If you are reading this, chances are you are like many of my Colorado Springs clients – searching for help in housebreaking your dog.
As a highly experienced dog trainer and behaviorist in Colorado Springs, this is the one request I receive the most often. Teaching your furry friends where and when to relieve themselves can be daunting.
However, with consistency, patience, and the right techniques, this can be a smooth, rewarding journey for you and your dog, whether they are a puppy or an older pup you have just rescued.
Let’s explore some effective strategies for a successful housebreaking experience.
Why is Housebreaking Your Dog Should Be One of Your First Acts as Owner
Housebreaking your dog is more than just a convenience – this step is essential to responsible pet ownership. A poorly housebroken dog can cause stress, damage to your home, and even health risks for you and your dog.
In fact, dogs with behavior problems, including inadequate housebreaking, account for over half the number of dogs in shelters today. However, 90% of problematic dog behaviors, including housebreaking issues, can be addressed with the proper knowledge and techniques.
Start Housebreaking Your Dog As Soon As You Welcome Them Into Your Home
Whether you’ve just brought home a new puppy or adopted an adult dog, housebreaking should begin immediately. Remember, a dog’s bladder capacity does not fully develop until around 12 months old. So, expect frequent toilet trips for puppies. The process might take longer for adult dogs that haven’t been adequately trained previously, but the steps remain the same.
Recognizing the Signs Your Dog Needs to Relieve Themselves
Being observant is crucial in successfully housebreaking your dog. Dogs display certain behaviors when they need to relieve themselves. These can include:
- Becoming restless or agitated
- Sniffing the ground
- Circling a particular spot
Understanding these signals will help you guide your dog to the designated toilet area in time, reducing the chances of accidents.
Establishing a Routine: The Key to Successful Housebreaking
Much like children, dogs thrive on consistency. By establishing a routine your pet can depend on, you teach your dog when to eat, play, and do their business. This routine should include taking your dog outside:
- First thing in the morning
- Immediately after waking up from a nap or sleep
- After meals or big drinks of water
- During and after high-energy activities like running and playing
- Before bedtime
- At regular intervals throughout the day
Remember, successful housebreaking takes time. Like potty training a child, housebreaking your dog is a developmental process. And just as with a child, the more anxiety you create around the process, the more extended training will take.
Choosing the Right Spot for Elimination
To prevent confusion, you should always take your dog to the same spot for elimination. This consistency will help your dog understand where they’re expected to go.
If you live in an apartment or have limited outdoor space, consider a special litter box on a patio or balcony.
Using Leashes and Crates: Tools for Effective Housebreaking
Leashes and crates can be valuable tools in housebreaking.
A leash lets you guide your dog to the designated potty spot and supervise the process.
Crates, on the other hand, help prevent accidents while you are housebreaking your dog. Dogs don’t like to soil their sleeping area, so a well-sized crate encourages them to hold their bladder until you can take them outside. Remember, the crate should be large enough for the dog to lie down, stand up, and turn around, but not so large that they feel it’s okay to eliminate in one corner.
When the deed has been accomplished, immediately reward your dog.
Positive Reinforcement: The Pillar of Effective Housebreaking
Praising your dog for doing the right thing is one of the most effective strategies in housebreaking. Be generous with your praise whenever your dog potties in the correct place. Positive reinforcement can motivate your dog to repeat the behavior. Rewarding your dog can be with treats, toys, or your enthusiastic voice.
Remember, the reward should be given immediately after elimination to create a strong association. If you wait until you and your dog return inside to reward them, they may associate the reward with coming into the house rather than with the act of elimination.
Patience is a Virtue for Housebreaking Your Dog
Accidents are part of the housebreaking process, and the only hard rule for potty training your dog is that you never punish a puppy for having an accident in your home.
One of the pitfalls of physical corrections in housebreaking is that your puppy won’t understand that the problem is peeing on the carpet. They will associate the punishment with peeing in front of you. So now, they hide from you when they need to eliminate, and you find surprises behind your couch or in your closet. I have also worked with dogs who require a thirty-foot lead when going outside so they don’t potty in front of their owners. While you may initially think this is an adorable quirk, the inconvenient reality soon sets in for you and your dog.
If you find an accident, I recommend a trip to your local pet store for an enzymatic cleaner that destroys the pheromones on the floor. Remember, dogs and puppies, in particular, are very nose-brained. If they smell that they have previously pottied in a spot, they will do so again. So save yourself some headaches, and use a cleaner designed for the situation.
Gradually Increasing Freedom
The analogy of raising a child is so appropriate when housebreaking your dog. Once your dog has been accident-free for 8-12 weeks, you can give them more freedom.
Remember, potty training your puppy is a gradual process. Start by allowing your dog to leave the room briefly without you and watch them from afar. Over time, you can trust your dog with more freedom as they learn where to eliminate even when you’re not watching. (Just like you can eventually feel confident letting your teenager take the car out on Saturday night.)
When More Than Potty Training is at Stake: Dealing with Marking and Separation Anxiety
Sometimes, your dog may exhibit behaviors like marking or relieving themselves when left alone. These could be signs of underlying issues like separation anxiety. In such cases, give me a call. We can find a solution suitable for you and your puppy’s sanity.
Struggling with Housebreaking Your Dog?
Successful housebreaking requires patience and vigilance on the part of the pet owner. With my years of experience and mentorship by Gary Wilkes, a renowned behaviorist, I have developed strategies that can help dog owners in Colorado Springs develop strong relationships with their dogs and overcome housebreaking challenges.
If you’re struggling with puppy training in Colorado Springs, please contact me for a free consultation. Let’s work together to turn your dog’s behavior around and make them a happy and well-adjusted family member!
That’s Dog Training – Laurie’s Way.