Top 8 Mistakes Dog Owners Make When Housetraining Their Pup

Many people are under the impression housetraining a dog is difficult. While it is true certain breeds can be a bit of a challenge, the ugly truth is most dog owners have problems with housetraining because they sabotage themselves. If you are having problems with your pup, make sure one or more of the following problems is not the cause.

Not Being Consistent

A dog is only going to take to training if they receive a consistent message regarding how to conduct themselves. Makes sense, right? Then why do so many dog owners violate this rule?housetraining a dog

Let’s be clear. You are taking the wrong approach if you think dog training happens during a particular time of the day. Teaching a dog not to jump on people for 30 minutes is great, but it is going to be useless if you then allow the pup to jump up on the kids a couple of hours later. For a lesson to take, it needs to be consistently given. If it is not, the dog is not going to learn anything.

To this end, it is critical that the entire family be involved in the training. If mom trains the pup, but dad and the kids don’t make the same effort, problems are going to arise and the training is going to have little if any effect. At best, the dog will learn to be obedient when in the presence of mom, but will still go wild when she isn’t around. This is not a recipe for success.

Know Your Breed

Most modern dog breeds were created with a specific purpose in mind. This means they naturally display certain characteristics. Ideally, you should know these characteristics prior to purchasing a pup. You can rest assured they will show themselves when you start trying to train the dog.

Have you ever said any of the following?

  • “My dog is too dumb to train.”
  • “My dog ignores me.”
  • “My dog is too hyper to train.”

If so, you really need to step back and read up on your breed. Let’s consider a Rottweiler for example. This is a big, strong dog bred to act as a guard dog. Its natural state of being is one of alertness with a slice of aggression mixed in. Rottweilers make tremendous family pets, but only if they are socialized and trained early on as puppies. To overcome their natural tendencies, a potential owner has to be committed to doing a significant amount of training. If you do not understand this as a Rottweiler owner, your training efforts are going to be futile.

How about a Collie? Collies are extremely smart, but also very hyper. You can train them quickly, but the training can be short circuited if you do not provide the dog with a lot of exercise to burn off their energy. A collie needs to run and play for at least a few hours each day. If you don’t give them this exercise, you can’t really be surprised when they become bored and destroy a couch cushion. However, an owner who doesn’t understand this might interpret bad behavior as a training failure when it is really an issue of exercise.

Know your breed. Understanding their profile can help you find the best way to effectively train your pup to act in a desired manner. You can see breed profiles here.

Not Using A Crate

Does your fur ball have a crate? They should. No, a crate is not cruel. Before being domesticated, dogs naturally looked for and lived in protected dens. A crate replicates the den experience for them. I even put a blanket over mine to give my pup an even more den-like experience. Regardless, your pup will grow to love their crate because it represents “their space” in the home. They can get relax and de-stress in the crate after a long day of playing with kids and chasing the cat.

As a personal aside, I have a crate for my 7 year old pup. The crate just sits open. She meanders in and out of the crate as she sees fit. It more or less acts as her bedroom and she naturally goes to it to sleep or take naps. Put another way, the crate is something she likes and is hardly an instrument of cruelty.

What does this have to do with housetraining? A crate can be a critical tool for potty training a puppy. Why? Dogs are not going to pee in their den. To train your puppy, first realize they need to go pee every hour or two. With this knowledge in hand, place them in their crate and note the time. After an hour or so, take them outside to their designated potty spot. If they pee, lavish praise on them and give them a treat. If they do not, put them back in the crate for 30 minutes and repeat the process till they do pee outside. Slowly but surely, this will teach them to pee outside.

Crate Punishment

A stressed out dog is very difficult to train. One way to stress them out is to incorrectly use their crate. The crate is a safe spot for them. It should never, ever be used to punish the pup. Doing so deprives them of a location where they can feel safe and calm down. If you are using the crate for punishment purposes, stop immediately. Do your best to recondition the pup to view it as a positive spot by adding a dog bed, their toys and perhaps chewable treats to it. This will help them calm down, which should provide a better training environment.

Clean Up Urine Completely

If your pup has an accident in the house, make sure you clean it up completely. Even though the event was an accident, dogs are naturally drawn back to their pee spots when they need to go again. If they can smell their previous accident, they could return to it at night or when you are gone and “treat” the carpet again themselves.

So, how do you get the smell out? The common advice you will hear and read is to use ammonia and baking soda. This advice is actually off base. These help, but do not get rid of the full odor. In fact, ammonia smells like dog urine and may actually attract the pup. The better solution is to use commercial cleaners, which are designed to go after the deep down smells in carpets.

That Guilty Look

We tend to project human personality traits onto our pups. They are, after all, a part of the family! From a training perspective, dog owners often interpret a look of guilt on the face of their dog as an indication the pup knows they did something wrong.

In a word – wrong!

Dogs do not suffer from guilt. They are contemporaneous thinkers, which is to say they only focus on events as they are happening. So, why does your dog look guilty when they have trashed something or peed on the carpet? They are not reacting to those events. Instead, they are reacting to your body language and facial expression. The guilty look is a submissive response to your unhappiness and only your unhappiness. The truth is your dog probably has no memory of whizzing on your favorite carpet or ripping up the couch pillow.

What does this mean when it comes to training a pup? It means lessons should only be taught when an act is occurring. Let’s consider an example. Assume you come home from work and find a wet spot on the carpet. Should you punish the dog? No. Why? The dog is not going to associate the punishment with the act of peeing on the carpet. The pup probably doesn’t even recall doing it.

The proper course of action is to simply clean the spot and then determine why the dog peed there. Does it need more training? Did you leave it in the house too long? Once you isolate the problem, you can find a solution.

What if you catch the dog in the act? Yes, you should act. Not by punishing the dog, but by taking them out to their potty spot and encouraging them to use the bathroom there. This positive form of training has proved to be far more effective than yelling at the dog.

My dad used to rub our dog’s nose in pee spots if the pup let go in the house. Does this approach work and should you use it? Studies show it does not. Again, the problem is one of timing. Since the act happened prior to the punishment, the pup will not associate the act with the punishment. They will just wonder why you are rubbing their nose in urine, which doesn’t teach them anything.

Frustration Issues

The old saying is having kids teaches you to be patient whether you are ready to be or not. The same can be said for training dogs. You need to objectively evaluate your ability to train a dog from a patient perspective. Many dog owners get frustrated quickly and the pup takes note of the unhappiness. The dog then gets nervous and tends to freeze up, which frustrates the dog owner even more and you soon have a negative feedback loop. This is obviously rather counterproductive.

Stop any training session if you find yourself getting frustrated. Neither you nor the pup is going to benefit from it at all and it can have a negative impact on the pup. Owning a dog should be a wonderful experience. If you find it being anything less than this, take a break.

After months of training, my dog never could learn to sit. She stands. She lies down. She puts up one paw to shake. For some reason, she seems unable to sit. You know what? It really doesn’t matter in the big picture, so we just let the issue go. She’s happy and so am I. Don’t sweat the small stuff with your pup. Once you have the basics down, the rest of the potential training topics are optional.

Changing Food

One of the first things you should focus on when training a puppy is teaching them not to poop or pee in the house. Dogs naturally go where they go, so it can sometimes be a difficult lesson. You just have to stick with it and they will eventually learn. Still, there is one step you can take to help the process along – be consistent with the food you feed them.

Dogs should be fed one type of food at a consistent time each day. This may mean you give them half a cup of dry dog food in the morning and half a cup of dry dog food in the evening. This is fine so long as you repeat the process each and every day. Dogs react differently to different foods. If you start switching the foods up, you invite indigestion problems for you pup and that can lead to untimely poops in the house. If you’ve ever had to rush to a bathroom with diarrhea, you know what a dog can experience with the added pressure that they know they are not supposed to go to the bathroom in the house.

And what about human food? Your dog is not a garbage disposal. Just because they will eat the food you give them does not mean you should feed it to them. For example, chemicals in chocolate can kill a dog if it eats enough of the food. Does this mean the dog will not eat chocolate? Heck, no! Dogs will wolf down as much chocolate as they can get their paws on. Stick to dog food with your dog. Yes, even when they give you that look with the soulful eyes.

You Can Do It

Most dogs take to training pretty well. Ironically, it is not the “dumb” dogs that prove to be difficult, but the smart ones. The smart pups pick up the lessons very quickly. The problem, however, is they often just decide to ignore them whenever they feel like it.

If you have a pup that is difficult to train, don’t lose faith. You can do it. The key is to stick with it and be patient. It will be all the sweeter when the dog eventually gets it and you have a well behaved fried to join you in the journey known as life.

Have any comments, questions or tips regarding training a pup? Let us know below in the comments section.

Annie Klacks

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