Friday, October 16, 2009

Housebreaking, a new thought

So many of my calls are about housebreaking, for both pups and adult dogs. Folks are so often at the end of their ropes that they're considering giving up the dog. How sad, and certainly not necessary. When I hear that an owner is having trouble with an adult dog in housebreaking, it almost always is just the tip of the iceberg. There are usually other "issues" going on as well. (i.e., dog isn't listening to basic commands). All of them are derived from a lack of communication. When we train a dog we have to be very clear in what we want, what is right, what isn't working. Dogs are innately very clean animals if given the chance. They don't want to have to eliminate where they sleep, and they want their den clean. If raised up properly as a puppy (meaning they didn't live in filth or confined quarters where they had no choice but to use their space to eliminate) housebreaking, done with the right communication can go smoothly.

But, even the cleanest of puppies can be confused as to what it is you really want. Somewhere along the line we humans decided that dogs must give us a "signal" to go outside. I hear over and over, "he doesn't ever give me a signal, when will he?". Dogs aren't born with signals, we have to teach them. Most of the time it's an accidental train, so I call it. Puppy does a behavior and we react by taking them out. Puppy starts to realize that doing this "behavior' gets him out so he repeats it. Most folks never do this on purpose.

So, let's do it on purpose! I have created what I call a "reverse housebreaking technique". Always you read to teach the dog to go the door, or to ring a bell. Most techniques encourage you to send your dog away from you when he has to go out. Why? If I'm in the living room and my pup goes to the kitchen door, where I can't see him and stands there hoping I'll let him out, or is ringing a bell I don't hear, I'm sure to find a "package" there when I finally come into the area. He did the right thing, he went to do the door, but I wasn't there to see it or hear it.

I want my dogs to find me when they have to go out. So, I do a simple thing. I call them to me, no matter where I am when it's time to take them out. (always AWAY from the door!). Then I acknowledge some sort of behavior they do when they come. For my yorky, he loves to circle, so I encouraged him to circle once before I said 'Yes, let's go outside'! For my border collie it's a stand in front and look at me. Take what your pup does naturally and put it into a signal that you can get quickly. Give this a few months. Before you know it you have a dog that comes to find you, and does his signal for you in anticipation of being let out. No more presents at the door!

And remember, dogs of any age, who are not housebroken, need lots of supervision. You can't get mad at the dog when you find a mess in the house, you can only scold yourself for allowing the pup to sneak off. Leashes, crates and gates are the best way to help out! In my book, you can call your dog "housebroken" if you've gone 2 full months without one accident. Then you're there and on to other great things with your pup!

Enjoy the day!

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