Articles Index/Housebreaking
Posted 05/28/98


Housebreaking the positive way will rely on rewarding your dog for relieving himself where you want him to and on controlling his environment to help him form good habits. This method of housebreaking is designed to teach your dog to relieve himself only outdoors.

These techniques apply whether you are trying to housebreak a young puppy or an older dog. In some ways, it is more difficult to housebreak an older dog because it is hard to change established habits. On the other hand, an older dog has more control over his bodily functions than does a puppy.

You can housebreak your dog without using punishment at all, which is nicer for both you and your dog. Punishment only tells your dog what you don't want, not what you do want. Not only does punishment not tell a dog where you want him to relieve himself, it sometimes isn't even effective at telling a dog where you don't want him to go. When punished for relieving themselves in the house, some dogs learn not to relieve themselves in their owner's presence, but to wait until he is gone or to hide and relieve themselves in another room.

The most important thing to do when housebreaking your dog is to reward him for doing what you want, relieving himself outside. This reward can take the form of praise, but housebreaking will go faster if you use a food reward in addition to praise. It is simple to do. Every time your dog relieves himself outside, give him a treat and lots of praise. What you want is for your dog to rush to relieve himself when you take him outside, then run to you for a treat.

In order to reward your dog for relieving himself outside, you must always go outside with him, even if you have a fenced yard. Keep the treats right by the door so you can grab some as you go out. Don't let your dog play until the job is done. You want to establish a habit of him relieving himself before you play, go for walks, or go in the car. You can encourage your dog to use a particular area by placing his feces or the paper towel you have used to clean up his urine there.

If your dog has been punished and will not relieve himself outside when you are there, you will need to be more patient and do some extra things to get your dog to go outside so you can reward him and communicate what it is you want. Patience may mean staying outside with your dog and waiting for an hour until you can finally reward him! Once he understands what you want, however, he will get faster and faster at relieving himself.

Some dogs that have had a severe reaction to being punished absolutely refuse to relieve themselves outside on a leash. Sometimes they will urinate but not defecate. Dogs have more control over their bowel movements, and often the dog has been caught more frequently in the act of defecating and has been punished for that more often. One easy thing to try is using a Flexi-lead so your dog can get farther away from you, thus feeling more "free" to do his own thing.

C. Jordan
ANTIC, Fall, 1991


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