By Jonann Locher
Acquiring a dog should be planned, not a spur-of-the-moment decision. It is advantageous to get the dog at the beginning of a vacation week, when there will be time to set the stage for success. If housebreaking is made the #1 PRIORITY, from the beginning, it can be accomplished in a week or two. If it is "put on the back burner", then the wrong behavior may become an ingrained habit.
Negative learning occurs if the dog eliminates on the carpeting and the owner later discovers the accident and punishes. The negative learning is twofold. First, the dog learns "This is where I go" and second, he learns "You aren't a very nice person". Positive prevention is a much more successful approach. The quickest way to attain a trained dog is to never allow for a mistake. The unhousebroken dog should be under one of three conditions at all times:
1. WALK -- VERY OFTEN!!!!!!!! The main goal is to have the dog outside in the appropriate area every time he has to go. Being a creature of habit, the dog will soon learn that THAT area is for eliminating. Walk around the area w/the dog. He will follow you and the movement will stimulate elimination. It's a lot of work to walk the dog often enough, but it is also the only way to clearly communicate the correct behavior. A common housebreaking mistake is to simply put the dog outside by himself. The dog often spends the entire outside time whining and clawing to get in; only to eliminate in the house as soon as he gets in. Another problem with just putting the dog outside is that the dog often learns to never go in the presence of a person. This creates a lot of confusion, especially when you go places with your pet, and he feels he needs to hide from you (behind the drapes, etc.) in order to eliminate.
2. WATCH -- EVERY MOVE AROUND THE HOUSE!!!!!!! A person whose dog is not housebroken should never wonder "Where is the dog"?!! You should always have one eye on the dog -- even if you have to barricade him in the room or attach him to your wrist or belt w/a cord or leash (often termed the "umbilical cord" method). This constant monitoring is necessary to prevent mistakes by intervening and getting the dog out in time or to give a well-timed correction ( a LOUD "OUTSIDE" should be spoken to the dog) as the accident is occurring.
3. CONFINE EVERY MOMENT #1 & #2 ARE NOT POSSIBLE!!!!!! Crate the dog if you cannot be with them. Use a baby gate to confine in a small dog-safe area and keep dog safe toys with the dog (not rawhides!). Crate a puppy near your bed(room) so you can hear him if he needs to go out during the night. Remember rule of thumb for puppies- -- for each month of age for the puppy you can expect him to hold it for 1 hour + 1 extra hour. For example, a 4 month old puppy should be able to hold it for 5 hours maximum.
Always take the dog out through the same door. Hang a bell at the knob at nose level. Tap the bell before opening the door and "Outside", then rush the dog out to his area. He will soon learn to ring the bell to let you know when he needs to go out. Installing a dog door is another idea, which makes housetraining and pet ownership in general a lot more carefree (assuming you have a fenced yard).
Proper cleanup is a crucial part of housebreaking. After an accident, rush the dog outside, praise him in the yard, then sneak back in w/out him to do an out of sight cleanup. Use an enzyme solution, specially formulated for neutralizing urine (Nature's Miracle or White Vinegar works too). The wrong cleaning solution will actually encourage your pet to return to the same spot to urinate as scent plays such an important role in dog behavior. (Do Not use cleaners with ammonia!)
Putting the behavior will be most helpful for communicating with your dog in strange surroundings that it is OK to go. During elimination, always repeat the same word or phrase (such as "Go Potty" or "Go Do It") in a soft, praising tone while the dog is eliminating. As soon as the dog is finished, praise and pet him enthusiastically while telling him he is a "Good Dog" or it was a "Good Potty". Remember dogs learn by association and repetition ? ROUTINE! If he is to learn that "Good Dog" is a reward, then the phrase should be paired with real physical rewards (NOT with elimination!). Saying "Good Dog" while he is eliminating, will likely teach him that "Good Dog" means to eliminate. Then, when you praise him around the house for various good deeds, he will think you are telling him to "go" in the house.
A housebreaking problem, like many other canine bad habits, is a self-rewarding behavior. In other words, the dog instantly feels better when he does the behavior (unless you are there to make him feel otherwise). Therefore, please adhere to the above and in 2 weeks you will have a successful housetrained dog!!