Housebreaking

Housebreaking can be a very frustrating time in both the new owner and the puppy's life. It requires both work and serious consistency. Quite often, we have unrealistic expectations. We expect the puppy to learn immediately. If they have accidents, we blame them, instead of putting the blame more appropriately, on us, the new owners.  At any rate, let's make this an easier time to get through!
If you have had a pup in the past who trained itself almost immediately - understand that the new pup that you have now may not be the same! You must accept this - no dog is the same as another. I hate to humanize, but no child or adult is the same, right? So why would we ever expect dogs to be the same??????
First, you, as the new puppy owner, MUST be consistent. If you cannot be, then you really need to look at why you have a dog. There is no magic wand for housebreaking - it is a lot of work. Occasionally we get those pups that almost train themselves - but don't count on it! Don't punish the pup by sticking its nose in the poo or pee, or yell "NO", or give it the entire house when it isn't housebroken and then freak out when the pup has an accident. Let's all take a deep breath and use common sense.
What does housebreaking mean exactly? To me, a pup is housebroken when it no longer pees or poos in the home. But also, it means, the pup tells me when it has to go out. And it also means, that the pup has learned to eliminate upon verbal command, such as "Do hurry ups" or "Hurry up, go potty". Crate trained, does not mean the pup is housebroken - although some breeders would love for you to believe that!
So we now know that each pup is different, yelling or punishing the pup is not going to expedite housebreaking matters, and that we must be consistent. So let's get busy!!
First, figure out where the pup is going to poo and pee on a regular basis. Do you have a yard or is this an apartment with concrete sidewalks?? Find the "spot" and remember it.
The first week I have a pup their world is very confined. In my own home, my two room kitchen (not too big, but not too small) is gated off from the rest of the house when I have a litter or a new pup. I recommend a wire crate, not too small, because I want the pup to have lots of room to turn around or move about.. This should not be an airplane under- the- seat travel sized crate. For those who work or may be gone for several hours, I also recommend bungee cording or cable tie-ing a child's or dog play yard to the crate. The children's plastic play yard is around $60-70 dollars at Toys R Us. The dog plastic play yards are more, but I believe most of them actually have a gate. If I have to go to work, I will place the geriatric chux or overnight pad in one area of the play yard, along with a bowl of water, a couple of toys, a bone and a blanket in the crate. By the way I do not buy most of the puppy pee pads that are sold nationwide. They are usually very thin and pups love to tear them apart. I look for geriatric overnight extra larege pads at stores such as WalMart or Kmart. There is a company called CareAlLotPets in Virginia that has some dog training pads that aren't too bad, but most of them are a waste of money.
At any rate, the play yard may be the best solution for those who have to go to work and are unable to have someone come in and watch the pup. If the owner is able, it would be wonderful to have someone come in midday and take the pup out for a pee and poo time. But the play yard allows for more space than just a crate, which makes new pup owners feel less guilty about leaving the pup alone.
Unless I am taking the pup outside to eliminate, walking the pup, playing with the pup, or resting on the couch with the pup - the kitchen area or crated area is that pup's environment. Please don't get pulled into the guilty "the pup needs more room" thought. I want to enjoy my pup for many many years, but I need to take the time to train so that we all enjoy many years.
As the pup becomes more and more reliable with the potty training, I expand their world slowly. If I've moved too fast and the pup is having accidents all over, I immediately go back and start again.
First thing in the morning, as soon as I get up - I take the pup by leash outside. I go to the same potty spot each and every time. I do use a Flexi leash for potty work or just a longer flat leash. I stand in one spot and give the command "Do hurry ups" or "Hurry up, go potty". I don't say "Do Pee-pees" "Do Poo-poos". My reason is simple; I don't want to embarrass myself in front of my neighbors. Also, anyone who ever comes over to help me with my pup may not appreciate saying those words. Also, if I travel with my pup, I'm not going to stand on a Manhattan street saying those words! I also want to teach the pup to "Hurry Up" which means to eliminate quickly. Pretty simple, huh?
Ok, we are now outside and I've given the potty command. I stand in one spot and do NOT move my feet. I stand in this spot for maximum 5 minutes and give the potty mantra. If I walk around with the pup, quite often they get distracted by scents, sights, or sounds and forget about going. Or they eliminate a little and we bring them in, only to have them eliminate in our home - BECAUSE they never finished going in the first place. I can always take the pup for a reward walk after they have pottied if I choose.
If I don't think they are done going, and 5 minutes have passed - I take them in the house and confine them. I take them back out again in 20 minutes and do the same steps all over. We are actually teaching the pup to eliminate upon command and also that command means to do it quickly. It isn't any different than teaching a pup to eat quickly, by picking up the dog bowl after 10 minutes and removing any leftover food. We do that without issue - so should we stick to the 5 minute time frame! You'll see some pup owners walking forever around and around and around. The pup has trained them well!
A few years ago I received a delightful call from a very proud dog owner. He informed me how his dog was housebroken and even had a special talent! His dog "knew" how proud he was of his yard - so the dog refused to go potty in his yard. Instead the dog owner walked him up to 20 times a day.........who trained who?
For the first month, I keep a daily log with all full hours and half hours in the day, charted out. I take the time to write down the time I feed the pup, when I take it out, what it does or doesn't do when I take it out, and when the pup has accidents in the house. This chart will help me track and learn when the pup needs to poo, if it has accidents, are they around a certain time each day, what is going on when there are accidents, etc. This speeds up the housebreaking training process. I usually allow one month for serious training where consistency from the owner is a MUST! But also gathering this information helps me know if my dog is sick, has an upset tummy, etc. - if I know when each day my dog poos or pees.
I feed a consistent diet. I use a good quality dry food, also known as kibble, without a super duper high protein content with warm water mixed in. In the morning I may add a dollup of plain yogurt which is very healthy for the pup. NO canned dog food at all, unless the veterinarian tells me my dog needs it for a specific health reason. My pups go to their new home eating Eukanuba Small Breed dry food 2 times daily, and may get a couple of small Wellness Puppy Biscuits daily. If I want to add training treats, I may add just the kibble or even Cheerios, which is healthier and less likely to upset a small breed tummy. By keeping a cleaner diet, it also helps with the housebreaking.
Now let's move on to Step 2 of the housebreaking process - notifying the owner it needs to go out -
This is just as important. If I am taking a shower, I cannot see the pup walk over to a door and stand there for a minute and then pee.  So I need a more clear and loud alert from my pup. I teach the bells. Very simple process, but each pup learns at its own speed. String a set of bells (sized appropriately to the pup. I wouldn't use a heavy set of sleigh bells with a teacup Yorkie......) from the door handle down to the floor or to where the pup can reach them easily with either nose or paw. Use the door that the pup will be going out to potty. Every time I take the pup out to go potty, I ask "Do you want to go potty? Tell me." I then take the pup's paw and quickly ring the bell, saying "Good boy or girl" and get them out immediately. I will do this routine over and over again, placing a really good foundation on the pup until they have this alert down pat. The bells are easy and portable. I can hang them on a hotel door, a family member's door -in other words, it makes it easier to travel with my pup!
Good luck and enjoy this special time!
Copyright 2009
Gina Lyn Hayes
Just Dogs Training
(508) 760-3377
1 Flat Rock Way
South Yarmouth MA 02664
http://www.massachusettsdogtrainer.com