House Training for the Primitive Dog

This article pertains to house training puppies. If your dog is an adolescent or just never got with the whole house training program and is still having accidents, hang tight, we’ll have an article on that soon.

House training is a fundamental skill that all dogs need to live happy lives with their humans. Lack on house training is an unfortunate and preventable reason many dogs are relinquished to shelters. Therefore, start early and make house training a priority. While not rocket science there are some techniques that can make house training easier, faster and more successful.

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Keep a Record!

The only way to prevent future mistakes is to learn from them. Ignoring potty accidents usually leads to practicing mistakes that make housetraining harder and slower. To fix this keep a journal or hang a chart on your fridge. Mark the date and time your puppy pottied along with what they did, where it happened, and when they were doing just prior. Look for patterned in accidents such as having just come inside, had been playing, just finished eating, just woke up, etc. These details will better inform you of when you take your puppy out to potty before another accident happens.

Stand Still!

When you take your puppy outside to go to the bathroom, make sure they are on a leash. Walk them to a predetermined potty location and wait. Don’t keep walking around, don’t talk to them, ideally don’t even look at them. Just wait. If the sit, sniff, dig, or play just stand still and be patient. If you turn potty time into a yard surveying adventure you will confuse your puppy about what their priorities should be when going outside. Once they have relieved themselves you can go for a walk, explore, or play.

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Reward Good Behavior!

When your puppy successfully goes to the bathroom outside reward them. However don’t be so eager you interrupt them if they are planning to pee and poop. Wait a few seconds before giving them a reward. Also watch to make sure they are not stopping half way through peeing to snag a treat. Also don’t be in a hurry to stop using treats! The more you reward, the more you get in the future. Skimping out will lead to inconsistent housetraining. You are investing in your future (and your flooring) so be generous and consistent.

Don’t Be Lazy!

I don’t care if it is raining, sleeting, or freezing out - GO OUTSIDE WITH YOUR DOG! This is what jackets were invented for. Stand out there with your puppy and wait the normal duration it takes them to potty. Don’t try to get craft and grab a retractable leash and stand inside. This confuses your dog and will encourage them to come in before they are finished. The same goes for rushing inside when they are done. Some dogs find charging back in very punishing. Instead let them sniff around for a few minutes. If you can’t stand the cold or inclement weather, better time when you get your puppy or move to a more suitable climate.

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Establish Boundaries

This isn't permission to try some misunderstood alpha/dominance stuff. What I mean is don’t give your puppy the run of the house. In fact, anything more than a 30 foot area is likely to encourage accidents. Make liberal use of crates, gates, and pens to keep your puppy in a space where they are unlikely to sneak around a corner and go to the bathroom. When playing with your puppy you can move them to a larger space but do not take your eyes off them.

Don’t Punish Mistakes

Mistakes are your fault, not your puppy’s. They are doing the best they can with the information given to them. If they go to the bathroom inside, move your puppy to a clean space and clean up the mistake with a urine cleaner. Then mark it on your chart and think about why the mistake happened. And no, it was not out of spite or some twisted idea of control. Going to the bathroom is a normal bodily function. You are the individual trying to complicate things with your “rules”. Do not show your puppy their waste, rub their nose in it, yell, throw things, or anything else. If you do you have a very decent chance of teaching your puppy not to go to the bathroom anywhere near you (including outside), to sneak away from you to go to the bathroom (including inside), or worst of all, to eat their waste to hide it. If you’re dead set on punishment, apply it to yourself and make yourself do better reading your puppy’s signals and routine next time.

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Become a Bladder Whisperer

Recognize the signs that your puppy needs to go. Circling, pacing, becoming fidgety, sniffing the sides of furniture, looking all around, etc are all signs your puppy needs to go out. Take them out immediately. If you take them out but they don’t go, and you have the sneaking suspicion that they should need to, bring them back inside and crate or pen them for 3-5 minutes and try again. Whatever you do, don’t give them freedom to roam inside. You can also calculate how often they should need to go by this simple equation:

Age in months plus 1 = how many hours they can hold it.

If you stick to these tips housebreaking should go quickly and smoothly. But if you do hit some bumps or snags let us know so we can help!

PuppiesMolly Sumridge