking water, they will have to go out more often, sometimes even every half hour if they are out with you instead of sleeping in their crate.
Don’t punish your puppy for an accident or do anything to create a negative association with her bodily functions. Stay calm and assertive and quietly remove the puppy to the place where you want him to go. Done correctly, housebreaking should not be a turbulent production but just a matter of putting a little extra work into getting your puppy on a schedule during the first weeks after she arrives at your home. Don’t let unnecessary stress over this very natural, uncomplicated process taint any of the joy surrounding the puppy training process and your new dog’s puppyhood.