Housetraining seems to be the most common nemesis of all dog owners. Left unsupervised, a puppy can spend months in a home without catching the slightest hint of what housetraining is all about. And if over-supervised and harassed, he may become neurotic and overanxious.
A happy medium does exist, of course, but many pet owners seem unwilling or unable to make the necessary commitments to the tried and true methods established by professional dog trainers. In the long run, a few weeks of effort will result in a truly housetrained pup, with a minimum of effort and strain on both you and your pet.
Housetraining Rule Number 1: Confinement
There are several important factors to consider in housetraining. The first of these factors is confinement in a relatively small area that has an easy-to-clean floor and is not isolated from the rest of the family (using a playpen is perfect). Far from being cruel as most dog owners complain, confinement reassures the young puppy and allows him to become completely familiar with the surroundings without being overwhelmed with the size or complexity of your entire home.
Confinement keeps little paws and playful teeth out of range of dangerous places, while ensuring that your dog is close to his papers, or the door to the yard, whenever the urge to use the bathroom comes over him. This means he is more likely to behave correctly than to have an accident, which results in lots of praise and affection from you.
And that is the second important factor in housetraining: praise. Your praise and approval are more important to your puppy than practically anything else in his life. A mere scowl out of anger can start him sulking in sadness while a pat on the head or a few kind words will set his tail wagging and put a big smile on his little face. Young puppies respond much more quickly and effectively to praise and encouragement than they do the physical correction. Therefore, we believe that there is no place for physical punishment for any puppy.
Consistency is the third vital factor in housetraining. Consistency in schedule, in feeding habits, in praise and reward for proper behavior and in verbal reprimand when accidents occur, is of supreme importance.
Scolding occasionally for accidents but ignoring others, feeding at irregular intervals, lack of praise for soiling on the dog’s papers or in the yard – all will only serve to confuse and discourage your puppy. So be consistent and have total awareness: your awareness of your puppy’s whereabouts, his needs and urges, and his signals informing you of what’s on his mind.