-Written by Kayla Tardivel.
House training can be one of the most frustrating things to work through as a new puppy owner. So many people struggle with it, and it’s something you just can’t ignore! But like with any training, the first thing we need to realize is that dogs don’t come hard-wired to live in our world. They don’t speak our language, so the first thing to do is set them up for success. Managing the environment is everything.
We all know that a loose dog in the house can lead to many things. They might chew the baseboards, or eat a sock, or have an accident in the hallway, but you might not find out about it until you’re stepping in it. The best way to manage this situation is to have them enclosed. Whether this is a kennel, or an x-pen, or a baby gate keeping them in a small area, as long as they don’t have free roam of the house.
A couple of tips for success:
1. Make sure your dog doesn’t have too much water 30 minutes before being put in their enclosure and make sure they empty their bladder before spending time in their enclosure. A quick walk or some time outside will do the trick.
2. Measure the time they are in the enclosure. Remember, young puppies have underdeveloped bladders and can’t “hold it” for very long. The rule of thumb is the number of months they are + 1 is the number of hours they can hold their bladder. However, every dog is different and you may have to adjust the time after some trial and error.
3.Once you understand the time frame you have to work with, you will need to give them potty breaks BEFORE they would typically have an accident. Remember, we have to set them up for success. This may mean you need to have someone pop by your house a few times a day while you’re at work. A friend, a family member, or see if there are any dog walkers in your area that can drop in.
Don’t give up!
As hard as we try, accidents will still happen. Not that you should give up. Dogs don’t know that what they are doing is an unwanted behaviour. Patience and consistency will get the job done. So let’s talk about what you should do when you find your pup going to the bathroom in the house.
It is important to take them out as soon as you notice “potty behaviour”. At first, this might mean you’re dragging them outside while they’re in the middle of doing their business. If you want them to go to a specific spot in the yard, take them there directly. As you learn their body language, you will learn the signs of when they are about to go. They might walk a little differently and sniff around for a place to go. Set them up for success and get them outside before they have an accident in the house.
Now it’s time to focus on what to do when they are successful.
Dogs learn through association, so we want them to think going potty outside is the best darn thing since sliced bread. If you listened to our last podcast, you will know about clicker training, and how we teach dogs to associate the clicker with a treat. If you click and give them a tasty treat after each time they go potty outside, they will learn quickly that going potty outside gets them a very nice reward. Likewise, they will associate going inside the house results in being interrupted and rushed outside. Not as motivating.
Once you feel confident that you can take the enclosure away, you will still need to monitor your dog, and continue to reward them every time they go potty outside. This part of the training won’t be forever, it’s just until the dog learns this behaviour with and without an enclosure involved.
Including the family.
Now, if you’ve got a family with young kids, it is possible for young kids to be involved with what you are doing. Kids as young as 2-years-old can handle a clicker or throw a treat. Teach your children how to operate the clicker, and you can be the one who delivers the treat. If you have multiple kids who want to be involved, have them take turns with the different jobs. This will help the puppy learn to listen to them, while helping your kids learn how to communicate with the puppy in a safe and healthy way.
Life can get busy, but with the tips provided above you can find ways to navigate your day-to-day so all of you can co-exist together. It won’t be easy and there is no shame in enlisting the help of friends, family or outside sources.