It's not the name of a movie yet but it sure could be! Housetraining really is about how you and your dog connect. Your relationship with your dog will set the pace of how quickly your dog will get trained. You need to have the right balance of love, firmness and structure. If you are loving to the point of coo chi cooing indulgence, then you can be sure that you aren't going to have much success with housetraining routines. Your dog as a puppy is very impressionable—if you put him on your lap all the time, let him have more than a couple of accidents in the house and even then let him sleep in your bed—you can rest assured that he is not going to outgrow that pattern.
However, if you swing over to the other side and wield a whip—you aren't going to create much of an impression either. The dog will be cowed down all right, but do remember that fear instills resentment. Your dog is most likely going to be defensive, disobedient and the way he will show it first is by defying the rules of housetraining. Unnecessary dominance over you dog, handicaps all your efforts to housebreak him or her.
You need to strike a balance between the two extremes of blind adoration and a rigid show of power. As you do with your kids, you need to deal out a little tough love to your newest family member. He or she should know that you are there for him or her, but you are not there to be taken for granted. It calls for being the alpha to your dog. It calls for being the leader of the pack and blending in the love with being the provider of food, shelter and the overall protection of those down the ranks.
Even before you bring your dog home, make sure you know exactly how to pattern your relationship with your dog. You need to set the rules down from the beginning so that your dog senses that you are the one who has to be obeyed and that you have to be obeyed not out of fear but because you love the dog enough to be the provider of food, the protector of his health and well-being and the leader of his actions and manners. You would need to do that by:
■ Being the alpha: Make sure that you act like the leader. Every dog needs to look up to his owner and see a person who can be respected and loved. Once they look up to you, it will make sense to them that your word must be obeyed.
> You can gain your dog's loyalty by using a commanding voice and being consistent and setting a routine that is regulated by you— not your dog.
> You should be in charge of ordering his life by deciding where he sleeps, or sits or when he plays and when he goes for walks.
> Show your dog affection when you want to pet him and not when he demands it. Your dog shouldn't demand a walk from you or a snack—he or she should earn the walk, snack or reward as well as your affection.
■ Being the provider of food: Dogs always respect the person who feeds them. In a pack the alpha always made sure that food is available to the pack. Make sure that you plan out the feeding routine, before you bring your dog home. Consult the breeder and the vet and draw up a feeding plan that you can stick to. Do not allow your dog to dictate when you are to feed him. You are the provider, so you get to decide when your dog eats and how much. This will help him to realize your leadership position and make him obey your commands.
> Call your dog and have him sit obediently for his food rather than jump around.
> Never feed him at irregular times.
> Put the food down and leave it there for exactly 20 minutes. Whatever he eats within that time is what his body needs.
> If you are using a doggy treat as a reward, then give it to your dog only when he deserves it.
■ Being the groomer: A dog will always obey the person who takes charge of his life and cares for him or her. Grooming your dog helps to establish your superiority over your dog in the sense that you have the right to handle his body. You must make sure you regularly brush your dog's coat, feel the full length of his body as well as open his mouth and stick your finger in to feel the gums and the teeth. It's a show of power and your dog will respect you more for it. If your dog does growl, gently hold his muzzle down with your hands. Grooming will also provide a time with your dog to establish a bond and increases the trust of your dog in you. Once your dog trusts you his loyalty will be unmatched and his housetraining will be much quicker because he will be eager to please you.
■ Being the leader that he must follow:
You will literally have to lead your dog. When you go out the door, you must walk out first and have your pet follow. You must sit first and then call your dog to you. You must lead your dog when you walk and have him heel and walk as close as is possible to you. From the time you bring your dog home, you must make sure that he follows you around rather than you chasing him around! Once you get him to follow your lead, you can rest assured that housetraining him will be much easier than you thought.
Over all, you need to be worth it for your dog to be your best companion. Firmness that is born out of love is what you need to establish a disciplined pattern. There is one thing that you have to be very clear on—your dog expects you to give structure to his or her life because he has no idea of what is right or wrong in your environment. If you do not set the limits, then the dog won't know when he is stepping over the limits!
Housetraining is really about you showing your dog that it isn't right to go potty in the house. It is for you to show the patience in the face of the accidents that happen. It is also up to you to give your dog the time that he needs from you for housetraining. You will have to be there every minute of the day, taking him out for the first week to get him oriented into the housebreaking schedule. You will have to also, from day one, simultaneously work on your relationship with your dog on leadership and obedience issues.
What can you do to make the Housetraining process more effective?
A whole lot! From establishing leadership patterns to marking the elimination area and also coordinating the entire process—you can do it all! But here are a few basic requirements that would impact the housetraining drill immediately:
> Establishing a bond with your dog would facilitate trust and that's why it is important that you hug and show your dog affection but keep it within limits. Don't cross the line that divides a loved pet from a spoiled pet.
> Practicing the basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come etc., would go a long way in commanding obedience from your dog during the housebreaking process.
> Providing the right food would help the dog have a good and regulated bowel movement rather than changing the food every day and giving the dog a constipation problem. Good food would keep your dog free of any stomach disorder like diarrhea, constipation, etc. that can cause him discomfort and hamper the housetraining process.
> Providing your dog with fresh and clean water is also bound to help him in the elimination process and keep kidney problems at bay. Don't think that by restricting the water intake, you can train your dog. You must ensure that your dog is properly nourished and hydrated.
> Praise your dog when he does stick to the housebreaking drill. As you are his leader, the dog will be thrilled and encouraged to be praised by you. Also it would encourage your dog to repeat the desirable behavior just so that he can get your praise again!
> Be regular and consistent with your dog's schedule. This means that you must feed him at the same times, walk him at the same times, train him at the same times and of course, take him out to relive himself at the same times. Your consistency would help to establish a predictable pattern for your dog. Slowly over time, the repetition of all the activities will become a habit for your dog.
There are no shortcuts to caring for a dog or housetraining it. Apart from a good quality pet, it calls for responsible ownership, firm leadership, consistent patience and enthusiastic praise. At the end of the day—you and your dog will have a relationship that is patterned on the right mix of discipline, love and mutual respect and for the devotion he will give you, that's the least you can offer the newest member of your family!
The Housetraining basics can actually be summed up by three main axioms, which are:
■ Strive for Consistency
■ Maintain Patience
■ Establish a Routine
At the root of it all is YOU!
Understand that your dog has to be housetrained and that YOU need to do it. Also understand that you cannot entirely blame your dog for accidents because you have to monitor and prevent those accidents. Your dog has no clues or independent ideas of his own. He will react to your actions, expressions and emotions.
> If you show anger—the dog will give you back hostility and defensiveness that is born out of his fear for you.
> If you show inconsistency—the dog will be confused and unable to learn and stick to a pattern.
> If you fail to establish a routine—the dog will not be able to follow one.
You will have to base your attitude on understanding that your little puppy or your grown dog is really lost and needs you to guide him or her along. Dogs are going to act on basis of instincts. So when they feel like doing their job, they aren't going to bother if it's a carpet or linoleum or a newspaper. Their elimination needs are immediate and uncontrollable beyond a certain point.
That's why for the first week of your dog's stay in your house, it is strongly suggested that you take off from work for seven days and never let the dog out of your line of vision, even when the dog is asleep. Also schedule the potty times and be on the watch for obvious signs.
Was this article helpful?
Fundamentals of Dog and Puppy Training. Although dogs shouldn't be attributed with having human characteristics, they are intelligent enough to be able to understand the concept of, and execute, certain actions that their owners require of them - if these actions are asked in a way that dogs find rewarding.