Tuesday, November 12, 2013

10 Easy Steps to Housetraining

10 Easy Steps to Housetraining

Very young puppies have absolutely no control over their bodily functions. It truly amazes me when I get told that someone's puppy is still having problems going where it should and the pup is all of 8 weeks old! Or 10 or 12 weeks for that matter. Puppies who are supposedly trained at that time have well trained owners – the pups themselves are still developing physically and lack long time control.

Since this is a major issue in most households I am delighted to offer 10 Easy Steps to Housetraining written by Sue Mathews, Echo Bouviers, Hillsboro , Oregon and reprinted here with her permission.

•  Snap a 6 foot leash to your puppy's collar.

•  Put your belt through the loop on the leash.

•  Where you goeth, so goeth the puppy.

•  Supervise the puppy at all times.

•  Roll up a newspaper and keep it with you at all times.

•  Take the puppy outside on a leash first thing in the morning, after eating, after playing, after napping, anytime you see the puppy prowling, sniffing, or scratching...and about every hour in between. Encourage her to “Go potty!”

•  When the puppy pees or dumps, praise her BIG TIME (until the neighbors come to take you away) and then play ball or some other fun game for a little bit. (The message to the puppy...First I go potty, then I get to PLAY!)

•  If the puppy doesn't do anything productive in 15 minutes or so take her inside and crate her for an hour in the same room you're in, then take her outside again. Take her outside sooner if you hear her whining.

•  The ONLY time your puppy should be in a crate is at night, if you bring her inside after a non productive potty run, or if you just cannot supervise her personally (i.e. you need to take a shower!)

•  If at any time you find a surprise puddle or poop on the floor, get your rolled up newspaper. Hit yourself over the head 3 times and say “Baaaaaaad Owner...I forgot to watch my dog!”

Follow this program and I can guarantee that the puppy will be housetrained. It won't be this week, or probably for several weeks more, and yes, the burden is on you...This works with puppies, or with older dogs...you just have to take the time to help the dog learn good habits.

The WORD is out!

The WORD is out!

While the WORD is out it still requires listening to it and reading it.  What word?  Positive.  Actually, there are many words involved and NO! is not one of them.  BAD DOG! doesn’t qualify either.  Saying:  Did you do THAT? can backfire big time so toss that from your selection of words.  Using “the” word means that one doesn’t scold pups for defecating on the Oriental rug, destroying the chair leg, and eating things that are not good for it.  It means that you start using words like:  Good dog!  But you have to be on the alert for all the good things every dog does!

Do I hear moans and groans and even louder sounds suggesting such a program is nuts?  Oh, to be sure I am hearing those sounds – I hear them regularly.  And always from people who are absolutely certain their dog knows exactly what it is supposed to do and refuses to do it.   What is usually stated that justifies the person’s scolding and punishment is that the dog has been told over and over and should understand it by now.  And, the all time biggee is:  He knows he did the wrong thing because he runs off as soon as I come in the room.  Hmmm.  Well, if the dog did understand  and was rewarded for the proper behavior I can guarantee that the dog would be doing what you want.  And, if you are interested in changing your mind I can give you a way to prove that your dog is not associating its (“bad”)  behavior with what you are observing.  Honest.

The people from whom I never hear those words are people who have begun to understand just how animals really do learn.  Those animals, incidentally, include humans.  Possibly I need to add – people who do not say those words “understand” how animals really do learn in the best possible way.

In order to apply the methods of positive training it is important to learn alternatives to all the training methods you may have been using.  We teach the proper behavior rather than punish what is not wanted.  Ignoring what is undesirable is probably the most difficult concept for people to grasp.  That means that it will be a challenge to stop saying NO! to a pup that is jumping on your guests.  It means that you have to stop pushing the dog off of you as you say NO!  It means you have to stop hollering, spraying your dog in the face with water, it means not shoving your dog’s face in excrement left on your rug and it most certainly means not using your hands for anything except good stuff.  Incidentally – only your dog can tell you what the good stuff things are.  Observe your dog!!!  If you are big into pats and even thumps on her rump you are most assuredly NOT praising your dog.

As you change your approach – and I most certainly hope you do so – keep in mind just how difficult it is to make those changes.  Then, think of your dog.  How much more difficult it probably is for her to change behavior:  such as to trust you not to punish her.  Or to trust that you will use your hands only to touch gently and in places that SHE likes.

So, your assignment is to come up with all the things that you like about your dog and find ways to let her know that.  Best ways include “marking” that behavior (saying Yes!, for example or, as I teach, proper use of a “clicker”) so that she knows exactly what is correct, and offering a tasty treat.  Once she sees there is a  positive way of life, learn how to apply this to any and all things you really want her to do.  Those things include using a specific area for elimination, resting in appropriate places compared to your favorite chair, chewing on appropriate bones and toys, greeting guests with “4 on the floor”, and much, much more.

Seeing those Aha! moments are rewards enough for those who really want to learn “the word”.


*If there is a sudden behavior change it is always necessary to investigate a health issue.  Sudden house soiling for example can result from bladder infections, parasites and even from stress if there have been major changes in the household.

Look Ma! NO Hands!

Look Ma!  NO Hands!

When I was a youngster and finally managed to ride a bicycle my next goal was to do what the really good bike riders did – ride with no hands.  When that day came it was a wonderful experience indeed.

Well, that isn’t the only place where a no-hands technique is wonderful.  It applies to dog (and cat!) training as well.*  Dog’s can learn to walk at one’s side without using the hands to yank on a leash.  Dog’s can learn to sit, lie down, and a myriad of other activities without the use of a leash.  Of course, we all realize that we do not have to teach dogs to sit or lie down – they know perfectly well how to perform those behaviors.  We want the behaviors to be on cue.  Notice I did not say “command”.  That is just another example of the changes that take place with positive reinforcement based training.  We are not commanding our companion animals anymore than the killer whale trainer is “commanding” his charge to perform a behavior.  Fat chance anyone could “command” such a creature!

One of the reasons people do yank on choke chains to get dogs to perform is that they CAN do it.  Of course, some people get bitten when a dog decides he has had enough but that is for another article.

Understanding what motivates animals to learn takes some effort.  Just like learning to ride that bike.  Dogs do what works.  If they can drag their person down the street they’ll surely do so.  If being in position is rewarded, guess where you’ll find the little rascal?  Or that big hunk of a dog, for that matter?  Right where you want her.

Instead of the choke chain (or prong collar or electric collar!) punishing the dog for doing the undesirable behavior, dogs are rewarded for being in the right place at the right time.  For dogs with a long history of pulling there are alternatives to help change their behavior and get those wonderful moments worth rewarding.  Those alternatives include head halters and wonderful new harnesses that are designed to stop the pulling.

Something really important to know and remember is:  Prevention is worth a pound of cure.  If people start their young pups out correctly the chances are slim they are going to have problems in the future.  People usually wait, unfortunately, until the pulling has reached the point where their shoulders are getting weekly chiropractic treatments before seeking help.  In all fairness it is important to acknowledge that there are MANY people who still believe one should not begin training until a pup is at least 6 months of age!  With punishment based training that is most certainly the case.  With positive based training methods puppies of 8 weeks have a ball with the “games” and learn everything they need to know!  The only thing one must remember is to not ask something of the little one that it physically cannot do.  Training begins the day the pup enters your life.  You are always training - best it be a plan or you end up with a lot of behaviors that will require modification.

So while that leash is a safety line that should always be used in situations where the dog may escape,  do investigate the No hands! training methods.

*No hands training works successfully with elephants, California sea lions, rhinos, African Wild Dogs, etc., etc., etc.