HousebreakingOur housebreaking methods are a collaboration of experiences from veterinary medicine and animal behavior. Dogs are pack animals and want to be included in the family. Our housebreaking strategy uses the dog's natural instincts and behaviors. A well-trained dog will quickly become a part of the family, which maximizes your enjoyment and increases your human-animal bond.
Veterinary CareProper veterinary care is essential to ensure successful and long-lasting housebreaking success. Many dogs urinate and defecate in a house because they were never properly trained. However, there can be a medical reason for a dog eliminating inappropriately in the house.
Before you begin any housebreaking activity, it is important to be sure your puppy is in optimal health. Besides the basic need for a complete vaccination and preventative medicine program, it is important to rule out current medical conditions that may contribute to a housebreaking problem.
A health problem, if undetected, can hinder any progress you may make. A puppy that is exhibiting more than a normal need to urinate, or is drinking excessively may have a bladder infection or another urinary tract problem. Intestinal parasites and poor diet can cause diarrhea, inconsistent stools or a more frequent need to defecate. Combined medical and behavioral treatment can help to affect control and management of these conditions.
EquipmentObtaining and using proper equipment is essential to a successful housebreaking experience. Dogs are pack animals and they rest and retreat to a den for safety and protection. Our family dogs are instinctive animals and they have what we call a “denning” instinct. This means they will not go to the bathroom where they sleep (e.g., in their den). We utilize this instinct when we are housebreaking in the form of crates.
Crates are now available in many styles. Some families prefer the wire crate so they can view the dog and the dog can see out. We prefer the plastic type, especially for puppies and dogs that shed heavily. We will discuss the pros and cons in more detail later.
An appropriate collar and leash are necessary to help control the dog during the training program. We recommend a nylon quick release collar that can be adjusted as the puppy grows. For training, cotton or leather leashes are easier to grip and gentler on the hands than nylon or chain leashes. For housebreaking, we recommend a nylon or other inexpensive leash. As with any housebreaking program, accidents are bound to happen. Some products are better than others in removing stains and eliminating odors. After removing any solid waste and washing the area, it is important to neutralize and remove any odor. A home remedy that has been effective is a solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% water. Other products are available commercially. Experiment until you find the one that works the best for you. Be careful with any cleaner to make sure it does not bleach or stain the carpet.
MethodKeeping control of your puppy at all times during the training process is the most important lesson you must remember. Whenever the puppy is outside of her crate, she must be attached to a six-foot leash with you attached to the other end. By doing this, the puppy will never be out of your sight or control. If the dog starts to eliminate in the house you are in the position to immediately make the proper correction. Usually a firm “No” and quickly getting the dog outside to her elimination area will work as a correction. If you do not catch the puppy in the act, or you come across an accident after the fact, you cannot give a correction.
The correction is the most effective if given while a dog is in the process of having an “accident.” If the leash is not with you when the dog is having an accident, you will not be in an effective position to give a correction. It will also be difficult for the puppy to chew on inappropriate objects when they are always supervised. When you cannot be attached to your dog she should be in her crate, even if you must leave the room for a second. Never give the dog an unsupervised opportunity to make a mistake. This is a time consuming period in your life with your puppy, but it does not last forever. Having patience is beneficial.
Many owners are anxious about leaving their dog in a crate. Remember dogs are denning animals and if done properly the crate can become a very nice safe place for your dog to be when you (the alpha) are not around. To teach a dog that the crate is a good place to be, we must take a few steps to ensure a crate is a positive place for the puppy to be.
First, make sure the crate is in a high traffic area in your home, such as a kitchen, living room or a dining room. By high traffic, we mean some place the family walks through all of the time. The position of the crate in the home is important to the puppy because they are pack animals and do not want to be isolated away from the pack.
Second, we should never PUT the puppy in the crate, it is very important she goes into the crate by herself. The crate must be a positive place for her to go. Use a food treat and a command to get the puppy to go into the crate on her own for the food. Give a command such as, “Puppy, kennel” and show the puppy the food and lure her into the kennel, then let her back out. Repeat until she willingly goes into the kennel for food. Always keep a jar of food close by the kennel and every time you ask the puppy to go into the kennel, she gets a few kernels of her own food as a reward. If you are on a twice a day feeding schedule, you may also want to feed your dog her daily meals in the crate. Do not leave food in the kennel. The food reward for kenneling is something you will always do for the dog even after she learns this behavior. By changing the connotation of the crate from, “some place I go when Alpha leaves me” to “some place I go for food,” you make the crate a positive place your puppy will enjoy.
If you have a puppy that whines or cries in the crate when they can see or hear you, it is sometimes helpful to cover the crate with a towel or blanket. You can leave one corner open for fresh air. You may want to use a plastic crate if you use this method. It is harder for the puppy to pull the blanket into the crate. By covering the crate, you are making the den a dark, quiet place.
If the dog or puppy continues to whine in the crate, be careful not to talk to her or draw attention to her behavior. Quietly walk over to the crate and pick the front end of the crate off the floor about one inch and drop it. Again, do not say anything to the dog, not even a “No” correction. By talking to the puppy, you are responding and in essence rewarding the whining behavior. You may have to repeat the crate drop a couple of times.
Never let the puppy out of the crate when she is whining or barking. Dogs are very intelligent creatures and she will quickly learn by simply barking and making noise, she will get out. Wait until she is quiet and then let her out of the crate.