By this time you have been given advise on house-training from your parents, brother-in-law, neighbor (who has gotten rid of six dogs), your dentist and hairdresser. Each is an expert - but unfortunately not in dog behavior and you're still collecting new stains on your carpeting. Take heart, you've come to the right place! Housetraining need not be a frustrating experience. The procedures outlined below, if followed conscientiously, will in almost every case speedily housetrain your puppy.
Punishment? Nearly everyone's approach to housetraining relies heavily on punishment, but does it work? It may eventually, but it's a slow method and has numerous pitfalls along the way, some potentially quite serious. This is not to say that you can't correct your pup for making a mistake (we will discuss this later) but let's take a good look at what really happens when we punish. Your pup becomes confused. He can't begin to understand why eliminating (a highly instinctive behavior) would cause you to yell and scream. Your pup becomes distrustful or fearful of you. He never knows when you may go off into another tirade. Your pup learns to eliminate when you are not around - you have created a sneaky house soiler! Of course none of this is what you want. Instead of punishment let's teach the pup what we do want and reinforce it. The other essential element is prevention: You will need to prevent your pup from making mistakes (especially when you are not watching him) until you have thoroughly trained him to reliably eliminate outdoors only.
Prevention is best accomplished through the use of a wire crate. The single biggest mistake you can make is to give your pup too much freedom. Because a pup generally will not eliminate in a confined area the crate enables you to teach him to "hold it" until he is taken to an appropriate place at the appropriate time. Teaching him to eliminate outdoors is a matter of taking him to the elimination area on leash and waiting - but not too long. If he eliminates within five or ten minutes praise him as he is eliminating and bring him back in. If he does not eliminate, return him to his crate - not because he is bad but because he is at risk to eliminate in your house; remember that this must be prevented. Give him 20 to 30 minutes and try again.
Does This Teach The Pup Anything?
You bet it does! Your pup is a creature of habit. You are building a routine that if implemented consistently, will become a way of life for him. He will not think of eliminating indoors because you have built a consistent pattern of eliminating outdoors. The pattern as you have seen, is established primarily through prevention and positive reinforcement. If this is the base for your housetraining, then instructive corrections can also facilitate learning if and when mistakes do occur. If corrections are to play an effective role they must be done properly. Corrections must be administered as mistakes are made. Correcting after the fact (even if you show him the mess) will quite simply make the problem worse. Every mistake must be corrected when it occurs. If your pup eliminates indoors and you do not see it happen you have trained your pup, by default, to eliminate indoors. Corrections must not create fearfulness of you. A firm "NO" is generally sufficient. If you find you are having to correct frequently on a regular basis you are doing something wrong since it is clear that the pup does not yet understand.
What About Food and Water?
These are important factors since food and water in is food and water out. A consistent schedule (food and water offered in set amounts at set times) will enable you to predict appropriate and reasonable intervals between "outside" times. At feeding times give your pup ten to fifteen minutes to eat and then take up any remainder. Use a good professional food as grocery store food tends to have excessive amounts of undigestible filler which results in more stool. Water can be offered at meal times and perhaps one or two other scheduled times. Make sure your pup is getting adequate but not continual water until housetraining is established. Thereafter, water can be made always available.
Is Clean-up a Factor?
Yes. When a dog urinates it is establishing a "scent post" to which it will frequently return. Therefore, it is important that your clean-up removes all trace of odor. A 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water will accomplish this most effectively. Do not use ammonia or cleaners containing ammonia. It is also recommended that your pup not observe you doing the clean-up as this may place you in a submissive role in the eyes of your pup. Careful observation, consistency, and a little patience are the essential ingredients in housetraining. Every pup is unique and while one pup may housetrain in a matter of days, another may take longer. Be vigilant, be consistent and remain calm. By following the recommendations given you will, in a relatively short period, train your pup to eliminate where and when you want him to.
"...he will be our friend for always and always and always." ~ Rudyard Kipling