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
hat 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. (And no matter how upset that little
face looks at you in response, it is not because they understand they have done something
wrong, more they would like you so much not to be mad at them, please.) 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 there and not in the house.
Since Sammy is under the impression that he will get in trouble for eliminating while in
proximity to you or in locations you have caught him at it, in the past, you want to turn
this around. You can do this by, again removing all punishment, next 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 house-
breaking 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 (squirming, fidgeting, etc.) 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 rein-
forcer; 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 (and in the "secret" spots he is now using).
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' urine and will "overmark," inspired by their past "performances." Make sure
your walk is long enough for several pees, even female dogs will urinate more than once if
given the opportunity. A voided bladder is a good thing especially when house training.
A good sniff around the block is a good distance for exercise, smells and the distraction or
two for excitement. And because 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 punish-
ing 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
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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