Housetraining 101 for dogs, (c) 2009-2018 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
How do you house train your dog? And what happens when house training is not
working? Recently, I heard from a client who lives on the Upper West Side. Taking
advantage of a holiday, my client and her 9-month-old puppy were at the parents for the
long weekend. However things were not going as planned and whatever success in
housebreaking had occurred in New York City was slipping away in suburbia, the dog had
taken to hiding when eliminating and everybody was unhappy. My advice on how to
address the situation follows (I have changed names to protect the innocent):
How frustrating for everyone! You are right in thinking that what Sammy is learning
is that going potty in front of you or even when you are near by is a “no - no.”
For help with house training, first breathe (in, out, repeat often). Your pet is amazingly
skilled in reading you and your body language, if you are upset, uptight, angry or
frustrated this will come through loud and clear. Do not, no matter what, ever, ever
scold Sammy in the act. Ever. You can pick him up (and should) if you see him doing
his business, be matter of fact and go directly outside with him. Even if he is done with
the act. Go outside place him on the ground and allow him to sniff and or finish, praise
and treat. Let "ignore the bad behavior reward the good behavior" become your mantra
followed by "direct and redirect". Think training for what you want the dog to do
rather than punishing for what you do not want them to do. In this scenario you want
the dog to indicate to you the desire to go outside for relief and to perform that behavior
Since Sammy is under the impression that he will get in trouble for eliminating you
want to turn this around. You can do this by keeping Sammy in his halter and leash at
all times and attached to you. This way you will know when he needs to go because you
will be aware of his every movement. No reaction only a positive one if he indicates
needing to go out. Praise with a cue for this, "good out Sammy," etc. You can tie his
leash to your belt or loop it around your wrist. When I was housebreaking my dog I
used to sleep with the leash attached to my wrist. It works (this and more on
housebreaking and other help are in Ian Dunbar's How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks.
If there is one dog owners' guide you need, this is the one).
Continue to walk Sammy frequently and on as close to a schedule as realistically
possible. If you walk Sammy and nothing happens do not put him down when you get
home. Keep him either attached to you on the leash or on your lap. Pay attention to the
signals that he has to go and proceed directly outside. Use this weekend and your
proximity to being able to get outside quickly as remedial housebreaking 101.
When he does go, have a party for him, you have with you at all times the greatest
reinforcer; praise from you to him. Tell him the very second he begins to void what a
fabulous little man he is. “What a good wee outside Sammy!!!!” The great thing with
all that loving praise is the timing can be instantaneous, no fumbling for treats. And
when you start with the praise and a treat follows, that’s an added party favor.
Whatever he likes best that you can do outside together, do.
You can continue to leave wee-wee pads in the house but place them as close to the exit
doors as possible, front and yard doors. Remember wee-wee pads are a training aid
because they are grass scented, find as much grass as possible along the sidewalks or
street or yard. When you are doing your frequent walks (and always, always right
after a meal) try and find locations where other dogs may have frequented -- the street
in front of your parents' home will work better than the backyard. Dogs are the most
interested in the smells of other dogs and inspired by the past "performances." Also
Sammy is quite distracted by squirrels, which you can use to your advantage, get him
focused on a few so he expends a ton of energy (another "motivator") and then pick him
up and walk where there are less squirrel distractions and he can focus on business.
Start now re-educating him, the more you work this the more it will work.
Give Sammy a big hug and kiss from me.
Think training for what you want
the dog to do rather than punishing
for what you do not want them to
do. In this scenario you want the
dog to indicate to you the desire to
go outside for relief and to perform
that behavior there." Reward that
when it happens.
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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