This month’s topic is House-training.
- House training is providing a routine and the opportunity for the dog to associate the relief of an empty bladder with a particular surface area that you the owner have chosen. It is learning through association and guided learning. Consequently punishing a young puppy or dog for toileting mistakes is the equivalent of punishing a toddler who you are attempting to potty train. Patience,kindness,understanding and more patience are essential to successfully house-training.Realistically it can take up to six months to house-train some dogs. Dogs are as different as people and all learn at different rates so comparing your dog or child is pointless.
- The onus is on you the owner of the dog, to help it and guide it, so that it may slowly learn to toilet in the appropriate area and to let you know it needs to get to that chosen area. Therefore all toileting accidents are the owner’s fault.
- You cannot train a dog if you are not with it. Consequently you cannot house-train a dog if you are not in the room.
- Until the dog is house-trained it is important to confine it to one area such as the kitchen, which is usually an area with an easily washable floor. Accidents should be washed in a solution of biological washing powder as this kills the enzymes in the urine. The fewer the surface areas the dog is exposed to the quicker he will learn. The more choice of areas i.e. carpet, tiles, wood. etc the longer it will take the dog to discriminate the chosen surface area. The chosen area is the one chosen by you not the dog.
- If the dog has an accident a quick “ah ah” should suffice to startle the dog into stopping so that you can then bring it to the chosen surface area. This sound is intended to interrupt the behaviour not to punish it. As soon as you get to the chosen area immediately praise it.
- The first step in the House-training programme is to give the puppy a very obvious snugly safe bed, preferably a little raised off the floor. The rest of the area should be covered in newspapers. The area that the pup is confined to should be quite small to begin with so that the distinction between the pup’s bed and the floor covered in the newspapers is very easy for the pup to make. This is where the use of a puppy crate, or a small toilet or utility room is the ideal area to keep a young pup until it is house-trained. The pup should not be given a large area or free access to the rest of the house until it is house-trained.
- The pup should be confined to this area at any time when you cannot watch it. So it is now only toileting on newspapers as most puppies will not soil their own bed/nest area. When cleaning the area some soiled papers should be placed in the garden with some rocks to secure them.
- If possible the pup should be fed outside or at least put outside immediately after, eating, sleeping, playing or any new experience. Most puppies will do their main business within twenty minutes of eating, so if it is fed outside it is already in the correct area to relieve itself.
- In the first few weeks you should always accompany the pup to the garden, but do not talk to it or communicate with it in any way until it has relieved itself…. then you can fuss and lavish great praise. Otherwise the pup will think that you are there to play even if it is twelve o clock at night.
- The pup should be brought out on the hour ever hour. Some soiled paper should be placed in the garden where you want the pup to go. So that there is consistency between the indoor and outdoor surface areas. The pup can now smell his or her own scent and now recognises the look and the feel underfoot of the newspaper. Everything should feel safe in order for the pup to toilet. A frightened or vulnerable pup will not advertise their presence.
- The more the pup toilets on the newspaper the quicker he will learn. Success breeds success and failure breeds failure. So as the weeks go by and the puppy is successfully using the newspaper. You can now slowly remove the paper nearest the dog’s bed. So the pup now has to make a discriminating effort to get to the newspaper. There should not be papers available to the puppy inside as long as you are there to let it out every hour. The only papers available during the day are outside. It is important that the dog’s bed is near the door that you want the puppy to orientate to. Only use one door to the garden so that the puppy can make a direct path to that door. Do not expect puppies to navigate around corners.
- The puppy should now be associating the action of relieving itself with the newspaper and be making an effort to get there i.e. outside. It is at this point that you should know when your pup needs to go as you will have learnt his toileting body language after weeks of observation!!! Remember puppies are as individual as people so they will all indicate differently but generally speaking they will start mooching around or get restless and start sniffing and then circling…if you see this immediately praise your pup and bring it to the newspapers outside.It is up to you the owner to provide the dog with all the opportunities to get it right. If the dog toilets in the wrong area it is your fault. The puppy is only a baby dog you are the one with the power of reason and intellect…you cannot train a dog when you are absent all you can do is to confine it and provide the appropriate chosen surface of newspapers. Puppies should not be left alone for more than a couple of hours at a time.It is also advisable not to feed the puppy late at night or to leave water down. Initially the night should be as short as possible … If the pup is confined for as short a period as possible it will learn not to soil in it’s bed area as it will hang on. learning to control it’s bladder waiting to be let out so that it can soil away from the nest area. This period of three to four hours is slowly extended to eight hours so that normal sleep patterns can be restored. The pup should also be confined during the day so that it will learn this even quicker.
Underlying this house-training programme is the assumption that the pup is being fed three or four regular meals a day and does not have food freely avail