How to Train your Dog regarding House Manners

My mother grew up in England and had her first child during World War II. She tells of “nannies” who specialized in toilet training children before they were a year old to save washing diapers. I asked her how they did that, and she said they seemed to just watch the children like hawks and put them on the toilet every hour or so. Essentially, the nannies spent their every waking hour anticipating when the child was ready to go and catching him or her just in time!

Potty training your child and housetraining your dog are the same thing. You want the child or dog to contain his waste to someplace manageable—in the bathroom for a human, outside for a dog. Actually, this behavior comes naturally over time for both species. Predators and other animals with homes or dens (yes, we’re predators) tend to keep their living quarters fairly clean, whereas many prey animals that follow their resources from place to place don’t worry about where they eliminate. At any rate, human parents understand that you cannot potty train a baby before he or she is ready,- it’s just an exercise in frustration. When the child is ready, however, it won’t take long at all. My daughter was almost exactly three years old when she potty trained herself. I thought she should have been ready when she was two! But at 2 years, 11 months, she actually became interested in the potty, sat on it herself, and proudly did her business on her own timetable.

Similarly, trying to housetrain a puppy before he is ready is a waste of energy. Pups can’t control their bowels or bladder until they’re about four months old, the approximate age when their adult teeth begin to come in. Chastising him, rubbing his nose in it, or trying other methods won’t work—when he’s ready, he’s ready. If you keep trying long enough, he will be ready, and you’ll think it was your hard work that made him successful!

What do you do, then, during the weeks when your pup is not ready? Diapers are not practical for the most part, so take your pup out frequently. Take him outside to his “potty place” after he’s eaten, of course, and every hour and a half to two hours. Praise the heck out of him when he does his business, and keep him confined when you can’t watch him. Manage his environment to maximize your chances of success. Enclosures can range from one room (I use my kitchen) to a puppy pen (worth its weight in gold), to a crate. Accidents should be seen as your problem, not your puppy’s. With very few exceptions, all dogs can be housetrained; it’s usually not very difficult— really! If you catch your puppy in the act of eliminating in the house, make a sound like you’re catching your breath, scoop him up, take—not put—him outside, wait until he does his business, praise him, and bring him back inside again. Putting a dog outside doesn’t teach him what you want him to do; you will only confuse him and make him feel lonely.

If you have to go to work all day, housetraining will take a lot longer than it does if you can monitor your pup. He just won’t be able to make it for more than a few hours without relieving himself. I suggest leaving him in a confined area or an exercise pen and using newspaper or puppy pads when you’re away. As soon as you come home, pick up the papers and return to the routine I described above. If you are using a crate, try not to have him stay in there for more than four hours at a time.

Some people who live in apartments and have very small dogs find it convenient to teach their dogs to eliminate in a sort of canine cat box. That’s fine, but do realize that once you’ve taught him to eliminate there, it will be very difficult to unlearn that behavior should you find yourself living in a house with a yard.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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