Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dog Training - House Breaking

Posted by Mandy at 6:46 AM

God has blessed me so very much. I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. I get to spend my time with amazing people that love, love, LOVE their dogs. They allow me to keep their dogs while they are away, and to come make house calls to fix any behavioral problems that crop up. From big, huge, mean dogs to itty-bitty, hyper-active, yapping dogs... I've had the chance to deal with them all!

I've had a few requests over the past few months to compile some simple dog training basics into a post. I love to write, but writing about dog training can be difficult for me. I'm so used to showing people what do to, that I've not had much opportunity to write it so that people can read what to do. Here's my best shot at it!

Dog Training 101 - Simple Solutions to Common Behavioral Issues
Issue #1 - House Training

Dogs going potty in the house is right up there on the list of reasons I gain new clients each month. New emails with "How to house train this puppy?!" in the subject line come rolling in often. Though each dog is different and may require tweaking of any training techniques, this is my general method of house training dogs - of all ages!

Tools Required - Crate, Leash, TIME AND PATIENCE

This method of house training is called Crate Training, and it is highly effective for most dogs and puppies. I will disclose that I do not recommend serious crate training for dogs until 12 weeks. Though it's good to introduce a crate early, as a place of peace and rest for a puppy. Not as punishment or confinement.

Crate training is quite simple, though it does take a lot of time and patience, depending upon the age, temperament, and energy level of your dog. The general idea is the dog is in her crate when you cannot 100% supervise her. Once you get the dog out, she is taken immediately outside to a designated "potty zone." (leash may be required to keep puppy in the zone) Once she potties, she gets tons of praise, then brought back inside to roam freely. If your dog is a puppy, then this "roaming" time should be fairly brief. Puppies can use the bathroom SEVERAL times each hour. Watch for the classic "I need to potty signs" like walking with her nose constantly to the ground - without showing signs of tracking an object. If you see this behavior, call her to you and have her follow you back outside to the potty zone. When you need to move on with your day, puppy goes back into the crate until you can watch her again. I never recommend puppies be left in a crate longer than one-two hours at a time, with at least 30 minutes to an hour of time out to play in between.

If you have an older dog (age 1+) then house training "should" be more simple. A crate can still be necessary at first, and you would expect an adult dog to hold urine much longer than a puppy - only needing to potty every two hours or so.

Many times people with older dogs call me claiming their 5year old 'baby' is still not house trained. This is rarely what is actually going on. Typically, adult dogs that still potty in the house after years of attempted house breaking are simply exhibiting dominant behaviors and are marking their territory. This cannot be solved with crate training, as the dog will likely potty outside, only to come in and directly pee in the floor. (more to come on that issue in the future.)

Even with consistent crate training, it is likely that your dog or puppy will slip up and have an accident inside. How should you correct accidents in the house?

Rule 1 for Correcting Your Dog - If you didn't see it happen, you cannot scold the dog.

I know, frustrating, isn't it? Dog's have memories of about 5 seconds, so if you find poo in the corner - and you didn't see the offense occur, you might as well get onto your spouse for doing it as opposed to the dog... they'll both understand why you're upset with them on about the same level.

Rule 2 for Correcting Your Dog - Have a consistent "no" word.

When you see Fido about to lift his leg on your plants, having a word that he's accustomed to hearing when he's in trouble will be helpful to stop the behavior immediately. Any word will work just fine. "Hey!" "No!" "Stop!" Whatever you can use in any situation, whether he's watering your ferns or tearing up the trash. One exception - do not use the dog's name during scolding. We want our dogs to come when they hear their names and have positive associations with being called... not thinking they're about to get a paper to the rear.

Rule 3 - Hitting Does Not Help

Dog discipline is actually very simple. In a dog pack - the pack leader has a very simple two-step procedure to disciplining members.

1. Growl
2. Bite

Keep the same rules.

1. Verbal Command/Warning
2. Immediate Consequence

Instead of swatting your dog (and I know that's so tempting!) take a lesson from Cesar Millan and bite him. No, not with your mouth... just create a faux mouth with your hand. Small dogs just require a touch with two fingers. After seeing the Dog Whisperer and reading tons of books and doing online studies, I now teach this same method to my clients. It is, by far, the most effective discipline technique I have ever used.

So, if you see little Princess squatting on the rug, the response would be

1. "No!"
2. A consequence of some kind. For potty accidents I typically simply pick them up and place them outside in the potty zone. Rubbing their noses in the soiled carpet doesn't help them understand the problem.

Your dog will have indoor accidents, and this is where the tools Time and Patience come into play. Just like with potty training a toddler, they just don't typically get it over night. The younger they are, the longer it may take.

Word of Caution - Trying to crate train a very young puppy can back-fire tremendously. Very young puppies have just come from a place where their mother cleaned up after them in the "den." They will have little reason to not potty in the crate at first. If they begin crate training by using the bathroom in the crate very often, they will simply associate the crate with a place to potty - and not their den. As the puppy grows a bit older, he will naturally avoid using the bathroom in his bed. Dogs always avoid going potty where they sleep and where they eat if it is at all possible. This is another reason you cannot effectively crate train a puppy if you will be leaving him in the crate for hours on end. It is simply physically impossible for puppies to hold it for hours and hours at a time all day and all night.

If you find yourself having what you feel is an excessively hard time with house training, there may be other issues at hand such as a dominant puppy or health issues. In times like these I highly advise seeking help from a vet or a trainer. If you are in Arkansas, feel free to email me at if you feel you need some one-on-one time.

I will try to have a weekly Dog Training Tip post. I hope it proves helpful for some of you!


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