Dog Behavior

The Potty Wars, Part 1

The Three C's of House-Training Your Pup
Jacque Lynn Schultz CPDT

In an ideal world, puppies come from a highly reputable source. where someone keeps the litter area clean at all times. A new care¬taker has a fenced in yard to which no other dogs have access, and a stay at-¬home schedule that allows frequent potty trips to that yard. Under these cir¬cumstances, most dogs are housebroken in only a few weeks. However, most of us live in the Real World.
In the Real World, our puppies may have spent enough time in a second rate facility, puppy mill or pet shop to become accustomed to lying in their waste, which makes crate training diffi¬cult. We may hold jobs that preclude a schedule compatible with a puppy's developmental needs, or live in housing without fenced in yards, thus forcing us to paper train until our pups are fully immunized.

The further a lifestyle varies from the ideal, the greater the challenge housebreaking is.
Real World housetraining requires a strategy based on three components:
Consistencv: a consistent walking, schedule catered to the dog's develop¬mental stage and individual preferences.
Confinement: a method that helps build bladder and bowel control.
Cleaning: a good enzymatic odor neutralizer to clean up accidents.

Pencil him in
What is a suitable schedule? Puppies can control themselves roughly one hour for each month of age up to nine or ten hours. At three and a half to four months, they can usually stay clean for six to seven hours overnight, but soil more frequently during the day. Three walks a day is fine for most dogs eight months or older.
A puppy usually needs to eliminate after waking, eating and exercising. Charting his output will help you pre¬dict his needs more accurately. Does he soil 5 or 15 minutes after dinner, 2 or 10 after walking?

Hold it!
For the first few weeks in a new home, a new puppy may seem like a pee-¬and poop machine, but as he matures and develops muscle tone, he will learn to control himself for longer periods between potty trips. Confinement, preferably in a training crate, builds con-trol by associating the pup's distaste for soiling in his special area with soiling inside the house in general. It is patently unfair to crate a pup for longer than he is physically able to control himself. In these cases, confine him to a small space such as a bathroom or kitchen with papers at one end and a bed and toys at the other, It slows the housebreaking process and confuses the dog a bit, but it is the best option short of hiring a pet sitter if no one can be home with the puppy during an average work day.

Whether using papers or a yard, the pup should wear a leash and collar and remain under your control. If you don’t acclimate the pup to your presence while he’s relieving himself, you may create a dog who won't soil in front of you, but waits until he's back in the house and can disappear behind the sofa or under the dining room table. Do not allow puppies access to carpeting, especially wall to wall, when it nears time to elimi¬nate, for they often return to and re¬anoint accidents here. Should an acci¬dent occur, get out the odor neutralizer immediately and clean, clean, clean.
For the average dog that's really all there is to housebreaking: well timed walks, confinement and a good cleaner when all else fails. It sounds so simple, but if it were, related problems wouldn't be rated number one on our Behavior Complaint hit parade.

Potty Wars, Part II


Samarra Khaja

The Potty Wars, Part I, outlined Housebreaking 101, stressing the importance of the Three Cs: Consistency of schedule, Confinement to a training crate when alone, and Cleaning up accidents with an enzymatic odor neutralizer. Part II addresses four complaints often heard when the Potty Wars continue to rage.

I. "My dog eliminates in her crate."

There are two common causes for crate soiling. First, the crate may be too large for current housebreaking purposes,thus allowing your dog to soil at one end and liehigh and dry at the other. Second, bedding in the cratemay be acting like a diaper, wicking offensive wasteand moisture away. The solutions are easy! If the crate is too large, reduce its size with a barrier that blocks off excess room. The pup should have just enough room to stand up, turn aroundin a circle and stretch out. As for bedding, your dog must earn it by keeping her crate clean for approximatelyseven days. When she accomplishes that, add thin bedding,such as a sheet or worn towel. If that too staysclean, then you are safe to add whatever bedding youlike. Make sure you do not have unrealistic expectations andare not crating the pup for too long a stretch. And, if theproblem stems from behavior learned during an extendedstay at a pet shop, you will probably need to workhands-on with a professional trainer to develop a customizedprotocol.

II. "No matter how long we stay outside, my dog waits until we are home to soil."

This problem is common in urban dogs who were paper trained until they were fully immunized. Most folks paper train by putting down papers in one spot, taking the puppy to the spot until the dog seems to "get it," then leaving the dog in peace to eliminate. The puppy learns that housebreaking means going to a particular place in private to soil. The papers are almost incidental. Avoid this problem by simulating outdoor walking habits indoors. Put down the papers on a schedule instead of leaving them out constantly, and place them in different places instead of always the same spot. Take your pup to the papers on leash, teaching her a toileting command such as "Do your business," and praise her for a job well done. This routine easily transfers to walks outdoors.

III. "My dog keeps me outside for hours before he goes!"

Some folks walk their pups just until they eliminate and then promptly turn around and head for home. In no time, dogs learn that they can extend the fun only if they can "hold" themselves. A walk should be the reward for soiling. When you leave your home, take your dog immediately to a suitable toileting spot, such as a lamp post, patch of grass, or curb in front of a fire hydrant. It's helpful if this is a spot other dogs use. Issue your potty command. Circle the spot with your dog for five minutes, ten minutes tops. If he urinates, praise and go play. If he holds, go right back in and crate him. Try again in an hour or two. Before you know it, you should have a dog who will eliminate on command in his spot.

IV. "My dog was housebroken, but when he turned nine months old, he started baptizing the sofa near the window."

As a male dog matures and begins to lift his leg, he marks his territory, leaving scent cues for other canines. Consider castration, since an unneutered male is more likely to engage in marking behavior than a neutered one. A well-timed verbal correction when he is lifting his leg is helpful, too. Confinement will once again be necessary when he is alone until the problem is resolved.

The Potty Wars too often make adversaries of dogs and their caretakers. It should be a battle waged together, on the same side, because the spoils of this war—a clean and dry home—spell victory for all parties concerned.

Housetraining the Older Dog

Housetraining the older dog constitutes a behavior problem, and the aspects of the behavioral analysis need to be examined. In many cases, diet is a contributing factor. Some dog foods contain large amounts of filler, non-digestible additives, which do nothing for the dog but increase the amount of bulk that must be eliminated. Semi-moist foods, which contain large amounts of salt, cause the dog to drink a great deal of water, undermining a housetraining effort. In general, if the dog is eliminating as much as he is eating, he is not digesting enough of his dog food. You can change his food over (do this gradually, incorporating the new diet into the old one until he is completely eating the new diet—about3-4 weeks) or you can discuss the question of digestion problems with your veterinarian.

THE DOG’S REWARD is that he is doing what comes naturally. In some instances, the dog is making a social statement. For example, a dog who regularly uses his owner’s shoes as his bathroom is indicating that the relationship is not that of the human as the pack leader and the dog as the pack member. In such a case, the relationship needs addressing, not just the housetraining problem.
The male dog who lifts his leg in the house is marking territory. In many cases neutering is the solution.

BREEDING IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO MARKING TERRITORY, it will only make it worse. If you tell people that your dog is “MOSTLY HOUSETRAINED”, your dog is not housetrained at all. Being mostly housetrained is like being a little pregnant- you either are or you’re not. A dog either goes to the bathroom in the house on occasion, in which case he is not housetrained, or, barring illness, he never goes in the house, in which case he is housetrained.

THE DOG’S PERCEPTION of the discipline meted out for a housetraining problem has nothing to do with what the owner thinks it does. At the moment the dog is going to the bathroom, he is unaware of the consequences of his physical action. As soon as he is finished, he may turn around, see the puddle and remember that he gets yelled at when that’s there, but that is after the fact. It is too late for your dog to do anything about it, even if he knew what to do.

THE CURE is similar to the rules for training a puppy (See “Puppy Housetraining” handout). With a grown dog or older puppy (five months or more), you must keep the dog confined in a crate when not under supervision (see “CRATE TRAINING” handout). Everything else is the same as for the puppy: He is taken out, praised for going, accidents are ignored, he is fed on a regular schedule, etc.

Many people confine a dog in a garage or basement in an attempt to housetrain. Because the dog goes to the bathroom there, they believe he is not housetrained. To the dog, the smell of the basement and the garage are similar to outdoors. They both smell damp and musty. Dogs confined in basements are difficult to housetrain.

House Training basics

Teaching a puppy or an old dog to use a special toilet place is a lot easier than you would think. Two points to keep in mind:
1. Dogs are quite able to learn from 5 weeks right through old age.
2. All dogs are naturally hygienic.

Feed at set times. Do not vary your schedule, even on weekends. If you feed at 7 A.M. on a weekday, feed at that same time on Saturday and Sunday, at least until the puppy is housetrained.

Feed one diet and DO NOT vary it. DO NOT feed table scraps or treats during the training period.

Watch your puppy’s stools. If they are loose, you may be overfeeding.

Have your veterinarian check a stool sample for intestinal parasites.

Take your puppy out (on a leash) on a regular schedule, stay out with him and praise him when he relieves himself. Take your puppy out within 15 minutes to an hour after he has eaten or drunk, right after he wakes from a nap, after he has played or when he begins to sniff areas in circular motions.

When you take your puppy out, go straight to the spot where you want the toilet area to be. Stand in one place holding onto his leash, do not walk with him. Teach him this is the time and place to relieve himself.

Clean accidents with a cleaner designed for urine odor, or use water and white vinegar. DO NOT use an ammonia-based cleaner, as urine has ammonia in it and such a cleaner will attract the puppy to that spot again.

If you catch your puppy in the act of relieving himself in the house, say “STOP”, pick him up and carry him outside directly to the toilet area. Wait with him until he goes and then praise him.

If and when an accident is found, when you see the dog is aware that you have seen it, just say “ugh” loudly and with disgust, and whisk the pet to its proper toilet area. Then with the dog out of sight, you can clean up the spot. Strangely many animals find it rewarding to watch their people messing about, cleaning their accidents. Best to avoid this possibility.

Until the dog is housetrained, it should not have the run of the house. Keep it confined, using a gate, to a single room where urine and feces will cause the least damage and provoke the least annoyance, i.e., a kitchen or utility room with non-porous floors. Crate-training techniques are very useful in most cases. (See Crate Training)

Keep a chart of exactly what the puppy does at what time, including accidents. You will notice a pattern and will be able to plan his schedule.

Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES, drag your puppy over to an accident to show it to him and scold him. Or worst of all, rub his nose in it. If you don’t catch him in the act, say nothing. PUT HIM IN ANOTHER AREA AND CLEAN IT UP. CRATE TRAIN YOUR DOG.

IMPORTANT: If more than one person lives with the dog, everyone must follow this plan. Adult dogs and even puppies can learn from all. Consistent treatment from the whole family makes a better-adjusted, happier pet.

Marking territory (leaving scent cues for other canines) is not the same as urination done to relieve the bladder. Un-neutered males are more likely to engage in marking behavior than neutered ones. A well-timed verbal correction when he is lifting his leg is helpful in correcting this behavior. Once again, confinement may be necessary when he is alone until the problem is resolved.

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