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House Training Dos and Don’ts

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 3:45pm
Brindle and white puppy with red collar on

You’ve brought a new dog into your home—congratulations! Now comes your first dog-training challenge: house training.

House training is not an exact science—there’s no sure-fire formula or timetable that will work for every dog. The important thing is to make it a positive, not a stressful, experience. Being attentive, patient and consistent are the keys to success, along with the following dos and don’ts:

Do: Closely supervise your dog. Limit the dog’s run of the house to the one or two rooms where you are able to see her at all times. Dogs usually show “pre-pottying” behavior such as sniffing, circling and walking with stiff back legs; all signs that you should get her to the potty area ASAP! As the training begins to take hold, you can slowly enlarge her territory as she learns where the potty area is—and that the house is not a toilet!

Don’t: Yell at or spank a dog for a mess she made earlier. If you catch her in the act, it’s okay to startle her by clapping or making a noise (hopefully this will stop her long enough for you to whisk her outside). But a dog will not learn anything by being scolded for a past accident, even one a few minutes old. Just clean it up and soldier on.

Do: Offer big, enthusiastic praise when she gets it right. Whether your goal is for your dog to eliminate on pee pads indoors or to do it outside, you have to really throw a party for her when she succeeds. Lavish her with praise, affection and some yummy treats!

Don’t: Rub her face in it. Ever!!! In addition to this action making your dog fear you, she’s incapable of making the connection that it’s the act of soiling indoors you object to—to her, you just really hate pee and poop. If she thinks that the waste itself is what you dislike, she’ll only get sneakier about hiding it from you.

For more detailed advice on house training specific to your pet, please visit our Virtual Pet Behaviorist articles on Weekend Crate Training, House Training Your Puppy, House Training Your Adult Dog or House Training Your Puppy Mill Dog.

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BobbiF

I adopted a puppy from a shelter & used the bell by the door for training her. I was able to pickup a string of bells at Walmart in the pet section. This system worked great! A few months later I found a skinny kitten outside of my local grocery store. I just couldn't walk away from the poor little thing so I brought him home. To my surprise the dog taught the kitten to ring the bell when he wanted to go out.

I've had many dogs in my lifetime and using the bell by the door is by far the easiest way I have found to potty train your pet.

DeborahLeeWard

I like this advise it sounds reasonable. Keeping it positive will get best resuls.

Squillions

I love this! My sister gives the command, "Hurry up!" to her dog to get her to urinate without wandering about aimlessly. I had no idea that was the pee command the first time I dog sat for my sister and brother-in-law, but I learned it pretty quickly. :-)

John

Understand that there are two concepts your new friend has to understand. 1) Its NOT good to go inside. 2) It IS good to go outside. An obvious distinction to us, but no so much to them when "going" just seems like, well, going.

wolfgirlie

I do the bells at the outdoor access doors. Maxx is 4yrs. and he'll still ring the bells(ONLY ON 1 DOOR NOW)
He'll ring in the middle of the night, if it's urgent.
a good way to train.

Banjomama

My parents hung bells on their back door to potty train their labrador pup (not a pup anymore). It worked very well. But I was at their house recently and it occurred to me that THEY are the ones who got trained. No matter what my parents are doing, if they hear those bells jingle at all, they jump up and race to the back door to let the dog out, even in the middle of the night! He probably thinks they are very well trained. lol. (on the other hand, the number of accidents that dog has had indoors can probably be counted on one hand...and he's 7 years old now. So it obviously works!)

Zizi Renee Wyatt

I have a Chihuahua mix named ducky. she is wonderful and I take her out as often as I can. My friend will come and take her to her house for play dates with her dogs, unfortunately ducky sometimes has accidents there and the other day she pooped on my friends carpet and she rubbed Ducky's nose in it. thank you for listing that don't.

Bobby

Excellent advice. I've taken in many dogs from our local shelter and positive reinforcement is the key to success. It generally takes me just a few weeks to help them understand, in fact I think they prefer going outside. The first few weeks I watch them constantly and if I must run an errand I put the dog in a kennel cage with plenty of water. I never stay gone more than two hours and if they had to go in the kennel cage I never punish or scold! Generally (I'm retired) I take them outside about every hour to ninety minutes and when they go I lavish them with praise. Dogs love us so much that praise means so much to them and punishment is often not understood. Just watch your dog and in a few short weeks you will both be happy.

Cathie Carroll

I think you're not EVER supposed to put food OR water in the crate with the dog. It's not fair to offer food/water and no way to get outside to do their business.

Thank you for rescuing from your local shelter!!! God bless you!

D

I disagree. Feeding and watering the dog in the crate is fine and helps the crate become a place of comfort.

However, during housebreaking, you won't want to free-feed or free-water in the crate--or anywhere else--because, if you know when it goes in, you can predict when it needs to come out. The pup should be offered food several times a day and water a few more, and walks should take place about 20 minutes or so after food/water has been ingested. Then the pup should not be made to wait longer than 1 hour per age in months +1 (so 4 hours MAX for 3-month-old puppy) before going out again. Doing all this on a strict schedule, with gradually increasing lengths of time between walks (~15 minutes increase, every three days, no more than an hour a month) and gradually decreasing offerings of food (in terms of number of times, not total amounts), will help the pup understand that it's never too long to the next walk to hold it.

If you need to be away too long to feel good about leaving the pup with no water, try freezing some water into a bowl that will melt slowly so that the pup can lick it to quench any thirst, but not quickly fill it's bladder.

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