Dog House Training

Dog House Training

Dog House TrainingIf there’s one thing our customers (the human ones, that is!) complain to us about, it’s that their dog doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not acceptable to eliminate in the house.

After hearing countless stories from innumerable dog owners, our conclusion is that it’s not really the dog’s fault. It’s the owners who aren’t being consistent or vigilant.

Now please don’t be upset. We know you’ve tried and you’ve done your best. We know you think you’ve been consistent and vigilant. But it’s very likely that you’ve used methods you learned from your sister, or your work colleague, or the boy down the street. Or maybe you never worked at it because the dogs you grew up with seemed to “get it” with no training whatsoever!

Whatever the reason, you still have this problem. Here’s how you’re going to solve it once and for all.

Record the Timing and Circumstances of Your Housetraining Problem

First, write down on a piece of paper how often your dog has an “accident” in your home, using time of day as your parameter. For example: “Once in the morning and once in the late evening.” You may be able to write down specific times of the day (“7am, 9am, and 4pm”), or you may simply have to write “4-5 times daily with absolutely no predictability.” Whatever your situation, put it down in factual – not emotional – terms.

Next, write down the circumstances surrounding the accidents, if there are any. For example, “most often while I am showering,” or “always when I am at work,” or “whenever the children start playing.” You get the idea.

The Keys to Housetraining Success

You may think your dog knows he shouldn’t eliminate in the house, because he cowers or slinks away when you find the mess.

Your dog needs to know three things before you are done housetraining:

He needs to fully understand what’s expected of him.
He has learned that there is very good reason to eliminate outside.
He has developed physical control over his bladder and sphincter muscles.

You need to give him enough opportunities, enough positive reinforcement, and muscle training, all while increasing the time between breaks very gradually.

What’s the Right Number of Opportunities?

The appropriate number of opportunities depends on your dog’s age. Here are some general guidelines.

If he is under 5 months old, then he needs to get outside every 40-90 minutes during the day, and every 3-4 hours overnight.
5-12 months old: Every 90-150 minutes during the day, and every 4-6 hours overnight.
1-2 years old: Every 3-4 hours during the day, and every 7-8 hours overnight
2+ years: Every 4-5 hours during the day, and every 8-10 hours overnight.

These are only estimates. Use timing that he can handle successfully, no matter what his age. The key is to determine realistically the times he has success, and to gradually increase those times.

How Do I Adequately Reinforce The Right Behavior?

This is where many dog owners fall flat, because it’s the most labour-intensive part of housetraining. But you must do it, and you must do it consistently and without fail, every single time he goes outside to eliminate.

Put some tiny favourite treats in your pocket, put your dog on his lead and walk him out to a location near your home where you would like him to eliminate. Remain in that one spot without walking around and without talking to your dog, and wait for him to eliminate.

If, in the past, you have simply allowed him to go outside by himself, or if you have taken him for a walk around the neighbourhood, this will confuse him and he will take some time to get used to the new method. Bring a book, a chair and a cup of tea. You may be waiting for 20-40 minutes before anything happens. With practice and adequate reinforcement, your waiting time will lessen dramatically.
As soon as he eliminates, praise him profusely using whatever your elimination phrase is (“Good piddle!”) while giving him several tiny treats, one at a time.

Now take him for a 5-10 minute walk. When he eliminates during this walk, praise and treat him again.

Why this odd routine? It teaches him to eliminate immediately when he goes outside rather than postponing elimination in order to lengthen his walkies. This helps you know for certain that your dog is reliably empty.

How, When and Why Should I Confine Him In the House?

After his elimination and walk, allow your dog some free time in the house. Remember when you wrote down how often he has an accident? The free time period should be approximately 50-75% of that time. For example, if he tends to eliminate after 1 hour in the house, then he get 30 minutes free and 30-45 minutes confined, then straight outside for the elimination stand/praise/treat/walk routine as before. If he tends to eliminate after 3 hours in the house, then you should allow 2 hours of free time before going out again.

With younger dogs you should go through this routine all day. With older dogs, you can limit this component to the circumstances surrounding the usual accident times, such as when you are showering or away from home.

To confine him you will use a crate or cage, or his lead tied to something strong. If it’s a cage, it must be only big enough for your dog to stand up, lie down, and turn around in. Any bigger and it’s almost useless.

We hate crates and cages. And we want you to give them away as soon as your dog will “hold it” reliably. But these are the best tools for teaching bladder and sphincter control, and a very important component to housetraining. Your dog will learn how to control his muscles even when he would prefer to eliminate – just like we humans do every day.

If you don’t have (or refuse to use) a cage, then for confinement you’ll have to leash him and tie the end to something strong, allowing him enough lead to stand, turn around, and lie down without getting tangled. Don’t give him too much lead – he needs to understand that if he eliminates, he will have to lie in it. And he will avoid this scenario by learning to use his control muscles.

Please note that a bathroom, basement or other room will NOT serve to teach your dog to hold it. The space must be quite small in order for your dog to choose to use his control muscles. Chew toys and bones are encouraged during confinement times. Ignore the complaints and they will diminish and disappear. (If the dog is injuring himself trying to get out, please see our Severe Separation Anxiety page.)

Your Daily Routine Summary

Get up, throw your coat on, take dog out of overnight confinement and stand outside with treats and book. Praise/treat, now go for a walk with praise/treat for more elimination. Now that you are certain your dog is empty, go home and allow appropriate free inside time and then confine for appropriate time. Repeat all day, or only during problem times/circumstances, with extended periods during night time sleep hours. Increase free and cage time gradually as long as there are no accidents.

How Will He Get Better At This?

Provided there are NO accidents, each free time and confined time should be 5-10 minutes longer than the last until you have reached 3 hours of confinement. When there’s an accident, you need to regress to the past success time and repeat a few times before adding time again.

So let’s say he has progressed to freely holding it in your house for 2 hours, and then can hold it for another 3 hours in the cage, for a total of 5 hours. Now it’s time to increase his free time in 10-15 minute increments while reducing his confinement time by the same 10-15 minutes, so that the total of 5 hours remains the same. This will continue until he is freely moving about your house for 5 hours during the daytime without an accident, and zero confinement!

Zara;s Doggy Day Care can help with your every day house training routine. They also provide dog boarding and dog day care facilities in Surrey.

Congratulations on your fully and successfully housetrained dog!

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