House training: the mindset and approach you must take

House training - A concentrated looking yellow lab portrait

© / Juan_Pablo

This is the 3rd installment in the 13-part series, ‘House Training – The Ultimate Guide.’

In this article I go into detail about the role you play in the house training process.

I describe the attitude, approach and mindset you need to adopt to find the greatest and speediest success.

I then discuss how you should work with your puppy’s natural instincts and the way they learn, as well as how they view the process and the skills and attitude they bring with them.

I also cover how you should deal with the inevitable ‘accidents’ along the way and finish by mentioning how the approach you take to house training shapes the entire future relationship you will have with your dog.

Contents & Quick Navigation

  • 2 The Role You Have To Play As The Trainer For Your Puppy
  • 2.1 You Must Assume The Role Of Guide And Teacher
  • 2.2 You Need To Show Dedication And Patience
  • 2.3 You Need To Be Observant
  • 2.4 Be Loving And Understanding, Firm But Not Harshly Dominant
  • 2.5 You Need To Be Strict With Yourself In Sticking To A Routine
  • 3 Working With Your Puppy’s Natural Instincts And Behaviors
  • 3.1 Instinct To Seek Out A Den And Keep That Den Clean
  • 3.2 The Urge To earn Praise And Rewards
  • 3.3 An Ability To Learn Through Repetition
  • 4 Why You Shouldn’t Allow Your Puppy Full Run Of The House
  • 5 Why A Mix Of Confinement And Supervision Is Best
  • 6 What To Do When Puppy Makes A Mistake, How To Deal With ‘Accidents’
  • 6.1 How To Deal With Catching Puppy In The Act
  • 6.2 How To Deal With Coming Across A Mess Long After The Event
  • 6.3 Why You Should Never Punish Your Dog Or Puppy For Accidents
  • 6.4 Cleaning Up After Accidents And Mistakes
  • 7 How You Tackle House Training Shapes Your Entire Future Relationship With Your Dog
  • 8 My Complete House Training Program
  • How It Used To Be Done And Why It’s Wrong

    Sometimes people fail at house training and sadly many of these poor dogs end up abandoned in shelters when the owner cannot tolerate a dog that toilets in their home.

    But house training really isn’t hard and almost all failures are down to owners not knowing how to go about the process properly. Or worse, they follow very old and outdated techniques they saw older generations perform.

    Shouting And Rubbing Their Noses In It Is Just Plain Wrong

    Years ago when people found a puddle of pee or some poo in their home, it was common practice to drag the puppy over to the mess, shout at them, swat their nose and maybe even rub their nose in it.

    People thought that punishing a dog like this would show them the error of their ways.

    Sometimes the poor little puppy would catch on to the message but this very rarely worked and here’s why.

    They Don’t Understand Punishment

    The puppy has done what comes naturally…they relieved themselves when they had to.

    Then later an angry, shouting human comes over, drags them to the mess and hits them or rubs their noses in it.

    They’ve already long forgotten the act of relieving themselves. They will not connect this punishment to the forgotten act of toileting in the home. Dogs don’t understand punishment. Your poor puppy will just be confused!

    Many puppies only learn from this that humans are unpredictable, unreasonable and erratic in their behavior. And if this cycle of events happens when their humans come home from work, they learn they’d better run and hide as they always get punished. But they don’t know why.

    Maybe they learn that punishment comes when there’s a mess on the floor, but they won’t connect this to the act of them making it. This is not how their minds work.

    So this treatment only has the potential to create a fearful dog and to undermine the relationship you are trying to build with them.

    No house training lessons are learnt from this treatment and if there is it’s despite the punishment and not because of it.

    Now There Is A Better Way

    These old and unfair techniques were due to owners not knowing much about how dogs learn and how best to work with them.

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    They just knew they didn’t want urine and feces on their floors, they were angry and they thought that punishment worked.

    But those days are in the past.

    Information on how dogs learn and how best to get the house training message across is now readily available and easily accessed. (Like in this guide for instance --) )

    You just need the knowledge of the role you have to play and how to work with your puppy’s natural instincts and way of learning. So let’s talk about that now.

    The Role You Have To Play As The Trainer For Your Puppy

    A yellow labrador on leash on a beachBefore your puppy can learn the bathroom habits you’ve chosen for them, you need to teach them in ways they can understand.

    This means teaching to their strengths and the way that they learn, not trying to force things upon them and hoping for the best.

    And you must also be mindful of what your puppy needs from you.

    You Must Assume The Role Of Guide And Teacher

    The first thing you should understand is that house training isn’t a natural thing for your puppy.

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    Out in the wild they toilet where they please without any rules. But in your home they have to adjust to whatever toilet habits you decide for them.

    As a species, dogs do not pick a specific bathroom spot. It is a totally alien idea to them. Their instincts are to go when they feel the urge, wherever they currently are.

    So in the quest for house training they only have you as a guide and teacher to show them what they must do.

    You Need To Show Dedication And Patience

    You have to be dedicated to the process and willing to concentrate on and supervise your puppy at all times, especially in the first couple of weeks.

    You have to be watching and ready to take them to their bathroom spot at any time they need to go and on a very regular schedule. It takes effort and you must be dedicated to it.

    You also need to show patience and understand that any accidents aren’t your puppy’s fault. It’s you that must watch out for and prevent any accidents.

    You also need patience to allow your puppy the time they need to grow their bodies until they’re physically capable of controlling their urges and time to mentally learn what you want them to do.

    You Need To Be Observant

    You need to be highly observant to study, learn and then look out for the little signals your puppy gives off before they’re about to relieve themselves.

    Some puppies sniff the floor, others will turn a few circles, some will make a sudden bolt for a hidden corner or away from a fuss in the room.

    Whatever their signals are, you need to learn them and then constantly be on the lookout so you’re ready to snap them up and take them to their bathroom spot to avoid any accidents.

    Be Loving And Understanding, Firm But Not Harshly Dominant

    How You Tackle House Training Shapes Your Entire Future Relationship With Your Dog

    The most successful, happy and enjoyable relationships are built on love, trust and respect. And this goes for the relationship with your dog too, not just your friends and family.

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    If they truly love and respect you, they’re far more likely to trust and want to work with you. Their desire to please you and earn your respect and praise will be as high as possible.

    In this state, they will listen to you far more, be willing to follow your directions and accept you as leader far more readily and hence be way easier to train and manage throughout life.

    House training is one of the very first things you will train your puppy and at an age where they are very impressionable and forming their opinions about you and humans in general.

    How you treat your puppy now and the bond you form over house training shapes the entire future of your relationship and life together.

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    So it’s worth learning to do it the best you possibly can, with as little stress for either you or your puppy as possible, and set the scene for your dog to see you as their leader and as their very best and most dependable friend.

    Trying to force your way through house training with a dominant attitude, using punishment and getting angry will only set the scene for your dog to grow up distrusting, fearful and unsure of you.

    This often makes them harder to control and a little disobedient and unwilling to work for you. And this will make you both miss out and wondering what might have been.

    My Complete House Training Program

    This was part 3 in a 12-part series where I’ve tried to provide all the guidance you could possibly need and covered everything I can think of for you to successfully house train your puppy or adult dog. Please see the entire series linked to below:

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