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8 Simple Steps to House Training Your Puppy or Adult Dog

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Whether house training a new puppy or an adult dog the process is much the same.  Here are some simple steps to follow to get your dog toileting where they should, outside!

Step 1: Check with your veterinarian

If you have an adult dog that is toileting in the house check with your veterinarian to make sure there are no physical issues that could be causing the problem. If there is, no amount of training in the world can fix it. Once you get the all clear from your vet proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Clean soiled areas

Clean all soiled areas thoroughly with a proper cleaner. Once your dog soils your carpet or flooring his scent (bacteria) will cause him to return to that spot over and over again. You will need a cleaner with an enzyme ingredient (a good one is Nature’s Miracle, available at most large pet stores). This will kill the bacteria that your dog smells. Standard carpet cleaning won’t do it. You must have the bacteria killing enzyme.

Step 3: Feeding routine

Getting your dog on a regular feeding routine will greatly increase your for success. For puppies 3 meals a day (morning, midday and evening) is recommended and for adult dogs 2 meals a day (morning and evening) are recommend. DO NOT FREE FEED YOUR DOG! Free feeding is when you leave food out all the time. Which means your dog eats a little, drinks a little and eats a little, drinks a little, which translates to pee a little, poop a little and so on. The feeding ritual is of great importance both from a leadership standpoint, a housetraining standpoint and a dental health standpoint. I could go on and on but I won’t.

Here is how a feeding schedule should go. For this example and simplicity sake we will say my dog needs 2 cups of food daily to maintain a healthy weight. So, 1 cup in the am and 1 cup in the pm. I present the food (I won’t even touch on what manners should be in place so as to reward calm behavior. Email me if you want to know) to my dog. When the food goes down she has 15 minutes to eat it. Now my dog eats it in less than 2 minutes, but if your dog has been free feeding they are used to the food being there all the time so they may eat some, all or sniff it and walk off thinking it will be there later. Now ladies (and some gents) here is where you will need a strong constitution (think about your carpet and your floors, how badly do you really want to housetrain your dog???) because if your dog eats just some or none after the 15 minutes (set a timer) time you must take the food up and not give anything else (food or treats) to your dog till the next mealtime. Your dog might even skip a several meals (2-4 even!) but trust me when I say that I have never met a dog that will starve itself and your dog won’t either. Your dog will learn that when food is available they should (and will) eat it. If your dog eats some of the food, say ½ of that cup then at the next meal you would add ½ cup to make the 1 cup serving. Once you get your dog on a feeding schedule you will be so happy that you did.

Step 4:  Regular exercise

Regular exercise is a must to keep a dog’s system running smoothly. Regular walks will cause your dog to have to eliminate fully. Letting your dog out in the back yard, or taking them out on a leash only to stand there waiting for them to potty just won’t do it. Does this sound familiar… You let your dog out to toilet. You see them pee and poop. They come back in and 10-15 minutes later they toilet in your house! That is because they did not have enough activity to move ALL the fluids and solids through their body so they only did what was emergent at the time. Puppies have to toilet after they have slept/napped, played, walked and trained. Even adult dogs who have not been properly housetrained should be taken outside after these activities.

Step 5: Supervise

Supervision is key in keeping your dog from toileting in the house. When I say supervision I mean, eyeballs on the dog! If you are watching television you are not supervising the dog, if you are making dinner, taking a shower, playing with kids, checking your facebook, working from home etc you are not supervising the dog. Without proper supervision your dog can and will toilet in the house. Watch for signs that your dog has to go…circling, sniffing etc. Better yet take them outside regularly before they have an opportunity to even think about toileting in your house.

Step 6: crate

The crate is a tool that if used properly will become a place that your dog may very well go to on their own, even when not asked to. When housetraining your dog or puppy think “baby”. If you had a human baby and you couldn’t supervise him because you had other things to do at the moment what would you do? You would put him in a playpen, crib, baby swing etc. Those are all tools to keep your baby safe and out of harms way when you have to get things done. A crate is a similar tool. The way crate training works is that it restricts the dog’s movement thereby lessening the chances of your dog having to go to the bathroom, as well as keeping them from sneaking off to toilet in your house. It is perfectly acceptable to crate your dog when you can’t supervise or are away from the house as long as you give your dog positive outlets for their energy and give them what they need when you are around. Meaning, structured walks every day, some playtime, snuggle time and attention.

Step 7: Reward positive behavior

Rewarding the behavior you want is imperative in this process. I can’t stress this enough. When your dog toilets outside don’t just say “good dog” , get excited, praise emphatically, pet the dog and give it a treat. Really get in there and make it known that this is where you want them to go.  I always say “how would you act if you just won a million dollars?” act like that! Your dog will think “wow, I must have done something awesome!” because they did!

Step 8: Ignore accidents

The goal of this program is to make it impossible for your dog to have an accident in the house but if they do have an accident, let’s be clear here, it’s because you didn’t take them out soon enough, you weren’t supervising properly or you didn’t walk them. So then it is really not their fault. Look accidents happen, we are all human. When they do, unless you are seeing the dog do it you are to ignore it and move on. If you see the dog starting to go or they are in the process of toileting in the house make a sound “At, at, at!” short, sharp and loud. This will cause the dog to tense up and stop. You can then take the dog outside and give them a few minutes to relax and they will most likely finish what they started, after which you can praise them immensely. Reminding them that when they go outside good things happen!

Terie Hansen, Professional Dog Trainer, Dog Walker, Pet Sitter & Owner at Good Dog! Coaching & Pet Care-may be reached at 404-422-9832

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