Every single day, furparents face a tremendous challenge: helping their dogs eliminate. Doug Poynter discusses a few practical house pet training tips to guide you in this tedious endeavor. Detailing some tricks he learned from William Campbell, he discusses how to teach dogs to hone the habit of eliminating outside and avoid messing up inside your home. Doug also explains why you should never scold dogs, hit them when you are angry, or praise them while in the middle of eliminating.
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House Training Tips And Tricks
I’m in Richmond, Virginia. I use positive reinforcement training. I do dog obedience training. I use behavior modification. I solve canine behavior problems. I work with reactive dogs, aggressive dogs, dogs that have fear. “My dog is afraid,” I hear that all the time. I work with dogs that have separation anxiety, canine separation anxiety, dog separation anxiety. I always say that I train dogs, train people, help dogs help people because I have yet to see a canine behavior problem that did not have a huge human component to it. I consider my job to train the person probably even more than training the dog. The dog is usually easy.
The dog is usually not the problem, even though why I got hired is because my dog has a problem. The reality of it is most of the time, dog behavior problems are human behavior problems. I work with people and I work with dogs. I spent many years in Corporate America, teaching people how to sell. I did inside sales training. Prior to being in Corporate America, doing that, I spent 7, 8 years teaching people how to play tennis. I’m used to training people. It helps me be able to speak the language of my person while understanding the language of the dog at the same time. That’s helped me out with this business quite a bit. I’m going to start a series of shows that are dealing with problems, behavior problems and canine problems, human problems that I’ve seen in my sessions here of late.
They will talk about how I’m working to help those folks solve those problems, what maybe caused them, what maybe they are going to do to solve them, and what I’m going to help them solve these problems. I’m hoping that this is going to provide some information that’ll be helpful for you as well. What I want to talk about now is house training. The reason why I want to talk about this is because it happens probably every month. I get a call or two from someone who wants to hire me to help them house train their dog or their puppy.
Truthfully, I do not go to somebody’s house and charge them to do that. I tell them over the phone, “It doesn’t make any sense for you to pay me my fee, which is not a cheap fee, to come out there and show you something that I can show you and I can tell you in fifteen minutes or less over the telephone. It doesn’t matter how great of a job I do at teaching it to you in a live session.”
“You are still going to have to be doing the lion’s share of the work, all of the work in order to make it happen. It doesn’t seem right for me to get a big fee to go out and stretch fifteen minutes of material into a one-hour session.” I tell people how to do this over the telephone. It’s as easy to tell as it is to show. Hopefully, I developed some goodwill. If later on down the line, somebody needs something, they’ll come to me for it.
Messing Up In The House
I had one of those. It was an interesting conversation I had with this lady about her dog that she was having a real hard time house training. The dog had messed up in the house quite a bit. I asked some questions about this. I said, “How long has this been going on?” I can’t remember exactly how long she said, but it’s been a while. “Where is the dog messing up?” “The dog is messing up in certain rooms.”
I said, “Is it carpet? Is it linoleum? Is it laminate? Is it hardwood floor? What kind of floors?” Unfortunately, it’s a mixture of laminate and carpet. The problem with house training mistakes when carpet is involved is that if it happens enough, it gets down into the pad and then you’ve got a real problem because you can’t get the scent out of the pad.
You pretty much have to pull the carpet up and pull the pad up and replace it. There are some companies that claim that they can clean down to the pad. I cannot vouch for any company that says that they can do that. I can’t say, “No, that’s not true. They can’t do it.” I can’t say, “Yes, they can,” because I have no experience with them. I know that scent gets into the padding. It’s difficult to get it out without pulling the carpet out and pulling the padding up as well, replacing the carpet and the padding. The reality of it is when dogs can scent the odor of urine, they’re going to go again. That’s almost impossible to stop.
Part of her problem is that she did not have the house clean. I suggested to her that pulling the carpet up and replacing the pad would be good. I said to her, “I’m going to give you the protocol for teaching the dog that outside is where you want the dog to go. If we’re going to make it work, we’ve got to get the scent out of the house.” She agreed. She said, “I have that on my schedule to do anyway.” I said, “That would be a good thing to do.” I asked her a couple of other questions. I said, “What are you cleaning the mess up with? That can be a problem as well.” What she was using was a regular detergent.
I said, “I’m going to recommend that you switch that and go get some of the cleaners that biodegrade the scent.” There are several of them out there. You can find some well-known products at PetSmart Petco. Any place that sells dog equipment and supplies and food typically has these things. Go in there and say, “I want something to clean up a house training mistake.” It needs to be something that is going to biodegrade the scent, not just our regular cleaner. There are plenty of them out there.
There are some good ones that you can get. I suggested to her, I said, “You want to read the directions on the container, because many times what they suggest that you do in terms of the manner in which you clean is different from what we would think, what we would typically do with a cleaner. Follow the directions. That will make things a bit easier.”
Some of them you only leave on for a few minutes. Some of these solvents or these formulas, you have to leave on longer. Go do your research and get some of the cleaners that biodegrades the scent. Here’s another thing that I suggested to her in terms of prepping and getting her environment ready for this to be fixed. I said, “Get a blacklight.” She went, “What?”
There used to be a kit that was sold that had a blacklight in it that you could go cut the lights off and shine in your house. It’ll show you the places that you haven’t cleaned because that’s part of the problem. We can clean it good enough for our sensing abilities, but dogs have a sensing ability that is on the order of 10,000 times or greater, more intense than ours. We’ve got to make sure we get this up.
If we’ve missed some spots, that can contribute to dogs using the inside of your house as their bathroom. A friend of mine, I suggested this, too. She called me back a couple of weeks later. She said, “I’m not happy with you.” I said, “What did I do?” She said, “I got the blacklight. It was not fun seeing all the places that I missed, that I thought I had cleaned in my house and I hadn’t.” I told this to this lady and she chuckled about that.
I said, “I would go get that blacklight and spray down all the areas that you haven’t cleaned as well as you thought you had, using that cleaner that biodegrades the scent.” We start getting into some more concrete things that we can do to condition the dog to go outside. I said to this client, “I want you to think about something. Have you scolded this dog? Have you done anything in the way of punishment when the dog has made a mistake?”
She said, “I’ve yelled at the dog. I walked over and put the dog’s face close to it.” I said, “Please, tell me you did not rub your dog’s nose in a mess.” She said, “I did not.” I said, “I’m glad to hear that, but there doesn’t need to be any scolding or any correction or punishment involved in this either because it creates a negative association.” She said, “What do you mean?” I said, “If you become negatively associated with your dog and your dog’s elimination activities, then the dog won’t eliminate near you.”If you become negatively associated with your dog and their elimination activities, it will never go near you. Click To Tweet
“What do you mean by that?” She wanted to know. I said, “I have it all the time. People call me and they say they take their dog out for a walk. They walk the dog for 30, 40, 50 minutes an hour and the dog won’t go. They bring the dog back in the house and they take the dog off the leash. He runs into the back bedroom and he lets it fly in the back bedroom.” They say, “I got a dumb dog. What is that all about? The dog’s angry at me.” I go, “That’s not it. Have you ever punished the dog for a mistake?”
Typically, there’ll be a pause. I go, “Have you ever rubbed the dog’s nose in a mess.” They go, “That’s what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it.” I go, “What you have trained your dog to do is not go near you because the association is, “If that guy’s near me when I go, I’m going to get my nose rubbed in it.” The dog is physically capable of holding it for an hour-long walk.
When you take it back in the house, the back bedroom is far away from you. I said to this lady, “Have you done any of that?” She told me she had yelled at the dog a little bit. I said, “We need to stop that. You wouldn’t do that if you were trying to potty train a child, would you?” She said, “No.” I said, “Why do it with a dog? There’s no need for that.” I explained to her one of the things that make this work is that you need to get the dog outside when it needs to go.
I said, “I realized that that sounds like, ‘I get it,’ but you need to be thinking about it. The dog needs to be outside when it needs to go.” Therefore, the thing we need to be thinking about is when will it need to go. I explained something else to her. I hoped I was planting a seed with her for some other areas in her dog’s life.
This is what I said to her. I said, “There’s this great debate amongst people who do what I do about whether or not you need corrections to train a dog, some of the old school training and even some of the newer balance training. You need to have some corrections in order for the dog to understand boundaries and be able to sharpen up performance and things like that for the dog to know what it can do and what it can’t do.”
I told her, I said, “This is a perfect example of a place where you can illustrate that corrections are not needed if you know what you’re doing and you know how to create exercises that will teach the dog what you want the dog to be taught. She goes, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Let’s think about this for a second. If the dog needs to go, that creates some tension in the dog’s body.” She said, “I can see that.” I said, “Being able to release that tension and go is essentially a reward.” She said, “Okay.” I said, “It’s pleasant to let it go.” She said, “Okay, I get that.” I said, “If that activity happens outside over and over again, then that reward is associated with being outside.”
She said, “Okay.” I said to her, “You don’t see it now because you’re having problems now and your dog has been rewarded inside. That’s why it’s continuing to go inside. When you get a dog habituated to going outside and constantly receiving that reward of being able to have that physical tension go away and it happens outside, then that association is extraordinarily strong.” “I don’t go unless I’m outside.”
I told her about my dog, Rocky. He came to me. He had been driven by a courier. I got Rocky from a breeder. My dog is a rescue dog, but Rocky was not a rescue dog. The breeder had someone who would drive dogs for him. The dogs would be in this guy’s van in crates. My dog was a puppy. I said, “That’ll be good. I was going to drive down and get him to Houston where the breeder was,” but he told me, “No, we can have him driven.”
I said, “I don’t want to put him on a plane. I’ve shipped dogs and puppies on airplanes before. It’s a rough ride. They have bad associations to riding, for example, in a crate in the back of a car as a result of that.” He said, “No, I’ll have him driven up to you.” I said, “Okay.” I thought that’ll be great because what will happen is he’ll be crate trained by the time I get him. Several days before the courier got there, he called me to let me know he was on the way.
I said, “How’s he doing?” “He is doing well.” I said, “What’s going on with him?” He said, “He’s only eleven weeks old, so I don’t want to put him down the ground where other dogs have gone. I’m taking him from his travel crate and putting him into another crate to do his business.” I was like, “You’re not helping me here.”
When I got Rocky as an eleven-week-old puppy where he was used to letting it fly, peeing and pooping was in his crate. When I told her this, this lady, over the telephone, said, “Wow.” I said, “It wasn’t fun. I was coming home from work 2 or 3 times a day, trying to get him out of the crate before he made a mess to get him outside. I never got home on time. I’d have to get him outside and then I’d have to clean the crate and I’d have to wash him because I don’t want to put him in there with the scent all over him. I fixed it, but it wasn’t fun.”
The reason I told her the story is I said, “Even though he started out like that, understanding that that’s where he went, once I was able to get this fixed and get him outside every time he had to go, then that’s where he associated going. For the rest of his life, the house could have come down around him and he would not go inside the house. No corrections, no punishment, no nothing. Constantly getting him outside when he needed to go.” That is a strong enough association to house train your dog.
I told her, I said, “It’s not going to happen in a week. It’s probably going to be 4 to 6 to 8 weeks before your dog is reliably house-trained, but that would be normal anyway. You can make it go longer if you have a lot of negative things happen to your dog.” She was a witness to that. She was experiencing that. I said, “This is the way to get him house trained in say, six weeks.” She was like, “Please, tell me what it is.” I said, “I’m going to give it to you now.” I do not take credit for stuff that I didn’t come up with. I’m not going to act like this protocol for house training a dog comes from me because it doesn’t. It comes from William Campbell.
Campbell is the dean of solving canine behavior problems. I’ve spoken with Campbell before. He’s no longer living, but I’ve spoken with his wife and Bill. I read his books, his book, Behavior Problems in Dogs. Unless you like something that’s a textbook, you probably don’t want to get that one. That one is pretty dull and boring. The one you want to get by William Campbell is called The Owner’s Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs. That was published by Alpine Press.
Habit To Go Outside
I don’t know if they’re still publishing it or not. You can still find it on Amazon. Campbell is the one who got me into this business. It’s Campbell’s protocol for house training that I like. This is what I gave her. I’m going to give it to you. If you’re having some problems, this is the way to get your dog fixated and habituated to going outside.
Here’s what it is. At the start of this program, you get the dog outside every time she engages in behavior that would typically stimulate her to go. That’s a fancy way of saying you get the dog out when it’s got to go. The question then is, what are some of those behaviors that would typically stimulate your dog to go? Here’s what they are.
When your dog eats or drinks, if you’re dealing with a puppy or if you’re dealing with a dog like this lady I was talking to over the telephone was dealing with, a dog that doesn’t know anything but going inside. In essence, a dog that’s like a puppy, an infant in terms of being trained to go outside. If you’re dealing with a puppy or a dog like that, then when the dog eats or when the dog drinks, when it’s done, take it right outside.
This behavior would stimulate the dog to go. The dog is not eliminating what it ate, obviously, but the eating and the drinking stimulates it to eliminate what it ate and drank the meal before. If you get the dog outside and you calmly get the dog outside and you calmly wait for the dog to put his nose down and sniff, typically, the dog will go and then you can bring the dog back inside.
Some other behaviors that would typically stimulate a dog to go, particularly puppies, are playing hard, chewing hard on a chew toy, working on toys and playing hard with toys. When your dog is done with that, take the dog outside. What you might do is take the dog to places outside where it’s eliminated before so it catches that scent. That will also help stimulate it.
Some other behaviors that typically stimulate a dog to go, if the dog has slept, taken a nap, or been asleep and awakened, after the dog wakes up, take it outside to go. Take it to those spots where the dog has gone before. These are some of the behaviors that typically stimulate a dog to go. What you want to do is get the dog outside to go. We start a pattern. “Outside is where I go.” This is the start. A couple of things, if you see your dog, put his nose down to the floor and particularly start to sniff and walk around in a circle. Do not wait because he’s about to let it fly.
Take the dog outside right then and there. If you’re talking about a puppy, if you can usher the dog outside calmly in a pleasant way and have it walk outside to go do this, that’s great. If that’s not possible because of the way your house is set up, like you’ve got a deck or something and your dog’s too small to go down the steps of the deck or you don’t trust that it can hold it on the deck, pick it up and carry it outside.
Put it in the grass and let it walk around in the grass and then go, but do not wait. If you see that nose go down, the dog’s starting to sniff and walk around in a circle on the floor, that means, “I’m ready to go.” It’s imminent. If you are on the telephone with your boss or you’re in a Zoom meeting with the company, you got to tell them to hang on because there’s about to be an accident on the floor. That’s not what we want. That’s one thing to be thinking about.
The other thing to be thinking about is, what happens if there is an accident? It makes sense that you’re not going to be perfect. Your dog is not going to be perfect. If you catch the dog in the act, if you can calmly shoo the dog away from the spot and pick the dog up, lots of times, if you pick the dog up, it’ll stop going. Carry the dog outside to finish. That’s always good. If you don’t get it that soon, if you still can get the dog outside and get it to a spot where it has typically gone before, that is the next best thing that you can do. Don’t yell. Don’t create any type of tension. We don’t want any negative association to the dog going to the bathroom.
What we want is the dog to do his business outside. In order to do that, we got to keep getting the dog outside. We can’t make anything about the whole process be unpleasant. Think potty training a child and the damage you can do if you put pressure on that. We don’t want any pressure on this. If there is a mistake, there are some things that you want to think about.
Minimizing Mistakes In Creating Habits
These things are unique. Campbell came up with some pretty unique stuff about if there has been a mistake to minimize that mistake and not create a habit. First of all, don’t let the dog see you cleaning up the mess. There is something about watching another being clean up after a puppy or after a dog. That’s like saying to the dog, “It’s okay. I’ll take care of it. You can keep doing your business right here.”
Don’t let the dog see you cleaning up its mess. If you’re a couple, one takes the dog out and the other clean up the mess. If you’re not a couple and you’ve got to take the dog out and you’re by yourself, you might come back inside the house and put the dog in a crate or in a room where it can’t see you cleaning up its mess.
That’s when you use those items or those cleaning fluids that biodegrade the scent. Here’s another cool thing that Campbell came up with that I had never heard before. He’s the only one I’ve ever heard talk about this. It’s cool. That is, once the spot has been thoroughly cleaned, the cleaning fluid that you used you’ve allowed at the time, it says it needs on the container.
You’ve thoroughly soaked the area and thoroughly done what it’s suggested. You know the spot is clean. Once the spot is clean, then you can take the dog’s water dish and put it on top of the clean spot. For obvious reasons, you got to make sure it’s clean. Once you put that water dish on top of the clean spot, it’s almost like saying, “This is not where you go,” because dogs typically will not go where their food or their water is.
Another thing to be thinking about is don’t feed your dog outside. Take advantage of the fact that dogs typically don’t want to eliminate where their food or their water is. Feed your dog inside. I would also not free-feed your dog. There are some reasons you might do that with a puppy, but leaving food out all day long can not only make your house training efforts not as effective but also, when the food is there at all times, then it’s difficult to use the food as a training tool because there’s nothing exciting about food to a dog that sees it in dish all day long.
I would not have the dog be a free feeder if we’re going to get this house training issue under control. Here’s the next piece of this. We’ve discussed when you get the dog out after those activities that typically stimulate it to go. We discussed what they were. There’s a second piece to this. That is, once the dog begins to get it, then what you need to do is begin to gradually wait a little bit longer after those activities before you take the dog out with the exception of after meals. The dog should go out right after eating and drinking the meal. Other than that, those other activities, running around like a crazy dog, chewing hard on a chew toy, napping, and then waking up, romping around with other dogs in the house, expending a lot of energy.
Once the dog begins to get, “I’m going outside after that. I’m going to do my business,” then what you do is you begin to wait a little bit longer before you take the dog out after those activities. We’re teaching the dog to unconsciously control its impulses and muscles, so the dog doesn’t think about going. This is the perfect time when you’re waiting a little bit longer for you to interact with your dog, play with your dog, teach your dog or do some training with your dog some obedience training to get the dog’s mind off of needing to go outside. When I say you gradually increase the time you don’t go, let’s say you’ve gone two weeks, three weeks and you know the dog is getting it now. The dog goes outside and does his business after these activities.
You know that your dog is understanding what you want. You don’t go from taking the dog out immediately after those activities to waiting 30 minutes before you take the dog out. You wait 5 minutes or maybe even 2 minutes and do that for 3 or 4 days, and then gradually build it up to 5 and then build it up to 10 and then build it up to 15. You go slowly with that.
That’s why it takes, say, 6 to 8 weeks to get a dog that’s reliably house trained. Once you’ve done that, then we start to get into a pattern. That is, the dog has its meal and it goes out right after its meal. Maybe you’ve been able to build it up such that the dog goes out again at midday. The evening meal, the dog goes out after the evening meal.
The dog goes out before going up for the evening. This is the goal, that 6 to 8-week goal of getting your dog that way. One of the things that I also want you to think about, this is something that a lot of people will forget when they’re doing this. When the dog has a meal, it eats and drinks and you take it right out and it goes, it’s obviously not eliminating what it ate. It’s eliminating what it had the meal before.
The fact that your dog drank water at the meal means that in probably 30 to 40 minutes, as an older dog, a puppy, less time than that, it’s going to have to eliminate that water. You’re going to need to take the dog out again, the meal and water, take the dog out immediately. Probably 30 minutes later, take the dog out again. The dog’s going to have to eliminate the water it drank at the meal. If you don’t do that, then that is what I find causes accidents in the house and mistakes in the house. Make sure you’re keeping that in mind around the meals.
One other thing, I’ll tell you a semi-humorous story here to illustrate, make sure that you are not praising your dog while your dog is going. Do not praise your dog while your dog is eliminating. I’ll tell you a story to illustrate why. I had a client many years ago who told me she had a female pug. It was a great dog. There was only one problem. She would take her dog out for a walk. The dog would pee and poop on the walk.
She’d come back in and bring the dog inside and then the dog would go again, usually pee. She had no idea what was causing this. I asked all kinds of questions. I asked if she’d ever rubbed the dog’s nose in a mess. I asked that as a standard question. She said, “No.” I said, “You take her out, she goes. You bring her back and she goes again in the house. Is she running away from you to go someplace else in the house?” “Sometimes. Sometimes not.” I said, “Have you punished the dog for mistakes, yelled at it or held its nose close to the mess? You didn’t have to put the dog’s nose right in it. Anything that is considered punishment or conflict.” “No, I’ve never done any of that.”
She set up a session. When I got there, I said, “Let’s go see. Do you think she’ll go outside and do her business now?” She said, “I think so.” I said, “Let’s go take her for a walk.” We took her for a walk. Sure enough, we hadn’t been out there all that long when she peed and pooped. While she was peeing, my client went, “Good dog.” I didn’t say anything. I took note. We went back into the house after the walk. By the way, this dog was about the cutest dog you would ever see. We were in the house. She’s rolling around on the floor, running around like a cute little dog. I said to my client, “She’s about the cutest dog you could ever see.”
She said, “Yes, she is. She’s such a good dog.” As soon as she said she’s such a good dog, her dog peed on the floor. She said, “That’s exactly what happens.” I said, “I know why it’s happening.” She said, “Why?” I said, “It’s because when she was outside and peeing, you said good dog while she was peeing. She associates that that’s a cue for her to go.” She said, “I never thought about that.”
I said, “If you’re going to praise her, first of all, I would change the wording that you used to praise her because those words are loaded words right now. I would wait until she’s done. As soon as she’s completely done, then you can praise her, but don’t praise her while she’s doing it.” Be careful of that, folks. You want to make sure that your dog understands it’s good to go, but don’t be telling your dog it’s good to go while your dog is going. Wait until it’s completely finished.Do not praise your dog while they are eliminating. Wait until they are completely finished. Click To Tweet
I give my dog a food treat. I mark my dog. As soon as she has completed the activity, I mark it with a yes and she runs in from wherever she is in my backyard. She makes a beeline, runs to me up on my deck and she sits and she gets a food treat. I’m not marking it until the last fluid comes out of her body or the last solid comes out of her body. I’ll mark it and she’ll run back and she’ll sit in front of me and get a food treat. These are some tips and tricks for house training for you. I’m hoping that this is giving you some information that you find helpful. Again, for reference material, you can find this protocol in Campbell’s book, The Owner’s Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs.
I highly recommend you get that book. It’s a great book. Campbell was a real genius for solving behavior problems without punishment and conflict. A great volume to get. I hope you’ve enjoyed that. Hopefully, that’s given you some stuff that you can work on and some food for thought and we can get your dog behaving better and get you behaving better. Everybody will be happy. I’ve enjoyed speaking with you. I’ll talk to you next time. Thanks.