"Errorless" Housetraining

by Cultured Canine


Housetraining: What’s really going on?

We tend to think of housetraining as teaching a puppy to eliminate outdoors or in a specific location in our home (or both). Our perception of housetraining tends to focus on indoors versus outdoors or living room versus bathroom.

And many people think that punishing mistakes will teach the pup to eliminate in the right place next time.

But from the puppy’s perspective, the situation is quite different.

Consider this:

  • Most young dogs will begin to avoid eliminating where they eat and sleep at about 5 weeks of age. By about 7 or 8 weeks of age, they begin to develop preferences for the type of surface they use for elimination (i.e. grass vs. paper vs. concrete).
  • Most puppies like to eliminate on absorbent surfaces. A living room rug is just as attractive to them as a patch of grass unless we intervene by helping them develop a clear preference.
  • Puppies don’t focus on “indoors vs. outdoors” as much as they focus on surface, location and smell. We can help them succeed at housetraining by consistently providing only surfaces which will be acceptable for them to use when they are adults (for most people, this is grass, sod, dirt, concrete).
  • Most puppies like to stay clean and avoid eliminating where they eat and sleep. So they tend to “hold” when they cannot walk away from the spot they eliminated in. This is why humane confinement is such a valuable tool in housetraining.
  • Puppies need to feel safe. If they associate eliminating in the presence of a person (and perhaps their leash) with treats and praise, they will readily do so. But if they associate eliminating with a person present with being startled or punished, they will likely try to hold back when someone is there and wait until they are alone to eliminate.
  • Puppies do what works for them. If eliminating on the desired surface, in the desired location always results in treats, play, attention, petting (whatever is pleasing to that puppy at any particular time) and eliminating in other places never results in anything interesting, the pup will be much more inclined to eliminate in the desired area. Focusing on building a strong, positive association with eliminating in the desired place is much more effective (and humane) than attempting to punish errors.

Errorless housetraining is accomplished by using these canine perceptions to our advantage. And it can begin early!

The Cultured Canine (www.theculturedcanine.net) can help with housetraining issues in the New York metropolitan area ( Manhattan , Westchester , Greenwich CT ). You can contact us at info@theculturedcanine.net or by calling 914-288-0020. We specialize in toy breed dogs.