In today’s post, I’d like to address a big mistake that some people make when they’re house training.
One big error I see people make is giving their dog too many opportunities to go to the bathroom. In the very beginning, when I’m house breaking a puppy, I try to give them lots of opportunities to relieve themselves. So I might take them outside to the bathroom every hour or so. But obviously you also want to teach the dog to “hold it.”
This ability is physical, in that there are small muscles that control those bodily functions which need to be developed. But there’s also a mental aspect to it, in that you have to teach your dog to want to hold his bathroom urges. This can happen for a multitude of reasons: the dog wants to be clean, he wants to be rewarded for going outside, or to avoid the correction that cones when he goes inside. Both of these aspects, physical and mental, need to be developed through training and time.
Many owners struggle at first to house train their dogs, and eventually get to the point where they’re taking the dog out to the bathroom every 30-45 minutes. If they break that habit, the dog goes to the bathroom in the house. If they are never forced to hold it, the dog has never developed either the musculature that they need or the desire to do so. They don’t need to hold it in because they go out all the time! There’s no impetus to get better and learn.
How do we get around this? Straight and simple: supervision. If you have a young dog that isn’t house trained, that dog should be either in a crate or on a leash and with you at all times. I always hear clients say: “I supervise my dog all the time,” and then later they reveal that their dog “snuck away” and peed in the house. That’s not supervision! Your dog cannot be able to sneak away, and you need to get on a rough schedule. If I have a four-month-old dog I usually shoot for three or four hours between “potty breaks,” because I don’t want the dog to become dependent on them in order to not go to the bathroom in the house. In fact, I don’t even want the dog to tell me that they need to go to the bathroom. I want them to recognize that I’m fair, and will take them outside with enough frequency that they don’t need to go in the house.
The bottom line is this: Watch your dogs! Many people that try their best and have the best intentions still take their dogs out far too often, which potentially creates a lot of issues in house training. Don’t make that mistake.