Thursday, August 28, 2014

House Training - a quick primer


While housetraining a dog is a relatively simple concept, it can be quite challenging. The key to successfully house-training your pup is consistency, setting your dog up for success, and following a basic rule, if a behavior is rewarded it will repeat.  

Begin with the pup in one smallish, puppy proofed room.  The room should be central to the activity in the house and contain the dogs crate as well as easy access to the outdoors.  Baby gates and lattice (for larger openings) work well to contain puppies while allowing people in and out.  Exercise pens work for mini puppies as well as large open floor plan houses.

Three Rules
1.     The dog is outside while you are actively watching him and reinforcing any pees or poops.

2.     The dog is inside under CONSTANT supervision.
3.     The dog is crated or gated off in a small, puppy proof area.

Four Steps
1.      Create a schedule
2.      Prevent accidents
3.      Positive praise for correct action i.e. every time your dog goes to the bathroom outside, click and reward.  
4.      Progress slowly

Create Schedule

Create a schedule that includes the times for feeding, water, crate and playtime. Knowing when the food and water goes into your puppy will result in predictable needs and therefore reduced accidents.  Remember, if the puppy has an accident it is not because they are bad, it is because you were not paying attention!  Most puppies can be put on a schedule that allows them bathroom breaks every 1-2 hours to start if they are using a crate.  A puppy that is out and active may need potty breaks as frequent as every ½ hour.  A general rule of thumb is that a dog can comfortable ‘hold it’ during the day for 1 plus the number of months old they are, so a 2 month old dog should be able to go 3 hours between breaks when crated.  The exception to this is at night, even an 8-9 week old puppy can generally make it through 8 hours at night without a break.  Smaller dogs may need more frequent breaks.

The schedule you put together will depend on your needs as well as your dogs, but you should consider the following things.  A young puppy should not be left in the crate more than a couple of hours at a time, followed by a couple of hours of well supervised play time.  As with young children, puppies do need lots of sleep, schedule those naps to occur while the dog is in the crate.  Early evening is a time of much activity in most households with dinner prep, homework, and other activities, consider scheduling your pup for crate time during this evening rush time to avoid accidents.

Prevent accidents
            Unless you are 100% with your dog he/she should be confined in a “den like” area or his crate. Anticipate your dog’s needs and take frequent breaks until your dog develops a routine.  When accidents do happen, put the dog away and clean it up with enzymatic cleaner.  No punishment, no hoopla.

Positive Praise
            Have a pocket full of GREAT treats ready at all times and be ready to deliver – right AFTER the deed is done!  Timing matters.  If you start to praise the dog as he begins to eliminate the pup may not finish his business, so hold your praise until he’s all done!

Progress Slowly
            Once the dog is reliable in one room, expand his indoor area one room at a time.  Go SLOWLY.  Be sure to be present in the new room 100% of the time during its introduction, use the same rules in each new room as you did at the beginning of the process.

Other Hints
            If you have an older dog, make sure there aren’t any underlying medical issues such as urinary tract infections which can be a cause of housetraining regression.  Schedules help, keeping feedings and playtime on a tight schedule will help to reduce accidents and create more positive opportunities.

            Reading your dog’s signals
·       whining
·       circling
·       sniffing
·       just woke up
·       just got out of crate
·       just ate/drank
·       suddenly stops playing/chewing and starts sniffing
·       heads toward an area that has been soiled before with nose to the ground
·       paces near the door

Keep the dog on the leash when you take them out to eliminate, this helps to direct them to the correct spot and will prevent having a dog that will not eliminate while on leash.  Many people like to train their dogs to eliminate in a particular area of the yard, to do this be sure that all bathroom breaks are supervised on leash, lead (or carry in the case of a very young pup) the dog directly to the designated area and as soon as the elimination has occurred praise and reinforce with yummy treats!

Tip: Make sure your puppy eliminates before you play with them, this will help instill a sense of urgency about getting their business done and avoid issues in the future.

One alternative to creating a schedule is to tether the young pup to you as you go about your business in the house. This keeps the pup from wandering off and doing his business without you seeing him and keeps you very aware of your pups every move.  I love this technique, but it is not for everyone.
A word about paper-training: It seems harmless to leave papers about “just in case” however, paper-training your pup will make the overall job of housetraining harder and take longer. By only allowing the pup to relieve itself outside, you're teaching it that it's not acceptable to eliminate in the house. Using newspapers will contradict this training and cause confusion for the dog.

Using a crate can make house training a lot easier, it also creates a place where your dog can go and get some alone time.

Use the crate when you are too busy to watch the pup, you are leaving the house, your puppy get’s the “crazies” and needs some time to wind down, when you need a break or when you are sleeping.  Also, if the dog has just been outside and has not relieved himself, put him in the crate and try again in 15 minutes.