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When I was a child, we had a family dog that was never really reliable in the house. There were several factors that
contributed to his problem, not the least of which was that he wasn't neutered (male dogs often feel a compulsion to “mark” with urine.) But
the most important factor that my family neglected to recognize was that he was never properly house trained to begin with. My family simply
did not know how to effectively do the job. I suspect my parents practiced all the “wisdom” of that time period, such as just expecting him to
understand where he should be going, and punishing him when he urinated in the house rather than outside. I’m sure they got angry and
thought he was being naughty, stubborn, or stupid when he relieved himself in the house. For his entire life, he had to be locked onto the
service porch at night or when we left the house because he would relieve himself in the house if nobody was there to supervise him; this
was in spite of the fact that our house had a doggie door. My parents remember him as a “bad dog.” I look back and feel sorry for how we
failed him.

Ironically, his habit of sneaking off and relieving himself when nobody was looking was actually created by us. Since he was punished
when he relieved himself (in the house) in front of people, he drew the logical conclusion that it was okay to go if nobody was looking. WE
assumed that knew that he wasn’t supposed to go in the house because we punished him for the act when we saw him. But truthfully,
what he learned from our actions was determined by HIS view of the world, not ours. We expected him to share our view of the world, in
spite of the fact that he was a dog, not a person. I now know that it was the combination of our lack of understanding, our unrealistic
expectations, and our use of punishment that caused him to be unreliable. We could have gotten the job done right if we’d focused on
teaching him what we wanted him to do, by using a system of rewards for his desirable choices, and then carefully supervising and
managing him until he was truly reliable. Instead, we set him up to fail and then blamed him for his failings.

There are many things that make house training a challenge. Sometimes dogs have been unintentionally taught (as my
dog was,) to sneak away and relieve themselves when they think no one is looking. Some very tiny dogs make such small messes that
people are unaware that they have a problem until the dog has been urinating in the house for quite some time. Male dogs can be inclined
to mark things, even after they’ve been neutered. Even dogs with good elimination habits can be hesitant to go outside to relieve
themselves when the weather is bad (raining, snowing, high winds,) or if there is something unusual happening (like construction work or
gardeners using loud equipment) which scares or intimidates them. Often they will hold it as long as they can and then finally relieve
themselves in the house when they can hold it no longer. And some dogs seem to really prefer to go on carpet. Why they do this is up for
debate, but the absorbent properties of carpet probably partially account for at least part of the reason they find this desirable.  

The bottom line is, for most dogs there is no natural or intrinsic desire to wait until they go outside to go potty, and
our desire to have this
happen is completely foreign to them. They simply have different set of sensibilities to our own.
Most of us live in rather large homes
(certainly from a dog’s point of view) and as long as the dog is able to eliminate
some distance from his eating and sleeping area, he will
usually be satisfied with the arrangement. As such, when we teach them not to eliminate in the house, we’re actually teaching them to
adapt their behavior patterns to suit our sensibilities and ideals. When you understand this, you learn to appreciate just how wonderful it is
that they can be house trained at all, and you recognize that when they don’t make the choices that we would like them to make, it’s not
because they are naughty or stupid or stubborn, but rather it's because they haven’t yet been properly taught, and they don't yet truly
understand how to "get it right.
There are several options to explore when house training a dog. Dogs can be taught to eliminate on command, they can be taught to use a pee-pad or potty box, or they can be
taught to ring a bell to alert you that they need to go outside. Crate training can be helpful when house training a dog, as can the use of an exercise pen. Certainly some type of
management strategy is necessary until the dog  is thoroughly trained. Dogs can be taught to use a doggie door, although it’s important to note that just knowing that they have
access to the outside does not mean a dog will use that option if they haven't been properly trained.

Regardless of which option you choose, the key to successful house training will always lie in your willingness to stay diligent and consistent, and in remembering that the
responsibility for teaching your dog what he needs to know resides with you. If your dog is struggling with the concept, don’t get angry and blame him; realize that he is trying to
grasp an idea which is foreign to him and re-evaluate what you are doing to help him understand. Stay patient and positive. Perhaps most of all, remember that house training a
dog (actually, teaching a dog anything,) is best achieved when you have a clear, solid plan; using positive, reward-based methods that make your dog feel good about learning. And
if you need help, call the dog trainer!

House training, (aka: potty training,) marking, etc...
Copyright © 2011 Kim Rinehardt. Ain't Misbehavin' K9
An article about dog / puppy training by Certified Professional Dog Trainer in Southern California
This site and all its original content Copyright © 2014 Ain't Misbehavin' K9 Dog Training.
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