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House Training 101

by David Dickey

Whether you have a new puppy or an older rescue dog, house training is paramount for integrating this new family member into your household.

These house training methods are for whether you’re teaching your dog to go outside or on an indoor pad. Begin the house training by immedi- ately setting up a consistent schedule for feeding and bathroom breaks. Use the “Sample Schedule” sidebar as an example, but remember that every dog is different, so you may have to adjust it to fit your dog’s needs. As a general rule, though, the number of hours a puppy can hold his bladder equals his age in months (i.e., a four-month-old pup should relieve himself every four hours).

You need to keep a close eye on your dog dur- ing the house training process. If you’re not able to watch your dog continually during the day, then crate training is a viable option. Dogs are den ani- mals that like to keep their spaces secure and clean, and crates simulate dens for most dogs. If you con- fine your dog to his crate, then he will usually con- trol his bladder until you take him out at scheduled times. For crate training to be effective, make sure that the crate is only large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around inside. Many crates now have partitions that you can use to slowly increase the size of the cage as a puppy grows.

It’s normal for a dog to vocalize once you put him into the crate, and he will usually quiet down after a few minutes. You must ignore the dog’s cries for the training to be effective. If you come to him each time he cries, he’ll actually be train- ing you, thus making it difficult to reach any house training goals.

When it’s time to take the dog out of the crate, make sure you take him immediately to the area where you would like him to relieve himself; try to repeat this step every few hours. If you cannot be home in the middle of the day to take the dog out, then hire a professional dog-walker to help you.

Before deciding on a house training method for your dog, keep in mind that some dogs should never be confined to a crate. Dogs with moderate to severe separation anxiety, a behavioral condi- tion that causes some dogs to become anxious immediately after being separated from their own- ers, can do harm to themselves in a crate. If your dog has separation anxiety, use alternative options to crate training, such as keeping the dog in a play- pen or on a leash next to you. Most importantly, remember that handling behavioral issues should be a priority over house training.

As you work with your dog, remember this im- portant rule: do not punish him for house train- ing accidents; it doesn’t give him any instruction about where you’d like him to relieve himself or what he did wrong. Avoid common house train- ing mistakes such as putting your dog’s nose in his own excrement or putting him in a crate as forms of punishment. You may think you are solving the problem when you punish your dog for having an accident in the house, but instead, you could be creating many more problems. If you punish your dog, he can become fearful and develop prob- lems such as urinating uncontrollably when he sees you, or eating his own feces before you find the accident. If you believe your dog may be uri- nating as a result of fear, then the best way of han- dling the situation is to avoid any type of contact with him after the accidents—no looking, talking or touching. If you’re crate training and find acci- dents in your dog’s crate that don’t make sense, consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues, such as a urinary tract infection.

Giving rewards for good behavior is a great in- centive for your dog to reach house training goals. When your dog relieves himself in the appropriate location, praise him lavishly and give him a small treat. If he goes in the wrong spot, then give him nothing. If you maintain consistency with rewards, then your dog will learn where he should relieve himself. The keys to successfully house training your dog are to remain patient, keep a consistent schedule and reward positive behavior.

Sample Schedule

FIRST THING IN THE MORNING

Just after you wake up, take him outside and give him a treat every time he goes to the bathroom.

Put him into a crate, an enclosed playpen, or right next to you on leash.

Later that morning, bring him outside and give him a treat if he goes to the bathroom. » Feed him after he goes to the bathroom.

MIDDLE OF THE DAY

Have him in the kitchen playpen during the day or outside in a safe area.

Take him outside every two hours. Give him a treat if you see him relieve himself.

EVENING

Feed him four hours before you go to bed.

Take away his water three hours before you go to bed.

Take him outside after he eats and give him a treat if he relieves himself.

Just before you go to bed, give him one more chance to go outside and relieve himself.

WHAT TO DO

Keep a consistent schedule

Take him out every 2-3 hours

Restrict free access to home

Reward when he goes in the right area

WHAT NOT TO DO

Put his nose in it

Yell at him

Hit him

Crate him as punishment


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House Training 101

Whether you have a new puppy or an older rescue dog, house training is paramount for integrating this new family member into your household.

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