“Yard Training” Your Pup

… by Cathy Hughes

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the house training process for our dogs. This is amazing to us since humans have been faced with this task for centuries…you’d think we’d get it right by now. Perhaps the confusion starts with the name–“house training.” From the numerous calls we get it seems that owners house train dogs quite well! That is to say, many dogs wait until they are safe inside the house before relieving themselves! This is not what the owner intended… what they were shooting for is a dog that is “yard trained.” Let’s look at a few simple rules that would apply to yard training an adult dog as well as a puppy.

  1. Feed the pup at regular intervals and on the same good quality food while in the learning stages. Remove any food that has not been eaten within 15 minutes after offering it. Water should be available until the same time every evening…around 8:00PM is good. The pup should be taken outside immediately following each meal and again about 30 minutes later. The owner must accompany the pup so you can praise her when she performs the appropriate behavior. As she is “going”, calmly give a cue such as “go potty” or “do business”. You can then use this cue to let the dog know what is expected of her when you take her out to relieve herself in the future. When she has completed voiding, calmly praise her and give her a treat.
  2. The dog should be taken out first thing in the morning and after naps.
  3. The dog should be taken outside prior to and after indoor play periods (or any other excitement such as the arrival of guests or your return from an outing) and make sure she relieves herself before she comes back into the house after outdoor play periods or unsupervised periods outside.
  4. The untrained dog must not be given free range of the house. She should be in the same room you are in or confined in a crate or outside area when you cannot supervise her.
  5. Do not scold your dog when you come upon an accident in the house. This will only confuse the dog and make you unpredictable in her eyes. This can actually lead to aggression problems later. At the very least it will make her reluctant to come to you when you call her!
  6. If you catch your pup in the process of voiding in the house, act shocked and hurry her outside. Take any of the material, via paper towel, out to the area of the yard you wish her to use. The next time you take her out, take her to that area and let her sniff those items. Once she is going in that area, you can remove the toweling.

Some trainers recommend “scruffing” the pup when you catch them “in the act” in the house. That seems to have worked with some dogs; however I have seen dogs that have learned not to void in their owner’s presence when subjected to this method. Those are the cases where the owner calls me and states that their dog went into a different room of the house and voided following a 45 minute uneventful session in the yard! These owners have actually trained their dogs so well not to void in their presence that the poor dears cannot bring themselves to void outdoors with their owners in attendance.

If you follow these guidelines and see no improvement after 10 days, a veterinary exam may be in order. Young puppies can have urinary tract infections or parasites that may interfere with the progress of yard training. If the vet exam is negative, then you may need to enlist the services of a behaviorist. Some yard training problems are only a symptom of other problems in the canine/human relationship.

Ask your trainer for help in teaching your dog to indicate her desire to go outside. Some dogs do this naturally, but some need to be coached to speak or ring a bell hung on a door knob when they need to be let out. Your trainer can also give you advice on crate training your puppy/dog.

Dogs are not perfect and may have an accident once in a while. Cleaning the area to discourage repeat visits can be accomplished by first saturating the area several times with plain soda water, blotting up with towels in between applications. Finally dab rubbing alcohol on the area. This will not leave a residue that attracts dirt and dust–and it smells awful to the dog long after humans are unable to detect the odor. There are also enzyme-based cleaners on the market that report good results.

As you can see, good management is the most important tool when yard training your dog. Practice it and you should see improvement soon. GOOD LUCK!

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