Housebreaking Your Dog

Housebreaking Your Dog

by Tim Henry

Dogs are creatures of habit; and once they develop a habit, breaking it can be a long, frustrating process. Your dog needs guidance and encouragement from you to develop a toilet habit you can live with. Animal behaviorists have learned a lot about dogs over the last couple of decades-including tidbits that will make housebreaking your pet a less frustrating task.

It might be difficult to believe (considering some of the things your dog will roll in or put in her mouth), but dogs have specific sanitary requirements. They will go to great lengths to avoid soiling near where they eat and/or sleep. That means any “accidents” an un-housebroken dog has will be far from its food dish and bed. To a dog, “far” in this case means about 6-10 feet. This leaves lots of “fair game” space in your home, unless you guide her to identify a suitable spot.

Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult dog, new to your home, the process is the same. Every few hours, as well as 30 minutes after she has eaten, take your dog outside to a designated “bathroom” spot. Stay in the vicinity, and praise her lavishly when she finishes relieving herself. If she fails to “go,” take her back inside, and keep her confined and under careful watch for about 15 minutes, then take her back outside. During the interval, if you see her circling and sniffing intensely, take her outside immediately. Sniffing and circling are signs she is about to empty her bladder or bowels. By recognizing the signs and taking her outside, you are helping her connect the urge to go to the bathroom with going outside.

How quickly your dog becomes housebroken depends partly on her personality (is she eager to please or a rebel) but mostly on your diligence in taking her outside at the right time. If your puppy is less than four months old, you should plan on getting up during the night to take her outside. Puppies over four months of age can usually “hold it” through the night, but if your dog cries to be let out, it is best to get up and let her tend to her urge. It is vital that you give your dog every chance to succeed during this time. Positive reinforcement of the proper behavior is the fastest way to teach your dog anything.

Accidents happen, and when they do, your response will affect how quickly your dog learns to “go” outside. If you catch your dog in mid-squat, clap your hands or call her name loudly. Your goal is to distract her. Once you have her attention, quietly and calmly take her outside. Be sure to praise her when she finishes relieving herself. If you find a wet spot or droppings on the floor when your dog is not around, simply clean it up. If your dog approaches to investigate what you are doing, ignore her. Do not talk to her or pet her at this moment. Above all else, avoid yelling at her or physically punishing her. She will not connect your rage to the mess she made, but your violence will make her afraid of you-and that’s not what you want from your canine companion.


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