By Tracie Korol
Housebreaking means the dog never eliminates in the house. Not even a little bit. Not even once in a while. Not on pee pads. Never. Housebreaking is a people problem, not a dog problem.
Housebreaking is essential, and it’s entirely possible — for all dogs, all breeds, big and teeny tiny, young or old. What people fail to understand is that dogs do not come with the “pee outside” software installed. It is a learned skill and you are The Teacher. Your responsibility is to tackle the project with consistency, positive reinforcement and patience. Here are some basics:
1. Establish a schedule. Dogs love routine. It makes them feels secure and it takes the responsibility off their shoulders about what to do next. Dogs like to get up at the same time, go out at the same time, take their walks and eat on schedule. A routine teaches her that there are times to eat, times to play and times to potty.
2. Never leave your un-housebroken dog unattended. During training you must have eyes on the dog at all times. Having the dog in the same room with you doesn’t count. It’s too easy to get distracted, answer the phone, turn away for just a sec. And bam! Raisinettes. The easiest solution is to confine your dog to his crate, his “den”—a cozy, warm private apartment full of snuggly blankets and toys. Or you can gate the dog in a small area where you plan to be. However, if you’re dead set against a crate and don’t want to mess up your décor with an unsightly gate, then your only other option is to tether your dog to you so that no matter where you go, she’s right beside you. Loop the leash around your waist and clip to the collar. The lead shouldn’t be any longer than 4 feet. Inconvenient? Sure is. You can either suck it up or use a crate/gate.
2. Feed your dog on a schedule. With an all-day buffet you have no idea how much goes in, when it goes in and no idea of when it needs to come out. Free-feeding is a dumb idea across the board.
3. Be ready to reward for good behavior. Shortly after a meal, take your pup outside while exclaiming “outside! outside!” (or words to that effect) to a designated area. Issue a cue word–“go potty” (or words to that effect), stay in the area, no wandering, and wait. As your pup is completing her business, you’re fishing a high value treat out of your pocket ready to swoop down, treat and praise praise praise within 3 seconds upon completion. Use your Smurf voice. Sound joyful. And then go back in the house immediately. After a short time, she’ll recognize that she makes you happy when she eliminates outdoors, and in return she receives a reward. You want to reinforce that good behavior every time it happens, and there’s no better reward in the beginning than those yummy treats. Once your dog is fully housetrained, you can reduce and eventually eliminate the food treats and offer only verbal praise for her good potty habits.
4. DO NOT punish for mistakes. If your pup makes a mistake it’s your fault, not hers. You missed an opportunity, missed a signal or just got bored with the whole thing. Punishing a dog once the deed is done only pushes her to become sneaky because, after all, she has no idea what you’re yelling about an hour after she’s pee’d. From your dog’s perspective, you’re the center of her universe except every once in awhile, unpredictably, you turn into a scary, screaming lunatic. Clean it up, don’t mention it and keep moving forward.
There are millions of dogs in shelters across the country simply because they were never trained. There are millions of dogs crapping, if you’re lucky, on pee pads in the house (disgusting!). So make your schedule, buy your gate and stick to your plan. Your pup wants to please. Show her the way.