There are three basic principles of housetraining:
1. The owner should reward the dog each and every time that it eliminates in an appropriate area. This practice communicates the household rules and wishes of the owner. A reward can be a simple “Good Boy!” and some playtime with the owner or his favorite treat.
2. At times when the owner is absent (or can’t pay attention) the dog should be kept confined. In this way the puppy or dog is prevented from developing a habit of soiling the house. Prevention vs Treatment.
3. For eliminating in an inappropriate area, the puppy or dog should never be punished but should be taken to the appropriate area. Let me explain what punishing a puppy or dog will teach it. It teaches it not to eliminate in your presence because you were very angry when it eliminated last time so next time he needs to go, he hides. Clean up any accidents thoroughly so there is less chance of them coming back to that spot in the future.
Frequency of Elimination
The ease of housetraining is dependent on the frequency of elimination. The more frequent the behavior, the greater the likelihood that the owner will be there to help direct the puppy or dog to the appropriate area and reward him. Frequency is dependent on age, sex, and particular elimination.
Young pups tend to urinate and defecate more frequently than adults. Spayed and neutered adults urinate less frequently than intact adults.
It makes sense to housetrain as early as possible when urination and defecation are frequent and easy to predict. In view of the frequency of elimination, training a puppy is usually easier but takes longer. A three to four month old puppy should have developed sufficient bowel and bladder capacity to enable it to last through the night or through the daytime when it is left alone.
When dogs develop house soiling problems it is usually because they were not sufficiently housetrained in the first place. All training is a continuous process that lasts for the life of the dog. With regular training, potential problems are avoided and without training, problems eventually develop and existing problems worsen.
When acquiring an adult dog, many people fail to teach it the rules of the house. They neglect to tell the dog what they want it to do. They assume the dog knows what to do and where to do it. How can a dog know that it has done wrong unless it has been advised of the rules of its new house? Some owners think that they have given the dog sufficient guidance. Many dogs would probably disagree. All too often the instructions are given in a manner that the dog does not understand.
Others are extremely conscientious in the beginning. They start off diligently with their new puppy or dog and faithfully reward it each and every time it eliminates in the appropriate place. In no time at all, the owners begin to wonder why housetraining is considered a problem. However, things often start to go wrong at this point. Proud that they have housetrained their dog they now become a bit blasé and begins to let things slip. They discontinue accompanying the dog on its toilet trips and sure enough, given time, the dog’s memory begins to wane. The dog forgets and eventually makes a mistake. The owner is shocked and angry and punishes the dog. The dog becomes confused and stressed and makes more mistakes. The owner gets angrier and a vicious cycle develops. In no time at all, housetraining goes down the drain.
The owner must always accompany the dog on its toilet trips to ensure that the dog uses the desired location and to praise and reward the dog for doing so. It is not sufficient to simply push the dog out the back door and reward it when it comes inside. Unless the owner has accompanied the dog, he can not be certain that the dog has relieved itself. In effect, he is rewarding the dog for coming back in and the dog will soon want to come back in as soon as it goes out.
Owners must acknowledge that housetraining is an ongoing process. It never stops. Behavior is never stable, it is progressively and variably modified from day to day. The dog’s good qualities and bad habits are constantly changing, for better or for worse. Murphy’s First Law of Dog Behavior states: “Without continued instruction, good behaviors deteriorate and bad behaviors flourish.” The owner must continually check that the dog is still doing things right. Throughout the dog’s lifetime, the owner must make a point of thanking the dog for each and every time it goes in the appropriate place.