'GOING' OUTSIDE! TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL HOUSE TRAINING
Most every person that shares their life with a dog has had to go through house training. Dogs don't naturally come to us understanding to eliminate outside. They have to be taught where and when it's appropriate for them to eliminate. Dogs do naturally like to be clean which is one reason why an appropriate size crate, introduced properly and used correctly can be a big help with house training. (See handout: Crating.) The key to forming any behavior in a dog is consistency, and house training is no exception.
- Select a designated bathroom spot in your yard. Pick one that is not too far away. Your dog will be more likely to make a quick trip in the rain than to cross the entire yard in a thunderstorm.
- Select separate cues for urination and defecation. If you only use one word like 'potty', once your dog has completed one task they might not understand that there is still something else that needs to be done.
- Establish a schedule as soon as you bring your dog home. As a general rule, dogs (particularly puppies) will need to eliminate after eating, sleeping and playing. Scheduled feedings will also be key in making sure you can predict when your dog might need to 'go'.
Keys to Success
- Puppies can only hold their bladder about one hour for every one month of age. (If you have a toy breed this could even be less.) You will need to plan accordingly, which means that if you bring home an eight week old puppy they will need to go out at least every hour or two, and they will likely not be able to make it through the night. Set your alarm clock and take them out. It's better to prevent an unavoidable accident than to clean one up, and you don't want your puppy to get used to soiling their sleeping area. If you cannot provide ample potty outings for your dog, for instance while you are at work, you will need to make sure they have adequate space to eliminate separate from their sleeping area.
- You must go outside with your dog to ensure that he eliminates outside. Additionally, you should take treats with you and praise lavishly and treat while outside after they finish their eliminations. Dogs are 'in the moment' and if you wait to treat until you return inside, your dog is getting a treat for coming back inside, not eliminating outside!
- Take your dog out on leash to the designated potty space. When he starts to potty issue your cues. Praise him softly when he is going so that he doesn't get too excited and forget to finish. When he finishes, praise lavishly and give a tasty treat. Eventually you will be able to issue your cues to prompt the behavior.
- Only after your dog has eliminated can he be let off leash for fun and games. It's always business first, play later! This also emphasizes that the fun starts after potty so your dog will be eager to eliminate. If you always take your dog right back inside after potty, he might learn that elimination stops the fun which makes him not want to go.
- Dogs have about a second to pair a consequence with a behavior, which means that every time your dog eliminates inside without being interrupted during the elimination, he has been successful. After all, he gets relief when he eliminates. This means that supervision is critical to the success of your house training. Use baby gates, tether your dog on leash near you or to you, or use a crate when you cannot supervise.
Caught in the Act!
- Since your un-house trained dog will never be out of your sight, it's possible that you might catch him in the act of inappropriate elimination. If that happens, clap your hands to interrupt the behavior. When your dog stops eliminating, take him immediately outside to his potty area and when he finishes give him lavish praise and a yummy treat.
- Make sure that your interrupting noise doesn't completely startle your dog. You don't want him to be scared to potty in front of you.
- If you find an accident after the fact, punishing and/or scolding your dog does no good. Taking your dog back to the scene of the crime will only teach your dog that eliminations around you is a bad thing and thus, your dog will not want to eliminate in front of you. This leads to many problems including dogs that 'work' to sneak-off so that they can eliminate in private. Punishment after-the-fact does not work; remember dogs are 'of the moment' thinkers.
- If your dog does have an accident, remember it is just that, an accident. He did not eliminate in the house toget back at you, because he was mad at you, or for any other reason except he had to go and eliminating provided relief.
- If your dog has an accident in the house, clean it up thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner. Do not use heat on the spot as it will bind the proteins to the rug. Soak up as much of the liquid as you can first using a towel or paper towels, then apply the appropriate cleaner and allow it to soak in as directed. Remove the remaining moisture with paper towels/towels and a blotting motion.
Other Types of House Training Problems
There are many reasons other than simply not being house trained that can lead to house soiling. If you suspect any of the reasons below you should talk to your trainer (or vet) about the best course of action.
- Medical Problems: Especially if a once house trained dog regresses, a medical problem like a urinary tract infection or parasites could explain things. Additionally, certain medications can increase urine output. If your once house trained dog suddenly begins eliminating inside, or if your dog is eliminating directly in front of you, or you see lots of starting to go with very small quantities of output, your dog is straining to go, etc., it's advisable to see your vet.
- Territorial Marking: If your dog tends to leave small amount of urine on raised surfaces, it's possible that he is marking. This also often occurs by the areas where he might likely see other dogs, like the front windows, and often occurs in multiple dog households. Both males and females can 'mark', but it is most often in intact male dogs or dogs that were neutered after reaching maturity.
- Submissive/Excitement Urination: This generally happens when dogs are greeted by new people or dogs. Submissive urination in dog-dog communications is the ultimate in 'no fight' signals and is an indication your dog is feeling overwhelmed. When people greet dogs, they often bend over them which can also be overwhelming, especially to smaller dogs. And sometimes, especially in young dogs, they just get so excited over something they lose control of their bladder.
- Separation Anxiety: If the inappropriate elimination only happens when the dog is left alone, and there are other signs of separation anxiety like vocalizing, scratches on the door frame, etc., you might be dealing with separation anxiety.
Reprinted with permission from Happy Dog, LLC. www.HappyDogKy.com