Thursday, January 12, 2012

Awakening the Body and the Mind

I arrived at class today, not knowing what to expect. The standard meet-and-greet rituals took place before everyone relaxed and sat down. The instructor, along with many of the other participants, were all communicating fluidly using words and gestures that I didn’t understand at all! I felt a little left out…unsure of what to do, but there I sat, because that is what I was told to do.

Number 1 or Number 2?

Either way, it totally bites, right!?! This little behavior problem can often become the biggest obstacle to creating that much sought-after dog/human bond that everyone else is talking about.

Whether you are dealing with a puppy or adult dog, the tips and concepts below can help. If you fail to make progress, don't hesitate to contact a qualified, rewards-based training professional. The programs offered are sure to set you and your dog up for success...and your learnings will also benefit every other dog that passes through the door of your home and the window of your heart!

  • The key to successful housetraining is called "environmental management." This takes both aforethought and an ongoing effort. Know what your dog is doing at all times...listen (both with your ears and your eyes) to what he is telling you about his needs! Don’t give him the run of the house if he cannot handle it!
  • The name of the game is “Developing Good Habits”…not “Developing Bad Habits”…so create a bubble of “You Can Do No Wrong” for your dog for a good 3 weeks and ultimately set the stage for a strong potty foundation!
  • Understanding your dog’s limits. Both puppies and smaller dog breeds just cannot hold it as long! Be sure you take this into account as you plan your daily routine. And beware of comparing your dog’s failures to other dogs of the same breed or size. Like humans, we are all different and some of us have special needs.
  • Know that dogs or puppies who struggle with housetraining regularly may also struggle with an enormous amount of anxiety that comes with eliminating period. The only way to avoid or end the vicious cycle that comes along with this challenge is to take all of your emotion out of the mix. If Fido knows that fire comes out your ears when he potties IN the house…how on earth could you expect him to be relaxed enough to potty outside of the house with you standing right there? If you have found yourself here, repair may take some time…I suggest a walk out and about to potty for a good 3 weeks with rewards when he offers up the peeps or the poops!
  • Work with your veterinarian to identify a medical issue if you see a sudden onset of new housetraining failures and/or your dog tinkles in her sleep or trickles during play. Incontinence can even happen in the young dog after altering. Behavior modification should always come secondary to addressing a medical problem.
  • Choose a small spot in your yard in which you retreat to for every potty break. This should not be Fido’s playing or eating area. Allow him to sniff around without any interruption from you (eye contact, verbal or otherwise). Once you see potty, continue to watch out of the corner of your eye, and then treat your pup immediately upon completion. Immediately…that treat comes out of your pocket or the ball flies out of your hand!
  • Going back into the house and setting your dog free will not do anyone any good if Fido didn’t already potty outside. If you are insistent about going back in, even if the deed is yet to be done, place your dog in a small confined area for 10-20 minutes and then lead him back outside to repeat your attempt.
  • Watch out for pitfalls! No pun intended on the “watch” part! This is one of the greatest mistakes in housetraining. You’ve got to WATCH, my friends! You’ll want to know that your dog has pottied so you can give him a greater roam of the house for a short period of time so that he can find success! If you don’t see it, then you can’t reward your dog for doing the right thing outdoors. If you don’t reward it, then you won’t see any increase in the behavior you are looking for! 
  • Provide potty opportunities approx. 20 minutes after play, eating, drinking or immediately upon awakening.
  • Avoid opting for a dog door. While it works well for some dogs, it can bring a flood of many other behaviors that most owners do not like. Instead, pick your program, stick to it and watch your dog flourish with rules, routines and boundaries! 
  • Notice when Fido approaches the door…instantly open the door and reward him upon elimination. Tip…don’t wait until he has pottied and has already made it back inside the home for the reward…be there to reward him instantly, with the last drop or the last plop!
  • Know that your dog WILL have an accident (some more than others depending on where Fido is in his housetraining process).  It is standard and normal for behaviors to fall apart for puppies when other significant developmental stages are at hand (three, six, nine and twelve months).
  • Plan for the accident. Refrain from yelling at him, looking at him, touching him or having a discussion with him (Yes! It happens!). Calmly remove Fido from the area of the incident before cleaning up. Discuss this concept (not cleaning up in front of him or evening acknowledging the accident) with all other family members so Fido is not unintentionally reinforced for undesirable behavior.
  • After you’ve cleaned up, plan to feed Fido his meal in that particular spot in the home. Dogs usually refrain from eliminating where they rest, play or eat.
  • After an accident, take that soiled paper towel from inside and scent the outdoor area where you would like for Fido to relieve himself…just rub it around. This might just be the message he needs. 
  • Ah-ha! Feed that dog all over your home. Play with that dog in all corners of the home…this will give your pup a reason NOT to potty in the corner behind the chair in the living room where nobody ever sits!
  • Journal the accidents to create a better understanding of your dog’s habits…now this is listening! From here, I suggest you change up your own routine based on your findings. Success is just waiting for you! 
Be sure, my friends, that you take the time to work on relationship repair when dealing with the frustrations of house soiling challenges. It's a doozy. Go play...go train. Commit to learning a new trick or command, but above all...go have some fun :)

Want more? Visit KBDT's Suggested Reading Page and check out "Way to Go"…it is absolutely one of my favorites for those experiencing housetraining struggles. Paws up for National Train Your Dog the house or out!

Kimberly Burgan
Kimberly Burgan Dog Training | Austin, TX