Housetraining: Where It All Falls Apart

Many dog owners are missing the other half of the housetraining equation.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

About half the emails I get from readers and listeners ("Dog Trainer! Please help me!") involve housetraining problems. Mostly they go something like this: Jane Q. Guardian takes her puppy out many times a day, but he still pees and poops in the house. Why won't Puppalini learn?

Here's the deal. Jane Q. has got down half of the housetraining equation. She's giving Puppalini all the opportunities he needs to eliminate in the right place. The crucial other half, the half Jane Q. is missing, is the combination of supervision and confinement.

Like toilet training for people, housetraining isn't only about learning where pee and poop should go; it's also about developing the muscle control needed to get there. Supervision and confinement take advantage of the fact that most dogs and puppies strongly prefer not to eliminate if they can't leave the scene afterward. Instead, they try to hang on.

Now, housetraining is not supposed to be dog torture! I don't want anybody's puppy squeezing his little legs together and breaking into a sweat. (Dogs don't sweat, anyway.)

A very young puppy may need to go out hourly when awake, and even a healthy grown dog should get a minimum of four outings a day. And by "outings" I mean real leg-stretchings, not just 30-second trips to the nearest patch of grass.

But, just as we learn to put our functions on hold during, say, the morning commute, so our dogs need to adjust to having X number of "toilet" visits daily, rather than eliminating the instant they feel the urge. Hence the comfortable crate, the tether station, or the leash that keeps your puppy with you like an umbilical cord. Give your housetrainee plenty of chances to pee and poop in the right place -- and also help him learn that he needs to hold on for a little while, till you can get him there.

Jolanta Benal is the author of The Dog Trainer’s Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).