Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oh No You Didn't!

...take a pee on my carpet and poo in my kitchen!

Potty training is perhaps the most daunting/frustrating/rewarding task that any new owner is going to face. Personally, most intimidating for me was the fact that housebreaking was to be my first exercise of discipline--and it's so hard to discipline a sweet little puppy without feeling guilty. But keep in mind that dogs, as pack animals, are most content when they know their place in the pecking order, and what seems harsh is merely a step toward establishing your place as alpha in your household.

1. Always be sure to clean up any accidents including getting rid of the odor. After dogs go to the bathroom, wiping up their mess isn't enough. They can sniff out the same spot where they peed and recognize it as their "toilet" area. When I brought Leo home from the shelter, he did not know how to pee outside. It was the most frustrating thing, baking outside in the sun for half an hour with no success before walking inside to the A/C (finally!)...only to have him take a leak right when he hits the kitchen. If your puppy doesn't understand the concept, keep a paper towel used to clean up any of his accidents inside, and bring it outside with you the next time you take him to potty. Set it on the ground next to him. He'll take a whiff, recognize it as his bathroom, and hopefully pop a squat!
$9/bottle. Nature's Miracle is definitely the best odor and stain remover for housebreaking. There are other brands out there, but in my experience they're a lot less effective. The price isn't too steep, and neither Leo or Charlie (the other puppy he grew up with) pottied in the same place more than once after using this stuff! Photo Source: Drs. Foster Smith
2. Discipline, discipline, discipline. There are numerous ways to housebreak your puppy. This isn't the only way, but I preferred using positive and negative reinforcement. Using time-out was very effective for Leo. If he had an accident, I would push his head down toward his mess and say "No" firmly before saying "Time out!" and putting him in the bathroom and closing the door for 20 seconds. NEVER put your puppy's nose in his accident as it can cause an infection. He just needs to be able to smell it and associate it with something he has done wrong. Puppies' short term memories are very short (up to 20 seconds). If you leave him in time out for too long, he will forget why he is being isolated. After a while, he'll be able to associate the word "time-out" with a disciplinary action. Even today, Leo understands that when I say "time-out", he needs to haul ass to the bathroom.

While many people say that you need to catch your dog in the act to discipline him, that isn't always necessarily true. Though he may not remember peeing in the house, as long as he is forced to smell it and recognize that it isn't supposed to be on the carpet or anywhere inside the house, he can and should be disciplined. Puppies' long term memories are still developing at this point, but they will quickly grasp the concept of not pottying inside with consistent reinforcement and training from you!

3. Always bring treats with you outside when your puppy goes to potty! Never walk out of the house with him without some type of treat to reward him for pottying outside. It's all about continual positive (and negative) reinforcement. Once he's outside, you can say something like "go potty." If he starts going to the bathroom, wait for him to finish, give him a treat, and drown him in praise! I've found that puppies tend to work harder for the "stinkier" treats, i.e., wetter treats that aren't biscuits. Those can be a little expensive, but food rolls are a great value that are just as tasty. All you have to do is cut up the rolls into small pieces (saves on the calories, too), toss them in a sandwich bag, and refrigerate them. Most popular are:

Natural Balance (find it at Petco
or local petstores)
Photo source:
Pet Botanics (find it at Petsmart)
Photo source: Petworldshop

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