How to Successfully Housebreak Your Dog
by Jon Weaver
The most immediate concern of new dog owners is that of housebreaking the pet. In order to accomplish this task, the essential principle that the owner must recognize is that it is always the desire of the dog to please its master. Nothing can give the dog greater pleasure than to know that its actions have met with approval; nothing can cause the dog greater displeasure than to know that its behavior has called forth disapproval.
When the dog performs its functions properly, it should immediately be rewarded by a lot of endearing words, by petting, or even with a treat. When the dog performs its functions improperly, it should be told briskly in a deep, stern and powerful voice -- but not necessarily loud -- and with no uncertain terms that it has done the wrong thing, shown what it has done, and then put back on its paper.
It must also be remembered that these expressions of approval or disapproval must be made immediately after the animal performs or is about to perform. If there is a delay of even a moment, the animal simply will not associate the praise or punishment with its natural functions, and will be at a complete loss to understand the favorable or unfavorable outbursts on the part of the owner. In any case, the owner must be rigidly consistent in his rewards and punishments in the housebreaking routine. For the speed with which housebreaking will be accomplished depends on the owner's diligence in maintaining that consistency. It must further be remembered that a dog does not have a human mentality; so a reasonable amount of patience in training will be required.
In a variable amount of time -- anywhere from a week to three weeks -- the dog will become conditioned to the fact that when it does not perform its functions properly, it is punished. When it does perform its functions properly, it is praised. Soon the dog will always perform its duty as required, not because it recognizes a sanitary code, but simply because of the desire to meet with approval and avoid displeasure.
Very young puppies, say between the ages of six weeks to two months, are usually first broken to paper indoors. This is commonly accomplished by lifting the animal and placing it on paper as soon as any "danger signals" are noticed. This is combined with punishment for mistakes and reward for correct conduct. After any mistake the dog should be put back on its paper. The paper should be placed in one specific area. Usually, after a few days, the animal will be noted to make a beeline for the paper whenever it has to "go."
When the animal becomes strong enough and if the weather is agreeable, the animal is broken to the outside. With older pups, or with pups acquired during the warm seasons, it will save time to break the animal directly to the outside.
It has often been suggested that the most effective way to housebreak a dog is to rub the animal's face in the excretory matter whenever it has made a mistake. While the effectiveness of this procedure can hardly be denied, it is at best a barbarous, unclean, and unnecessary practice that will only damage your relationship with your dog. Consistently good results will be obtained by the painless method described above.
With these few tips you should be able to successfully housebreak your dog in a reasonable period of time. However, if your dog does not seem to be catching on after a couple of weeks, consider consulting a professional dog trainer to learn alternate techniques instead of making the punishment increasingly harsh.
About the Author
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