A housetraining checklist
Help with housetraining
In the old days, dog owners "housebroke" their dogs, pushed their noses in mistakes, and screamed in rage when the pooch made a mistake on the rug again. Today we're more enlightened. Here are some hints for house training your dog:
- First, buy a puppy from a breeder who has already started housetraining
by putting the puppies outside every morning and after meals and praising
when they relieve themselves. It's also helpful if the breeder has
done some crate training as well. Puppies raised
in wire cages in commercial kennels and shipped to pet stores have nowhere
to relieve themselves except their living quarters, a habit that is difficult
- Buy a crate and a baby gate or two to
keep the puppy confined when you cannot watch him. If the puppy is
kept in the kitchen, he can't pee on the rug in the living room, a simple
fact that escapes many pet owners caught in the midst of a housetraining debacle.
- Feed a dry food, preferably the brand used by the breeder. If that food is unavailable, get about 10 pounds from the breeder and gradually switch to a locally-available brand. Begin with a mix of about three-quarters of the original food and gradually increase the volume of the new food until the pup is eating only the new food. Avoid canned food during housetraining. The high water content puts extra pressure on the bladder and the color enhancer sodium nitrite can act as a diuretic, increasing the frequency of urination. Iron oxide, another color enhancer in canned foods, can stain the carpet if the pup has an accident.
- Confine the puppy to rooms with tile or other washable flooring so mistakes don't ruin carpets.
- Feed on a schedule and take the puppy outside to the appropriate relief spot immediately after eating.
- Don't play with the pup until he relieves himself..
- If he doesn't urinate and defecate within 10 minutes, bring him inside and place him in his crate for 10-15 minutes, then try again. Continue this routine until he is successful, and then praise him as if he just won a blue ribbon.
- Take him out on a leash to his bathroom spot so he learns to relieve himself under your control.
- Puppies do not soil the house out of spite or stupidness; they soil the house because they have not been taught to do otherwise. If the puppy does urinate or defecate inside, he should immediately be taken outside to the appropriate spot. (Keep a leash near each door to the house for easy access just in case.)
- Keep the bathroom spot clean by picking up feces every day. Cleanliness prevents worms and spread of intestinal viruses and infections and cuts down on smell that might bother the neighbors.
- Realize that a puppy should have a schedule, that he should be taken to his outside relief spot last thing at night and first thing in the morning as well as after meals and naps, and that he should be praised when he does his duty. When taking the puppy to his outdoor spot, don't play with him or allow the children to do so. First things first. If the pup does not relieve himself, put him in the crate for a few minutes, then try again. Most puppies will not soil in their crates if they can possibly help it.
- Failures in housetraining are human mistakes, not puppy errors. The puppy does not understand that carpets are for walking, not bowel relief. If eight-year-old Steve is told to take Sam outside after the pup finishes his dinner and Steve is busy watching television and says "in a minute" or ignores the request altogether, and if Sam then dumps on the floor, it is not the puppy's fault. It is also not the child's fault. Mom or Dad tried a shortcut by making the child responsible for the dog's behavior and that never works.
- Never punish for mistakes. Once you're fairly confident that the puppy understands where to relieve himself, scold him for mistakes, but don't spank, scream, or push his nose in the mess. The spot should be cleaned up, preferably with an enzyme odor eliminator. (If the odor is left untended, the dog will find it again, even if people cannot detect any smell.)
- If you don't have the time or patience for the task of housetraining,
buy, rescue or adopt
a dog from a shelter that is already housetrained. Most puppies
learn fairly quickly (especially when compared to children who can take two
years or more to graduate from diapers to underwear) to whine or scratch at
the door when they need to go out. Easy-to-train pups can be reliable in the
house at around four months of age; difficult pups may take a month or two
- If a puppy reaches four or five months of age and is still having regular accidents in the house, make sure he does not have a bladder infection, intestinal parasites, or other medical reason for his failure to signal that he needs to go outside. Then redouble the efforts to teach him what you want him to know.
Norma Bennett Woolf