Dog Training

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

House Training A Dog

Successfully house training a dog is one of the most important issues that many dog guardians face. If a dog is not satisfactorily trained to spend his or her time in the house, both you and the dog’s quality of life can be affected.

The First Steps

Dogs only know what they have learn; therefore it is our responsibility to make sure we house train them how to live in our houses. It is important that our dogs spend time inside with us because they are social creatures. No creature who seeks the companionship of another is happy when they have to spend a lot of time by themselves. It simply isn’t right to get a dog and then leave them outside or alone for their entire lives.

However, sometimes it can be quite challenging to share our living space with a dog who doesn’t know yet what is expected of him or her. To be successful with house training a dog, you needs to first “dog proof” your home. This is very important, especially when a new puppy or dog is brought into the house.

What does “dog proofing consist of? Below are some examples:

  • Putting away items that can normally be left out, such as shoes. Right at the level of a dog and something that smells like you, shoes are often a targeted chew toy.

  • Removing or putting out of reach pillows, remote controls, knick knacks, books, children’s toys and other miscellaneous items that are easily mistaken as dog toys.

  • Keeping kitchen counters and tables clear of anything that smells good to avoid the dog from searching them.

  • Put dangerous objects away such as household cleaners or breakable objects.

Practice Makes Perfect

When house training a dog, many people are hesitant to clear their house of items or change their habits, like picking stuff up off the floor and putting it out of dog reach. However, if your puppy or dog is able to rehearse an undesirable behavior, such as shredding your sofa pillows just a single time, they are more likely to do it again (because they have found that it was super fun the first time)! We do not want our dogs to be good at these kinds of habits. Therefore it is to your benefit to put all items you do not want your dog to touch, out of reach.

Yes, it is inconveniencing to live in a barren house for several months, but that certainly is preferred over living in a barren house for the rest of your life because you can’t leave bread on the counter of your kitchen because your dog has learned to be a professional counter surfer (a dog that jumps up on the counter and surfs it for anything that smells yummy! This is a nearly impossible behavior to correct once the dog learns it! Better to have them never practice it at all)! Once your dog has a routine going, and he or she demonstrates that they are figuring out the house rules, then you can start slowly introducing objects back into your house.

Management techniques to employ while house training a dog:

  • Putting the dog in his or her crate when you can’t keep a constant eye on him or her.

  • Putting the dog on their leash and tethering them to the leg of a table or sofa. This allows the dog access to only that area. This can only be used in situations where you are present but occupied with other things.

  • A lot of toys, chewies and other proper outlets for dogs to focus their attention and energy.

  • Exercise. Ensuring your dog gets exercise that is appropriate to their age and activity level is not only good for their health but could be good for your furniture! A tired dog is less likely to chew on your table leg than a dog who has a lot of energy and no outlet.

  • Dog day care. A recent addition in many of our communities, doggie day care is a place to bring your dog where they can play with other dogs. This is good for people who work and don’t want to leave their dog home all day long.

  • Hiring a dog walker to come in and give your dog exercise in the middle of the day when you are at work.

When Something Does Go Wrong

If you are able to witness your puppy or dog chewing on an item that is not theirs refrain from scolding them and simply do a trade with them. Give them something that is theirs (ideally something better than the object they currently have) and discreetly stow away the dog-illegal item. (If your dog growls, snaps, hunches over the object, or displays any other behavior that makes you afraid to take the object away, refrain from doing so. Instead, bait the dog away from the object. Do not put yourself in harms way and consult a professional dog trainer. For a dog to want to keep a prized possession is normal, but unwanted behavior.)

If you come home from a day at work and the first thing you see when you come in the door are the feathers of your shredded couch pillow, the best action to take is simply a deep breath. To yell at or punish the dog for their destructive behavior is not only pointless, but cruel. Dogs do not have the capacity to make the connection between your yelling and the pillow they had a great time destroying 4 hours earlier. All they would be learning instead is to be afraid of you when you walk in the door, they see your body stiffens and you yell their name. Rather, the best technique is to calmly vacuum up the mess. Reward yourself for being calm and handling the situation the correct way by giving yourself a piece of cake! (Hey, reward good behavior!)

Hopefully by setting your dog up for success, not giving them access to inappropriate objects, giving them plenty of dog toys, utilizing the management techniques and handling situations correctly, house training a dog can be easier on you and on your dog, allowing a long and happy life together under one roof!

Get more helpful and useful tips for house training a dog successfully


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