Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Housetraining" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog


by Charlotte Peltz

There is lots of talk these days [Christmas-time] of puppies. And, when puppies are mentioned, the problem of housetraining seems to surface also. Notice that I prefer this word to housebreaking!

The biggest problem I encounter when I try to help people solve their housetraining issues is to convince them of the need to have a crate, and a way to restrict the space the puppy is allowed to roam around in. The more space the puppy has, the more the scent is spread around as the inevitable accidents occur. Puppies quite naturally seek out a spot where they are not likely to be splashed when they urinate which means that your favorite rug is highly desirable!

Early on, the puppy is not trained -- the owner is. The pup is just doing what comes naturally, and has little or no control over the muscles involved. That means that the owner has to understand the most likely times that the pup will need "to go" and take him to the place of choice. Those times include after eating, after exercise or playing, after awakening from a nap, or a night's sleep, and after having a nice big drink of water.

While the poor pups of the past often learned, in spite of the practice of newspaper swatting and, even worse, rubbing their noses in their droppings or urine, we now know a lot better than that. The very best way to train is to praise the dog for actions that take place where you want them to happen, and prevent the dog from making mistakes as a result of poor supervision and unrestricted freedom. That, of course, means more work on the part of the new owner, but if one hasn't that much time for the pup, then consider getting a cat. Better yet - a stuffed toy!

Part of the talk about pups at this time of year is the idea that they make such wonderful Christmas presents. Those people are not thinking, however, of the pup's needs. Kids over-handle the pups, which is not good for them. There is too much excitement, little regularity to life, and then -- BAM! The pup is all alone because it is January 2. The ideal way to add a pup to the household is to plan just for the pup's needs for the first couple of weeks, and there will be a much smoother road ahead for all concerned. Housetraining can often be achieved in that period of time (Often -- not always!) but, only when a carefully planned and controlled schedule can be put into action. Christmas hardly allows for that!

Also, pups are learning all the time. They are either learning what you want them to know or they are learning things that you will have to try to undo. Training should begin the day the pup enters the house, and always in a fun, positive, never punishing, fashion. Food treats are the best way, since puppies think with their stomachs. Consistently I get phone calls from people with six to eight month old pups that are totally out of control because the owners believed that that was the age to begin training. Wrong! Start on day one.

And, remember not to take that pup out on the streets until the full set of puppy vaccinations has been completed -- usually that happens at about four months of age. It's just one more reason not to get a Christmas puppy. Think how hard it will be to prevent just that one rule from being broken and, know that breaking it could definitely cost the precious new fur-ball its life.

Puppies are for keeps. Not for Christmas!

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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