Housebreaking is more than teaching a dog not to pee and poop in the home. Housebreaking is about training your dog to be left unsupervised in the home for reasonable duration without you returning to find any damages or unpleasant surprises.
To improve or prevent Housebreaking problems The Foundation Dog Training System™ must be in place up to this point. The six previous levels all include important guidelines to follow which are necessary for success and troubleshooting this difficult problem.
- From level 1, you must have a good understanding of your dog and his natural behavior and tendencies.
- From level 2, your dog must be in good health. You must make sure that elimination behavior is not related to a variety of health problems that will make success impossible if not discovered and treated. Examples include but are not limited to: loose stool, urinary tract infection, bladder stones, kidney infection, incontinence, congenital abnormalities of the digestive or urinary system, diabetes, and much more. Consult your veterinarian if you have any suspicions.
- From level 3, you must have the right attitude. If you are losing your temper or yelling at your dog at any level it will only cause problems. Submissive urination during greetings can be worsened by an owner who does not remain calm during this act. Remember submissive urination is an involuntary action which reflects the state of the dog’s submission and can not be controlled until both dog and owner become more calm and confident. Also, patience will be important as solid housebreaking seldom happens in less than 6 weeks, until than diligence is important.
- From level 4, understand your Golden Rules of dog training. Timing, Motivation, and Consistency must ALL be used perfectly to housebreak a dog. If you don’t remember the details of these rules, you must review them before you attempt formal housebreaking.
- From level 5, pack structure MUST be in place – The same exercises outlined in pack structure to passively promote your leadership are also used to control the environment necessary to clearly teach your furry student housebreaking. For instance:
o If you feed your dog at the same two times per day, they will generally have predictable bowel movements twice a day. This will aid when troubleshooting the best time to schedule walks or trips to the yard. Keep a log of when your dog or puppy has a bowel movement, and use this along with tweaking feeding times to determine the best schedule to bring your dog outside.
o If you maintain your dog on a schedule system as outlined in level 5, the dog will learn better bladder and bowel control as opposed to a dog that is used to instant relief at the first urge of impending elimination. This is only one of the reasons teaching or encouraging your dog to scratch at the door, bark, ring a bell, etc is not a good idea for housebreaking.
o If you do not let your dog on furniture and beds you should not have to worry about the urge for your dog to mark (with pee and poop) on those items.
o If you do not allow the dog to own possessions, the likelihood that the dog feels they own and should mark the house is reduced. Also, it is easier to teach a dog that they are allowed to chew NOTHING unless handed to them and supervised, than to try to teach the dog that several items are theirs and allowed but other items such as slippers and such are not allowed. Remember, the simpler and clearer we make this for the dog the greater chance for success.
- From level 6, you must satisfy your dog’s restless spirit in order to teach him what are the proper items to chew and to reduce the urge to seek out something on his own to chew.
It doesn't really matter if you are dealing with a puppy or an adult dog many of the exercises are going to follow the same structure:
- Puppies and dogs must be placed on a schedule. Three times per day is plenty for most adult dogs. For puppies take their age in months and use that as a starting point for your schedule. For instance, a 3 month old puppy should go out every 3 hours. They can last a little longer at night when sleeping. Dogs and pups must know that if they hold themselves they can rely on consistent times during the day that they will be able to relieve themselves. Do not teach your pupppy/dog to tell you when he wants to go outside. The puppy may be taken out more than your scheduled times if you see signs of an accident about to occur, such as circling . If you can, quickly take the dog outside before the accident occurs. Avoid corrections for the first four weeks and until after a pup is over 5 months of age. Give a chance for the dog or pup to gain confidence and a habit of going outside for business.
- Dogs and puppies must be confined to a small enough area when not supervised so he will not be able to escape from his own pee or poop. This will encourage the dog or puppy to hold his poop and pee. Dog crates and kennels are excellent training tools for this purpose.
- Dogs and puppies must be tethered to owner or kept in the same room when loose. They MUST not get a chance to pee or poop in the house with out you seeing. If you see signs of an accident immediately bring outside. Do not correct or startle during the first month of training. We will go over how to correct on the next page. If a dog makes a mistake when you are not watching, do not get mad at the dog - it is your mistake not the dog's. Just bring the dog outside to finish if you catch the dog in the act. The worse thing you can do at this stage is to teach the dog to hide from you to eliminate in the house - so don't let your dog feel you are angry with him going inside.
- Puppies and dogs should be rewarded for relieving himself outside for the first month. Praise or treats will work.
If you are on track with this plan for at least a month and after a puppy is over 6 months of age you can begin a plan to correct the dog for any accidents in the house.
Correction in a dog’s world –The correct time and place to correctly use corrections!
Let me stress that correction can be a touchy area because of the potential for abuse and because if done incorrectly or with the wrong timing can actually make matters worse.
On the flip side, if done correctly it is the key to teaching dogs reliability. Reliability can be the difference between life and death for some dogs that may be facing euthanasia for their behavior problems. Reliability is also essential for the dogs’ and public’s safety when dealing with certain working dogs such as guide dogs and police dogs.
If a dog has a history of aggression or even has the potential for aggressive behavior it can be irresponsible to bring that dog into certain public settings without formally teaching the dog that disobedience is not an option.
When corrections are done in conjunction with positive reinforcement for good behavior we will get the best results.
All corrections that we will give a dog during training generally fall into two main categories:
1. Personal corrections –
Personal corrections are used during direct interaction between the dog and a person.
The personal correction is to mimic how dogs correct each other as much as possible. By this, I mean, there should be distinct communication and a warning before the correction whenever possible.
Think of the dog. When a dog is communicating to another dog to stop/change a behavior, there is generally some kind of body language to transmit what that dog desires of the other (for instance posturing over a food bowl to communicate to stay away). Then, there is generally a distinct warning (such as a growl or bearing of teeth). After, there is a correction if none of that works. That correction, when the dogs are interacting normally is generally the minimum amount necessary to get the point across. The dogs are then both back on good terms. No grudge necessary. Also, any obedience from that dog receiving the warning will result in the cessation of the cycle leading to the correction.
2. Environmental corrections (the Dog God) –
The environmental correction or “Dog God” is to be used to deter behaviors that are unwanted whether the owner is present or not. The dog should not make a correlation between these corrections and the owner.
These corrections are generally simple cause and effect based.
An example of a naturally occurring environmental correction could be when a dog climbs onto an unsteady structure which starts to collapse or when he finds and mouths a toad which then causes a bitter taste in the mouth. Dogs, like most animals, have the ability to adapt to the environment and avoid situations which may be uncomfortable, seem dangerous, or startle them.
Simply, correction is a natural part of the dog’s world and part of their culture. When used fairly and with respect it can be used to teach very reliable obedience and to help shape the behaviors of the dog when you are not present (such as digging up the yard, chewing furniture, peeing on the rugs, etc.)
If correction is used incorrectly or the wrong type of correction for that training situation is used a person can actually make their dog’s behavior worse and more difficult to shape than before the error.
Here is as an example:
Correction is a small but important part of polishing off a good housebreaking plan. Generally in housebreaking, since the goal is to leave a dog unattended in the home without causing damage, we would rarely use personal corrections. The environmental correction, or “Dog God”, is the best choice.
What happens when we do personally correct a dog for stealing from the counter top or chewing on a slipper? What will happen is that the dog will correlate these personal corrections with the rules of their pack structure. What we will communicate to them is that the counter top and slipper are resources that we are claiming. We have learned in Dog Culture that once a higher ranking pack member is not present their claimed possessions can go to the next taker…which if left by himself, by process of elimination, will be the dog.
The possible result here is a dog that will behave nicely when the owner is present, but when left out of site will do the unwanted actions. Now we have a training situation that is even more difficult to fix, because it is tricky to administer a proper environmental (dog god) correction if we do not see the dog in the act. In this situation the owner or trainer is forced to manage the problem or think out ways to covertly observe the dog to administer the “Dog God”.
A similar training problem can happen if the dog relates people to the corrections he receives for having pee accidents which will then make housebreaking way trickier than it has to be.
We want a dog to not mouth our hands. So instead of using a personal correction which involves communication and a warning we instead use an environmental correction such as using a remote citronella or electric stimulation collar the instance the dog mouths the hand.
In this situation there is the probability that the dog may think that any contact with the hands might be bad and actually shy away from your normal contact or possibly even act out with a fear bite if you suddenly reach for the dog. This happens because in the dogs mind your hand = correction.
At this point in your troubleshooting you are mainly concerned about house breaking so you will mainly be dealing with the environmental correction. I use the term "Dog God" for short since it can be related to a correction that God gives the dog and not you - since we want the dog to believe that you may not always be watching, but God is.
We will cover the more difficult personal correction in step 9 - Obedience.
Up to this point we have mainly been discussing pee and poop accidents with regards to housebreaking and not chewing household objects such as furniture, walls, slippers, etc. Corrections for chewing these types of objects will also be of the Dog God type, but we will cover that on a page coming up.
Here are the guidelines for using Dog God corrections in housebreaking:
- Be sure you have followed the steps of putting your dog on a schedule for at least 1 dog training month (33 days) and your dog is at least 5 months of age.
- Maintain your dog on his normal schedule - do not set your dog up for failure by forcing him to have an accident.
- When you witness your dog in the act of having an accident at that time use your chosen Dog God. Do not say anything to the dog. Ideally do not even let your dog know you are watching him. Several seconds after the accident and correction calmly take your dog outside to finish. Act normal!
Need to choose the best "Dog God" click here for suggestions.
- Be consistent! Remember the Golden Rules of Dog Training. Once you start using a Dog God to eliminate a behavior keep with it for at least 33 days after the last time your dog has an accident before you let your guard down. Up until that point be sure you are prepared for any accidents when your dog is loose in the house.
If you understand the concepts you have read so far it good to start keeping track of your dog's progress on a housebreaking chart. This is an excellent way to troubleshoot your dogs progress and set backs.
The "Dog God" correction is the short term for the environmental correction in this style.
Here are some of the rules of the Dog God correction:
- The dog should never know that you are asociated with the correction.
- Timing is very important. It should be paired immediately with the unwanted behavior. ideally within 1/2 second.
- Always use the minimal amount of motivation to get the desires response, but do not forget your Golden Rules of Dog Training. For instance, if you are using a Dog God with the correct timing and you are being consistent, but your dog continues to repeat the behavior after several corrections there is a good chance you may have to gradually increase your estimated motivation level of your correction.
- Be sure there isn't an underlying health issue asociated with any behavior that you may try tro correct this way.
Different types of Popular Dog Gods:
Shake can - This is a soda can with about 10 pennies or pebbles inside and taped shut.
To use this you need multiple cans placed within grabbing distance throughout the house. One quick shake is used to startle the dog/puppy.
Rolled newspaper/magazine - Magazine or paper rolled and help together with a rubber band.
Use by slapping on surface, or by throwing and hitting wall near puppy.
Canned air or other type of noise maker - Any product that makes a sound that may startle a puppy or dog.
Use by making the noise as a dog does the unwanted behavior.
Remote Citronella or Other Spray Collar - These are collars that have a remote control and when the trainer presses the button a burst of scented spray is discharged from the collar which may act as a startling correction to some dogs.
Us like all Dog Gods - don't let the dog know you did it.
Electric Stimulation Collar (Dogtra Collar) - These collars are used remotely by the trainer to adminster electric stimulation as the correction.
These must be used carefully. The dogtra brand in particular has the ability to work as a suitable Dog God for any dog when all else fails, but if used incorrectly can be physically and/or pschologically abusive.