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Active House Training
by Tracy Atkins
Complete Canine Training
The Woodlands, Texas
281-825-6404 www.YESPUP.com

Active house training requires taking the responsibility to teach the dog
where and when you want him to eliminate.

We've had our dog for some time, and he still isn't house trained. Now What?* I just got a new dog/puppy! Now What?
Whether you have a new pet or one that still isn't house trained: Get the dog on a schedule! Scheduling helps owners predict when the dog/puppy will need to eliminate. This means allowing food, and sometimes water, at scheduled times. (Water should only be withheld during this initial training period.) Getting your dog on a scheduled feeding routine means allowing him 30 minutes to eat breakfast and dinner and for puppies under 4 months old, lunch. Feed a hard kibble style dog food only and don't feed snacks in between meals! At first, some dogs may refuse a meal or two. That's okay! Your dog is just beginning to learn when and how much to eat.

Once a proper eating schedule is established, it's time to establish a "potty routine" by taking him out at scheduled intervals. Puppies usually need to eliminate every 2-4 hours. Although many do, adult dogs should not be expected to "hold it" for more than eight hours. Take your dog out every half hour and play ball or just walk around to get the dog's system going and make him want to eliminate. If you confine your dog indoors, make sure that someone will let him outside to eliminate once every two to four hours. Put the dog on a leash and take him outside to a predesignated "spot" (an area not more than six feet square). Play with the dog and speak in an encouraging voice, but give no commands. If the dog eliminates, praise him immediately, "Yes, Potty!" If he doesn't eliminate, remove him from the "potty area," and play with him to get him excited. This will allow his body to relax, which may encourage him to sniff and search for a "spot". If the dog begins to sniff, take him again to the designated area. If he eliminates, praise him "Yes, Potty!" If he does not eliminate, bring him indoors and either confine him in his crate or leash him to you. This will enable you to keep him from soiling indoors.

But I've tried letting him out, but he just comes right back in and eliminates indoors!
Many young puppies may urinate as frequently as every two hours, and defecate two to four times a day. Adult dogs may eliminate less, but in either case, take your dog out frequently (every 30 minutes) and allow them to sniff the potty area. If they eliminate and you praise them, they are Actively Learning when and where you want them to eliminate! For some owners, house training will require that they wait patiently outside with the dog until it does eliminate - which may take thirty minutes or longer! A few repetitions of this exercise with proper praise, however, and the length of time the owner will have to wait for the dog to eliminate will quickly become less and less. Or, some owners find using a tie-out system, whereby the puppy can be left outside, alone leashed, while the owner monitors the behavior from inside the house.

How can Crate Training help?
Crate confinement assists owners in house training their pets. Once eating and potty schedules are set, we need a way to prevent the dog from eliminating indoors when we are not able to supervise him. One easy way to do this is to attach the puppy to your pants (belt loop) with a four foot leash. Another option is to tie a four foot leash to a table or sofa leg, and attach the puppy to it. (You must still be able to see the dog!) This way you will remember to be alert to the dog's needs. If he looks anxious, take him out and offer him the chance to "Potty!" at the designated area. When you are unable to properly monitor your dog, put him in his crate or other small, confined area. (See Crate Training Handout) Essentially, if the dog is with you at all times or confined in a crate, he doesn't have the opportunity to soil indoors. Withhold food at least two hours prior to crate confinement and only give a maximum of 1/4 cup of water or ice cubes before confining.

What should I do if I find an accident?
Remain calm. If you find an accident, do not punish or scold the dog. Accept that YOU (or a family member) have not properly monitored the dog and therefor, you have allowed the accident to occur. Remind yourself that by allowing him to eliminate indoors, you have missed an opportunity to Actively Train him properly. Simply take the dog outdoors to his "spot" and allow him the opportunity to eliminate again. If he does, praise him! If he does not eliminate, quietly bring him indoors and confine him while you clean up the accident. Do not clean up the accident in front of your dog. This is what his mother did. By allowing him to see you clean it up you are in dog language, "praising him" for eliminating inside!

Odor removal is vital to preventing recurring and marking problems. Some dogs will repeatedly return to the same place to soil again and again. To clean up urine, first blot the accident with a towel. Add water to the soiled area and soak up the water as throughly as possible. Next, drench area with a deodorizing product or solution of one part vinegar/two parts water. Finally, blot the area with a clean towel until it is dry. For set-in stains, apply the deodorizing product and blot only the surface of the carpet, allowing the padding and floor surface to remain moist. Continue to add water every six to twelve hours until you are unable to smell any odor near the surface of the carpet. The enzymes in deodorizers only work when moist. If they dry out completely and the odor remains, repeat the process. For stool soiling, remove and disgard the poop, apply a mist of odor removal product and clean as directed.

The privilege of the "run of the house" is just that - a privilege. Make your dog earn it. Most dogs are eighteen months old before they can be given such a privilege!

What if I see him having an accident?
If you catch a puppy in the act of eliminating, say "aght!" and carry him outside to the potty area. If it is a large puppy or a large adult dog, gently take his collar and guide him outside and follow the steps above. Remind yourself that by allowing him to eliminate indoors, you have missed an opportunity to Actively Train him. Again, the key to Actively House Training means that you Actively Train the dog where and when to eliminate. Pay close attention to your dog's "internal schedule". Young puppies for example, ALWAYS need to eliminate as soon as they wake up, after playing, after eating and after drinking. Adult dogs may sniff a bit or look nervous before eliminating. Anticipate these needs and take the dog outdoors before the accident. And most importantly, properly praise the dog for eliminating when and where you want him to go, thereby reinforcing good behavior.

But he just seems to "go" inside without giving us any signs!
All dogs give signs prior to eliminating. However, those signs can be very hard for humans to interpret. We need to Actively Teach the dog to let us know when they need to "Potty." Begin by having the dog "sit" before you take him outdoors. While he is sitting, put on his leash and take him out. As this becomes part of the routine, you will gradually notice the dog will sniff near the door and sometimes even sit at the door when he needs to eliminate. Praise this behavior! "Good Dog!" As the dog becomes more reliable at sitting at the door to go out, (which should take a couple of weeks) you may modify the behavior. Watch for the dog to sit by the door, then call the dog to you by happily saying "Here Puppy!" and clap your hands. When the dog gets to you, praise him "Yes, Out" and walk with him to the door. Again, have him sit, then take him outdoors to his "spot." As he becomes more reliable in coming to you to let you know he needs to "Potty," you can modify the behavior even more. Teaching him to bump your hand or touch a bell you have attached to the door, or even walk back and forth from the door to you. Any way you decide to modify the behavior, it is important to praise the dog for getting it right.

But it's taking me so long to teach him! Will he ever learn?
All dogs are individuals and learn at different speeds. The fastest way to house train you dog is to be a diligent and attentive owner! Remember, sometimes a friend or pet sitter can be the key to properly house training your pet!

*If your pet was house trained and now seems to have frequent accidents, consult your veterinarian. House soiling difficulties in older and/or trained dogs is usually an indication of a health-related problem.

Copyright 1994-2005 Tracy Atkins, Complete Canine Training, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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