Having a house trained dog, one that will wait until they are outside or in a trained area to eliminate is one of the most important things to most pet owners. Dogs don't want to soil in their home. They do need to be taught where and when to go. There are many books, articles, and videos to help train your dog. All current information is based on providing the ability for the dog to get to an appropriate area, praise/reward for going in the right area and limiting the dog from going in the wrong areas.
Current methods that work the fastest and best for the pet are those based in rewarding going outside and avoiding accidents in the home. Like many things in life, old methods go away slowly even when there is plenty of information and help available in new ways. For many years, punishing the bad behavior has been the foundation of training. Even in children many years ago, punishing was the way we learned. Or did we really? Let's think about it.
Dogs learn by what is happening to them at the moment. When you discover an accident in the home and hit them, yell at them or rub their face in the mess, they learn that humans suddenly get agitated and will hit, yell, or drag you around. What does the mess have to do with anything? That happened a while ago? So the animal learns to be scared or anxious around the owner. How is the dog learning to tell you it needs to go out? Do you think this dog will like to come near you when they need to poop if all the attention they are really getting around elimination is punishment? Anxiety and fear decreases the ability to learn. If the dog does not hear any praise when going to the bathroom outside, how do they know they are doing what you want?
Dogs do not automatically know where to go. As a puppy they cannot hold urine or stool long (1 hour for every month of age), so they do need to be taken out automatically. They have to learn how to tell you. It is the repeated praise when they are passing their urine, taken to the same area to eliminate, and barriers such as baby gates and crates that helps them learn the places and times to go out. Feeding also stimulates elimination so routine feeding schedules are important. Remember it is what happens when they are going that they learn by. So, praise as they go, regular got to go? rituals to go to the door to tell you, and preventing mistakes has them learn fast. Often when owners that have resisted going out with the dog to praise are surprised at how fast the dog will learn provided the old areas in the house are off limits. When they have a chance to have an accident they are relieving themselves so that is a plus for the dog. They learn that under the dining room table is a place to go. The positive method is a bit more work at the very beginning in raising a dog, but in the end is less work than struggling with old punishment based techniques. In the punishment techniques, the dog does not get a chance to do right, is getting confusing messages about what was done wrong, and rarely praise for doing the right thing.
Many dogs are given up to shelters because of housebreaking problems. These are not aggressive or sick dogs. Often these same dogs do train in the shelter due to the routine feeding and getting them out and praise for it. A litter of Labrador puppies was trained at our Douglas County Shelter by Nichole, the caretaker. Regular feeding times and consistency was the key. Most of these problem dogs could have been helped by following the advice of current magazines, books, websites, and advice of your veterinarian. Dogs with housetraining problems can often be trained depending on how long the problems have been going on and checking for any medical problem that may be making the situation worse. Neutering also helps with housetraining. If your dog is not training up well ask your veterinarian staff for help. It will save your sanity and possibly your dog.
If you are having a difficult time house training your dog, please give Dr. Foote a call.
- written by Dr. Sally J. Foote