Most people think that to housebreak a puppy is to simply to rub its nose in its mess, spank its bottom, and then put it out the door, while yelling at the little guy. This antiquated method usually accomplishes just one thing; it teaches the puppy that it must do “its thing” in locations where it can’t be seen.
Soon, you’ll discover piles of poop and stains of urine in the closet, under the bed, behind the couch, etc. The puppy has learned that if you see it soiling the carpet, it gets its bottom whacked and is banished to the loneliness of the outdoors. By using common sense anyone should be able to see that its mind works like this: If it can accomplish its mission out of visual range, nothing adverse will happen, no spanking, no yelling. It has learned that it must “hide” its accidents.
The Importance Of Proper Toilet Training
Many dogs that started out as an indoor dog have been banished to the backyard due to a lack of understanding by their owners. In this modern day of mobile homes, condominiums and apartments, yard space is at a premium and there is really not much backyard left for a dog to enjoy. Proper toilet training is a must. Dogs learn by associating their actions with pleasing or displeasing results, so if your puppy is punished for soiling in the wrong place, it must be rewarded for eliminating in the right place. This can be considered as key number one to the problem. It’s the key that so many dog owners cannot seem to use.
I am at a loss to explain why a dog owner can readily praise its dog for a correct response to the “sit” command, but can’t seem to exhibit any praise to a proper behavioral response in toilet training. Any dog owner, who is quick enough to whack its dog’s rump for an accident, should also be quick enough to praise its dog for responding correctly.
Because puppies (like human babies) must eliminate frequently (they lack control of bodily muscle functions), early paper training is advocated. The second key to success is supervision. A puppy cannot be expected to learn if you’re not there to teach. Forget all about physical punishment when your puppy has an accident. Concentrate on genuine praise when your puppy does right.
It must be assumed that during any period over an hour, your puppy will have to eliminate at least once. It is best to begin your puppy’s training the moment it awakens from one of its frequent naps. Your puppy should be confined to the same room where its toilet training will take place. It must be able to reach its assigned spot quickly, when nature’s alarm sounds.
You should place your puppy on its newspaper immediately after it awakens. If your pup eliminates at once, it should be rewarded with verbal and physical praise. The praise and love must be genuine and with sincerity. You must convey to your puppy that you were pleased with its act. You cannot convey this idea if your praise and love are low-keyed and phony.
The puppy will eliminate again within 60 minutes. This is where the need for supervision comes in. You must be alert to the moment when your puppy drops its nose to the floor and begins sniffing. It should be instantly placed upon its paper. Chances are, it will try to crawl off the paper, but it should be gently returned to it until it has eliminated and again praised highly for having done the right thing in the right spot.
If you should fail in your supervision and the puppy has an accident and you see it, you should correct verbally and instantly! To correct – or shame – the puppy after it has completed the act is a waste of time and serves only to confuse its young mind.
The tone of voice is extremely important and there is absolutely no reason to shout. If you develop a habit of yelling at your puppy, it will learn how to turn you off. Future words of admonishment will fall on deaf ears. Keep your admonishment low-keyed and shame your puppy in the same manner you’d shame a child caught with a hand in the cookie jar.
The absence of praise, together with the verbal shaming, serves as a useful and meaningful correction. Catch the puppy in the act (not after the act) and verbally shame it. Place it on its paper and praise it after it finishes the elimination process on the paper.
Remove The Odor
Key number three is eliminating any standard odors in those areas where the puppy has had accidents. In this way, nature will give you a valuable helping hand in housebreaking your puppy. All dogs have a tendency to eliminate on the spot where their olfactory senses tell them other dogs have eliminated, or where they themselves have previously eliminated.
If you use water to clean a spot on the rug, you’ll be compounding the problem due to the probability of mildew. Mildew is notorious for attracting a dog. Use club soda to clean any accidents on a carpet. It is by far the best detergent for removing fresh urine stains and standing urine odor.
If you acquired your puppy for no other purpose than to be a decoration around your home, or perhaps no better reason than as a status symbol, you are certainly doomed to failure in your attempts to housebreak your pet. It takes love and patience and if there is no rapport between puppy and owner, you’ll never be able to get your message across to your puppy.
Your Puppy Needs Help Through The Night
It would be useless to supervise your puppy faithfully all day, place it on its paper every hour, then go to bed at night hoping it will control its need to eliminate until you’re ready to supervise again. It just won’t happen that way. You’ll awaken to several piles of dog poop deposited neatly here and there.
The best solution is confinement to a particular room, such as the kitchen or service porch. The entire floor area should be covered with newspapers, every night for about two weeks. If your puppy is between eight and twelve weeks of age, you may have to cover the floor area with newspapers each night for three to four weeks. They should be gathered each morning, leaving just one and that one should be in the same place your original paper was when you started your paper training.
When you notice that your puppy is beginning to get the idea, you may cover only half of the usual floor area at night, making sure that the area you cover is farthest away from the spot where your puppy sleeps. In the morning when you awaken and find all the little piles deposited only on the papers, you may begin to gradually eliminate one sheet of newspaper, leaving a smaller area papered each night, until you have but one newspaper.
Changing The Location
As your puppy grows, it may no longer be practical for it to eliminate on a newspaper in your house. Changing the location is really quite a simple matter. The newspaper can be moved to a selected spot in your puppy backyard, but only after your puppy has demonstrated that it knows what the paper is for and uses it faithfully.
Take the newspaper and your puppy to the selected spot in your yard. Lay the paper down, talking to your puppy the entire time, keeping its attention. Lay rocks on the corners of the paper to keep it from blowing away. If your puppy gets on its paper and eliminates immediately, that’s great! Praise it enthusiastically. If not, you may return to the house leaving the paper behind. Take your puppy with you, but keep key number two firmly in mind: Supervision!
Watch for signs of restlessness in your puppy, and be prepared to let it out. Don’t just send it outside alone. Go with it. How can you possibly praise your puppy for making the right decision if you’re not there? Praising the puppy after it returns to the house will cause the puppy to believe it’s being praised for returning to the house and not for eliminating outdoors. Three or four occasions will be all that’s necessary to get the point across.
Don’t Confuse Confinement With Punishment
If your puppy appears to have difficulty getting the idea, you may have to consider another form of confinement. Please do not confuse confinement with punishment. Confinement at night is not punishment. A wire show-crate is without a doubt one of the best “extras” a puppy owner can invest in. If the puppy is introduced to the crate properly, it will have no negative thoughts about it and the crate will become the puppy’s bed. It will offer complete security and it will only take the puppy about three nights to discover that the crate is its bed. The canine does not like soiling its own bed.
Crating your puppy at night will help to solve the problem of those puppies that have a hard time discovering just what the newspaper is for. When you open the crate first thing in the morning, get your puppy to its paper and fast!
Love Your Puppy
By investing a little bit of yourself into your puppy’s life, you will see the most remarkable change come over your pet. It won’t grow up to be “just a dog”, but instead, a most delightful and well-accepted member of your family. As a final tip to the frustrated dog owner who is battling the challenges of potty training, keep in mind the point we made earlier: Puppies are much like babies.
If you’re a parent, you “potty-trained” your child in much the same manner as we’ve discussed here. You didn’t rub your child’s nose in its excrement and throw it on its little potty seat, while yelling at it. Instead you went about it in a totally loving way – do the same for your puppy.