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House Training

House training is probably one of the number one reasons that families surrender their dogs to shelters. This is NOT a behavior problem with the dog. Dogs, like any animal, have to relieve themselves. It's natural and necessary. Unlike other animals, however, one of the reasons dogs make great house pets, is their ability to learn the house rules.

House training is NOT teaching your dog to not to relieve themselves in the house, it is a a matter of teaching your dog to relieve themselves in the appropriate place. It is also learning when your dog needs to go!

Please keep in mind that although a dog is listed at shelters and rescues as being house-trained, every house is different, and YOU will still need to learn your dog's habits and establish a routine, based on the needs of your dog and your household routines.

When House training, your dog will require constant supervision, access to the out-doors, a "safe zone" for those times they cannot be with you, and a crate (depending on the age and level of need).

Depending on what motivates your dog, such as treats, praise or a toy, will help you motivate your dog in the process of training them to relieve themselves outside. While treats are a great motivator/reward, keep in mind that what goes in, must come out. So, limit the food rewards to a taste or small piece of a treat.

To begin House training, be sure you have your dog ready with a collar/harness and leash. This will come in handy for House training, as well as, leashed walk training. It's always a good idea to keep a collar on your dog, with id/rabies tags, at all times. Hang the leash by the door.

To start, you need to establish a routine for going outside. Use a set command word, like "outside" or "potty" and be consistent. Use a different command word for walks or going outside just to play. Make your dog sit before opening the door to go outside. This helps reduce the dog's need to command the door, and you, when it's time to do their business. As with any training, consistency is key in working on the processes you want to teach your dog. Do not reward for sitting, in this case, as the goal is not to sit, but to relieve themselves outside.

When Outside: Take your dog outside to a designated area. While in this area, as soon as they start to go potty, give them a command, like "go potty" to help them associate the location with the process. Take them to this same area every time, and reward them immediately after they relieve themselves. Wait too long and they will associate the reward with whatever they are doing, like going back inside. Do not let them wonder, while in training. They have a job to do, first. Do not leave them alone, while in training, either: YOU have a job to do, too. You need to take the time to stay and insure your dog is relieving themselves.

Once they stop pulling on the leash, to go elsewhere, during the potty process, you can do this without the leash. Keep distractions to a minimum, and don't allow them to do anything else until they finish. If they do not go potty, take them inside and put them in a kennel for about 5 minutes, and repeat the process until they eliminate themselves. Praise them for doing what they are there to do, the second they do it. "Good job" or other happy praise words go a long way in this and other training processes.

When Inside: Think of your house as a "den". Most dogs will not eliminate where they eat and/or sleep. While the crate is a great mini-den for the dog, the house is YOUR den, and the dog needs to learn not to eliminate in your den.

The crate should only be used when your dog is not supervised. Rooms and areas that are off limits to the dog, need to be presented to the dog, as a part of the den. A dog that eliminates in secret, will do this in areas that they believe are NOT a part of the over-all den. So, spend time in all areas of your house, with your dog, then use your command training to restrict areas.

Keep in mind that the process of training your dog to eliminate outside, is also a process of expanding their den to include your den.

With new dogs and puppies, attach a leash to your dog, no more than 4' to 6' in length. Let them drag the leash around. Make sure you keep the leash in your site, at all times, which keeps your dog within reach when they decide to wonder. Tie the leash to your chair of belt-loop, if necessary, to ensure that you are paying attention to where your dog is. If you dog wonders off to relieve themselves, this is NOT their fault, it is YOUR fault for not paying close attention. If you cannot supervise your dog, place them in their crate.

DO NOT punish your dog for accidents that you find, as they will not associate the punishment with the mess on the floor. Instead, realize that you need to pay more attention to their cues. Most dogs will sniff around in circles or start to squat, when it's time to go. If you catch your dog in the act, interrupt them and immediately take them outside. DO NOT get angry or yell at your dog for this, as it can cause them to just find places where you do not see them, to relieve themselves without being caught.

Set a feeding schedule that is consistent. Usually your dog will need to take a potty break within 15 - 30 minutes after eating. This is also true for puppies when they are playing. Ensure that young puppies have a break to potty after every change of activity.

In this, it's good to remember that puppies younger than 5 months cannot hold their bladder for longer than a couple hours, and they need regular trips outside. It is easier to start out with good habits of consistency and commands, than it is to break bad habits formed over time.

When using a crate, place the kennel in a high traffic area, near the door, so that your puppy does not feel isolated. Puppies less than 4 months old, should not be confined longer than 2 hours; more than 4 months old, no more than 4 hours. Ensure that your puppy has lots of exercise and play time. Take your dog outside immediately when you let them out of the crate. DO NOT let them out, if they are crying, barking or making other noises, as this will teach them that making noise will get them out.

Day Crate: For extended periods, be sure to provide your dog with activity toys, such as kongs or other non-shreadable toys. Rotate the toys to aid with boredom and remove all toys at night, if this is where they will sleep. Keep in mind that it is best to give your dog a break, a some point during a full day in a kennel. If this is not possible, you might ensure that your dog is not being crated on a full tummy and/or bladder. For those that need to crate for a full day, it is essential that you dog is allowed to relieve themselves on a strict and regular schedule. It may be helpful to feed only once per day, in the early evening, to help regulate the timeline of need. If this is the case, give them a hearty treat biscuit in the morning so they don't have too empty a tummy during the day.

Night Crate: A dog will usually sleep through the night as their metabolism slows down, just as yours does. At night, it is likely they can hold it for up to 8 hours. This is not the rule, and it is best that you set a routine to go potty before going to bed or placing your dog in the crate for the night. With puppies, the hourly rule stands, so be prepared to give your puppy a potty break every 2-4 hours until their bladder is developed enough to hold it for up to 8 hours. Best rule of thumb, no feeding or water after 8pm, with minimal snacks. Just like day time, if your dog eats or drinks, they will need to relieve themselves within 15 - 30 minutes after.

The Walk: Ensure that you dog relieves themselves before you go for a walk. Taking your dog for a walk should be for exercise, not for relieving themselves. If they relieve themselves and you take them home, they will associate the 'end' of the walk with relieving themselves and may hold it, to prevent the walk from ending.

Paper or Pad Training: Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to paper-train or pad-train your dog. This is counter-productive to the idea of teaching them to NOT relieve themselves inside the house, YOUR den. If you need to set-up an area for your dog to relieve themselves inside, ensure that the area is a last resort! It should be a small area, designed similar to the designated area outside, like a mud box or sod box.

The box area should not be any larger than a pad and only placed out in the event of your dog being left alone for longer than the usual amount of time you are away. The bottom should be lined with water-resistant material that is easily cleaned or disposed of; with sides. You can buy sod sections at your pet-store to place in the box. It is best to avoid dirt, especially if your dog is male, likes to dig or is an alpha scrapper (kicks dirt when done marking or eliminating).

If your dog relieves themselves in their crate, clean the crate thoroughly and wash any blankets or rugs right away. Use any paper towels or other cleaning material to lay in the designated area outside or inside, to help them learn the right spot that is okay. For cleaning use an enzymatic cleaner to finish the cleaning, to help reduce the scent, so that your dog does not find the crate as an acceptable location to relieve themselves or mark. Always keep the crate free of urine or feces, as this needs to be kept a place of rest or confinement, and NOT a place of relieving themselves.

Older dogs need to be treated like puppies in their training or re-training for appropriate locations to relieve themselves. The key in house training any dog is consistency and patience. Don't expect it to happen over night. It takes time, like any behavioral training, for a dog to get in the habit of doing what you expect; and, it takes consistency and patience on your part, to ensure for the ultimate success of your dog's training needs.