Perhaps the first, most common, and most annoying behavior problem dog owners encounter is indoor elimination (that is, peeing and pooping indoors). Dogs adopted from shelters may have been relinquished because they were poorly house trained. But even if they were properly house trained before ending up in a shelter, their training may have relapsed. Puppies . . . well, they just do not know any better.
If you purchased your dog from a pet store, there is a good chance it came from a puppy mill. Some puppy mill dogs can be challenging to house train because they often are kept in very unsanitary conditions and become desensitized to their own urine and feces. Such dogs are not hopeless, but they may require some extra patience and management.
By following these steps, most dogs can be house trained fairly quickly – and those who take longer won't ruin your carpet in the process.
• Forget about potty pads and diapers. Unless you live in a high-rise apartment or some other situation that prohibits you from getting your dog outside regularly, I advise against using potty pads and doggy diapers. Your dog probably does not have a problem with eliminating outdoors. The problem is, he does not mind eliminating indoors either. The goal of house training is building a preference and a habit for eliminating outdoors. The last thing you need is another item the dog does not mind eliminating on/in.
• Put your dog on a schedule. Feed and water your dog at regular times. Then log the times he eliminates outdoors. If you can control the input, you can predict the output. And if you can predict the output, you can prevent accidents. Make sure you take your dog outside within fifteen minutes of eating or drinking until you get your mind around his rhythms.
• Don't rush the dog. When you take your dog outside, do not come straight back in after he pees or poops. Dogs often do not completely empty their bowels and bladders on the first try. Each time your dog pees or poops, stay outside an extra 5-10 minutes. If he does not go again within that time frame, you can bring him back in.
• Link freedom inside to eliminating outdoors. If your dog does not eliminate when you take him outdoors after eating or drinking, he must be either crated or tethered to you indoors. This prohibits him from wandering off and having an accident when you bring him back inside. If he did not eliminate outdoors, you should bring him outdoors again soon so he can try again. Once he eliminates outdoors, he can have supervised freedom indoors until his next feeding/watering.
• Put elimination on cue. When your dog is in the process of eliminating outdoors, repeat a word you would like to use to spur him to use the bathroom. I like to say, “hurry up.” Later, you will be able to tell your dog to “hurry up,” and the dog will begin looking for a place to eliminate.
• Reward successful elimination. After you dog is finished peeing or pooping outdoors, praise him lavishly and give him some treats. Make it worth his while. If no rewards are given for eliminating indoors, but they are given for eliminating outdoors, the decision about where to use the bathroom becomes easier for your dog.
• Appropriately deal with accidents indoors. Dogs associate a reward or consequence with what happened no more than one or two seconds before. So if you find an old accident in the house, there is no need addressing it. That fact is, if your dog had an accident, it was your fault for not managing him closely enough. Just clean it up with some enzyme-based cleaner like Nature's Miracle. If you are fortunate enough to catch the dog in the act, do not panic or get angry. Think of it as a training opportunity. Snap your fingers and say, “no” to mark the unwanted behavior. Then get your dog outside as quickly as possible to finish his business. When he does, praise him lavishly.
Old-school house training methods such as rubbing a dog's nose in his accidents usually have undesirable results. For instance, your dog may start trying to hide his elimination to avoid punishment. He also may become hesitant to eliminate in front of you, which will make it exponentially more difficult to teach him to use the bathroom outdoors when you are present.
The best strategy for house training a dog is through superior management. If you can help your dog achieve a one hundred percent success rate outdoors and a zero percent failure rate indoors, the habit and preference for eliminating outdoors will occur quickly.
About The Author: Thomas Aaron is a certified dog training instructor and the owner of FetchMasters, LLC in Denver, Colorado. He is a strong advocate of positive reinforcement training, believing it provides the most humane path to a well-trained dog and nurtures an appropriate and strong bond between people and their dogs. He has trained hunting hounds since childhood and currently specializes in off-leash obedience training, behavior modification and positive gun dog training. FetchMasters.com