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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Housetraining Dogs - Basic Aspects

So you’re bringing home your newest family member and—it’s a Dog! Congratulations—you couldn’t have made a better choice of companion! It’s going to be a responsibility and a joy and the first lesson you need to help your dog with is housetraining. However, are you sure though that you’ve done all the right things to get your dog and that you are on the right track, or are you on a blind date?

Finding Fido or Fifi

There are certain prerequisites that you need to keep in mind before you get yourself a pet. The breed you choose and where you get it from also plays a role in how fast you can housetrain your dog. You have to make sure that you are you going to be around for the dog because you need to invest in terms of time to housetrain a dog or a puppy.

Housetraining also depends on where you live—in an apartment or a house. There are some things you need to keep in mind to make housebreaking your dog an easier and more comfortable tasks. For example:

What’s the breed you've fallen for?

There are some breeds that are very quick to housetrain for example like German Shepherds because they are so eager to please their masters. There are some breeds like the Basset Hounds that are quite a challenge to train. If you have decided and found the breed that you want, then make it a point to research all about its requirements. Do as much investigation about the breed of your choiceas you possibly can. Meet other owners, check with the local dog club, surf the net and schedule meetings with a breeder. You must be sure that this breed is best suited to your temperament and that you can take care of it by having the patience to train it and nurture it.

Have you found a responsible breeder?

This might seem terribly unconnected with housetraining—but hey! It is not! A
responsible breeder would give you a good quality dog that is free of genetic diseases that could impair his physical and mental abilities and thus make him harder to train. A reliable breeder would take care to socialize the puppies and make them responsive to human beings. An unsocialized pup would be temperamentally unbalanced, scared of humans, shy or stubborn and therefore very difficult to train.

Where do you live?

Do you live in a house that has access to a yard? Or do you live in an apartment that doesn’t even have a balcony? You would have to think about these things because your dog would need to answer the calls of nature—so where is he or she going to go? If you live in a house with a fenced off yard that is accessible from your kitchen through a doggy door—it’s definitely an advantage. If you live in an apartment you need to mark out the potty area and separate it from the rest of the living quarters. Where you live will decide if you want the dog to eliminate outside in the yard or inside on paper.

What are the weather conditions like when you’re bringing home your dog?

Now this is not a polite what’s the weather like conversation—it really makes a difference! For example, if your are bringing home a puppy when there is one foot of snow on the ground, it might become difficult to take the pup outside every three or four hours to potty train him or her because the weather is such that you cannot expose the dog to it.

Is your pet spayed or neutered?

This has a big effect on housetraining because it is seen that male dogs that are not neutered have a tendency to be more dominating and to show off their power, they tend to spray and mark their territory.

Similarly, female dogs would have bouts of irritability and be a bit snappy and uncooperative during their seasons. A neutered or spayed pet is easier to train and seen to be more obedient.

How old is your dog?

Is your dog a puppy or an adult? Some will argue that an adult dog is easier to train than a puppy but that’s not always true. For example if the adult dog hasn’t been socialized adequately and is a bit insecure and has an attitude problem, it’s going to be tough training him. A puppy is more like fresh clay that you can mold into a pattern suiting your routine. Never get a pup that is less that 8 weeks old—for a wellrounded personality, no dog should be separated from his mother and siblings until it is at least eight weeks old. That is because the first socialization is with the mother and the littermates and it would make for a secure and well-balanced pet.

However, housetraining your dog depends on how you train the dog, no matter what the age is. Be sure to choose the right breed, decide on the sex of the dog and the age as well. Never get carried away by the looks of a dog. Impulsive buying of a pet without an inkling of the responsibility that comes with it is unfair to the pet. Research and see what each breed requires and what kind of temperament he or she comes with. Don’t bring home a dog if you are not ready and then take it to a shelter because he or she cannot be housetrained. If the dog cannot be housetrained, you are more responsible than the dog because you didn’t pull the right strings.

Orienting yourself

You’ve made all the right decision regarding what kind of pet you have and now what you have to do before you get your dog home is make sure that you are ready for the challenge of caring for it. It would be a good idea to orient yourself to the chores that need to be carried out, the expenses that has to be invested and the training that needs to be given. You have to understand that you are the key player here and you need to be prepared to give the mental, physical and material comfort that your dog will require.

Think about it—you are in your natural environment and comfortably used to the four walls of your house and the overall space that you move in. For your dog, everything is unfamiliar and not natural. It is not natural in the sense that, ideally this descendant of the wolf is a pack animal that would live unfettered in the open wild. Because he or she has been bred to be man’s companion, the dog has to adjust to your environment. So who can your dog rely on to guidehim through the world of humans but you?

It’s Just You and Your Dog

It’s not the name of a movie yet but it sure could be!

Housetraining really is about how you and your dog connect. Your relationship with your dog will set the pace of how quickly your dog will get trained. You need to have the right balance of love, firmness and structure. If you are loving to the point of coo chi cooing indulgence, then you can be sure that you aren’t going to have much success with housetraining routines. Your dog as a puppy is very impressionable—if you put him on your lap all the time, let him have more than a couple of accidents in the house and even then let him sleep in your bed—you can rest assured that he is not going to outgrow that pattern.

However, if you swing over to the other side and wield a whip—you aren’t going to create much of an impression either. The dog will be cowed down all right, but do remember that fear instills resentment. Your dog is most likely going to be defensive, disobedient and the way he will show it first is by defying the rules of housetraining. Unnecessary dominance over you dog, handicaps all your efforts to housebreak him or her.

You need to strike a balance between the two extremes of blind adoration and a rigid show of power. As you do with your kids, you need to deal out a little tough love to your newest family member. He or she should know that you are there for him or her, but you are not there to be taken for granted. It calls for being the alpha to your dog. It calls for being the leader of the pack and blending in the love with being the provider of food, shelter and the overall protection of those down the ranks.

Even before you bring your dog home, make sure you know exactly how to pattern your relationship with your dog. You need to set the rules down from the beginning so that your dog senses that you are the one who has to be obeyed and that you have to be obeyed not out of fear but because you love the dog enough to be the provider of food, the protector of his health and well-being and the leader of his actions and manners. You would need to do that by:

Being the alpha:

Make sure that you act like the leader. Every dog needs to look up to his owner and see a person who can be respected and loved.

Once they look up to you, it will make sense to them that your word must be obeyed.
  • You can gain your dog’s loyalty by using a commanding voice and being consistent and setting a routine that is regulated by you—not your dog.
  • You should be in charge of ordering his life by deciding where he sleeps, or sits or when he plays and when he goes for walks.
  • Show your dog affection when you want to pet him and not when he demands it. Your dog shouldn’t demand a walk from you or a snack—he or she should earn the walk, snack or reward as well as your affection.

Being the provider of food:

Dogs always respect the person who feeds them. In a pack the alpha always made sure that food is available to the pack. Make sure that you plan out the feeding routine, before you bring your dog home. Consult the breeder and the vet and draw up a feeding plan that you can stick to. Do not allow your dog to dictate when you are to feed him. You are the provider, so you get to decide when your dog eats and how much. This will help him to realize your leadership position and make him obey your commands.
  • Call your dog and have him sit obediently for his food rather than jump around.
  • Never feed him at irregular times.
  • Put the food down and leave it there for exactly 20 minutes. Whatever he eats within that time is what his body needs.
  • If you are using a doggy treat as a reward, then give it to your dog only when he
  • deserves it.

Being the groomer:

A dog will always obey the person who takes charge of his life and cares for him or her. Grooming your dog helps to establish your superiority over your dog in the sense that you have the right to handle his body. You must make sure you regularly brush your dog’s coat, feel the full length of his body as well as open his mouth and stick your finger in to feel the gums and the teeth. It’s a show of power and your dog will respect you more for it. If your dog does growl, gently hold his muzzle down with your hands. Grooming will also provide a time with your dog to establish a bond and increases the trust of your dog in you. Once your dog trusts you his loyalty will be unmatched and his housetraining will be much quicker because he will be eager to please you.

Being the leader that he must follow:

You will literally have to lead your dog. When you go out the door, you must walk out first and have your pet follow. You must sit first and then call your dog to you. You must lead your dog when you walk and have him heel and walk as close as is possible to you. From the time you bring your dog home, you must make sure that he follows you around rather than you chasing him around! Once you get him to follow your lead, you can rest assured that housetraining him will be much easier than you thought.

Over all, you need to be worth it for your dog to be your best companion. Firmness that is born out of love is what you need to establish a disciplined pattern. There is one thing that you have to be very clear on—your dog expects you to give structure to his or her life because he has no idea of what is right or wrong in your environment. If you do not set the limits, then the dog won’t know when he is stepping over the limits!

Housetraining is really about you showing your dog that it isn’t right to go potty in the house. It is for you to show the patience in the face of the accidents that happen. It is also up to you to give your dog the time that he needs from you for housetraining. You will have to be there every minute of the day, taking him out for the first week to get him oriented into the housebreaking schedule. You will have to also, from day one, simultaneously work on your relationship with your dog on leadership and obedience issues.

What can you do to make the Housetraining process more effective?

A whole lot! From establishing leadership patterns to marking the elimination area and also coordinating the entire process—you can do it all! But here are a few basic requirements that would impact the housetraining drill immediately:
  • Establishing a bond with your dog would facilitate trust and that’s why it is important that you hug and show your dog affection but keep it within limits. Don’t cross the line that divides a loved pet from a spoiled pet.
  • Practicing the basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come etc., would go a long way in commanding obedience from your dog during the housebreaking process.
  • Providing the right food would help the dog have a good and regulated bowel movement rather than changing the food every day and giving the dog a constipation problem. Good food would keep your dog free of any stomach disorder like diarrhea, constipation, etc. that can cause him discomfort and hamper the housetraining process.
  • Providing your dog with fresh and clean water is also bound to help him in the elimination process and keep kidney problems at bay. Don’t think that by restricting the water intake, you can train your dog. You must ensure that your dog is properly nourished and hydrated.
  • Praise your dog when he does stick to the housebreaking drill. As you are his leader, the dog will be thrilled and encouraged to be praised by you. Also it would encourage your dog to repeat the desirable behavior just so that he can get your praise again!
  • Be regular and consistent with your dog’s schedule. This means that you must feed him at the same times, walk him at the same times, train him at the same times and of course, take him out to relive himself at the same times. Your consistency would
  • help to establish a predictable pattern for your dog.

Slowly over time, the repetition of all the activities will become a habit for your dog.

There are no shortcuts to caring for a dog or housetraining it. Apart from a good quality pet, it calls for responsible ownership, firm leadership, consistent patience and enthusiastic praise. At the end of the day—you and your dog will have a relationship that is patterned on the right mix of discipline, love and mutual respect and for the devotion he will give you, that’s the least you can offer the newest member of your family!