House Training 101

House Training 101

by Dr. Debra F. Horwitz | Behavior Bits

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Whether you have brought home a new puppy or an adult dog that is unfamiliar to you, the first thing to teach them is house training. A few simple rules can help pave the way. First, new puppies and most dogs will need to go outside within 5-20 minutes after they finish a meal. Always go outside with them; perhaps on a leash so you can be close by. Use some kind of key phrase such as “go potty” to indicate what you want them to do. When they crouch and eliminate, say “good dog” in a soft tone and give them a tiny treat when they are done. What you are rewarding is not going to the bathroom. If the dog has a full bladder or bowel emptying is rewarding enough for them. But, what you want to reward is elimination when you tell them to and where you ask them to. You must go outside with your dog because the reward must come immediately after elimination-within 3-5 seconds and not when they come back to the house. If you wait until they return to the house you have rewarded them for coming inside, which isn’t bad but what you want to do initially is reward elimination outdoors.

Next, always supervise your puppy or dog when they are indoors. Puppies and dogs often need to eliminate when they wake up and after they play. Do not let them wander the house unobserved or they might feel the need to eliminate in an unwanted location. Finally, if the puppy or dog does wander off and later you find urine or stool, never drag them back to the location and yell at them or punish them. Remember the 3-5 seconds for the reward? Well, for punishment to be meaningful it must also come within 3-5 seconds as well. So just put the dog outside, clean up the mess and vow to watch her more carefully next time.

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About the Author

Dr. Debra Horwitz is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists as well as an author, editor and co-editor of several books; including Decoding Your Dog and Decoding Your Cat.


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