Seems like I spent most of the week helping new puppy owners housetrain their pups. Housetraining can be accomplished in as little as ten days if you follow a plan, a plan that has worked for many dog owners. The closer you follow the plan, the better the results.
Step 1: Understand dog behavior – dogs do not know right from wrong. What they understand is safe and dangerous. When your puppy comes into your house he doesn’t understand that it is “bad” behavior to urinate on your carpet.
We want to teach your dog that going in the house is unacceptable. We do this by catching your dog in the act – not after the behavior has occurred but while the behavior is happening. Punishing your dog after the behavior has occurred can confuse your dog, making the housetraining process much more difficult.
Step 2: Understand your dog’s digestive system – A dog’s digestive system is much shorter than a humans. We have about 26 feet of intestines, a dog has about 8 feet, so the whole process is going to happen much faster. It is also important to remember that what goes in must come out.
Some dog food companies recommend feeding a puppy four times a day. That can make the housetraining process very, very difficult on the puppy and the owner. I have always fed my puppies twice a day. You can meet all of their nutritional requirements and make it much easier to housetrain on this feeding schedule, which leads us to step 3…
Step 3: Develop a schedule – Putting your dog on a feeding schedule during the housetraining process can make your efforts much more successful. A dog or puppy that is allowed to eat whenever she wants will make housetraining very difficult. Also, developing a schedule to take your dog outside will make it easier on you. I always bring a dog outside within 15 to 20 minutes after meals.
Step 4: Manage your dog’s behavior – One of the most important steps in the housetraining process is the proper management of your dog’s behavior. In step 1 we discussed catching your dog in the act, not after the fact. Using a crate can help you when you are too busy to watch your pup.
Most pups and dogs will not eliminate in their crate. When you need to go to work or have to leave the house for a while, you can put your pup in her crate. When you come home, you can immediately take her outside and not give her the opportunity to make a mistake in the house.
Using a crate is excellent for young dogs. At some point in your dog’s life he will probably have to go into a crate. The vet, travel, and grooming visits all require your dog to go into a crate. It is better to get him used to one while he is young. I also recommend crates because as a former animal control officer, I have seen plenty of young dogs that became injured – some seriously – because they were allowed too much freedom while unattended.
Step 5: Influence your dog’s behavior – Just as you need to catch your dog in the act, you also need to let your dog know that she is doing the right behavior. During the housetraining process it is a good idea to take your dog out on leash. If you let your dog out into a fenced in area and you are not there, you will not be able to communicate to your dog that she is doing the right behavior.
When your pup needs to go out, put your pup on leash and as she is sniffing the ground say a command like, “get busy” or “do your business,” and keep saying that until your pup starts to go. Once she starts, don’t say anything else. Once your pup is finished, praise and reward her immediately.
Step 6: Proper clean up – When I am helping someone housetrain their pup, one of the first questions I ask is “What are you cleaning up the mess with?” A lot of people get commercial cleaners at the supermarket. A lot of these products contain ammonia. Ammonia smells like urine to your dog. So if your dog urinates on the carpet and you clean with an ammonia product, your dog will come back to that spot and think that a strange dog has gone on the carpet. Your dog will eliminate again on that same spot to cover it.
Nature’s Miracle is an excellent product that has enzymes to break down the scent of urine naturally.
Step 7: Get everyone involved – if you live by yourself with your dog this step will be easy. If your dog lives in a house with more than one person, make sure that everyone is taking the steps to make the housetraining process quick and easy. The closer everyone sticks to the plan, the faster the training will progress.
Conclusion – Dog training really boils down to timing, consistency, and motivation. When we are housetraining a dog, we need to make sure that our timing is good – catching your dog in the act. We need to make sure that we are consistent with the training – same feeding schedule, outside schedule, and everyone in the house is on the same page. Motivation is rewarding your dog for going outside and startling your dog when they start to eliminate in the house.