Dog Manual

Housebreaking Your Dog

The most immediate concern of new dog owners is that of housebreaking the pet. In order to accomplish this task, the essential principle that the owner must recognize is that it is always the desire of the dog to please its master. Nothing can give the dog greater pleasure than to know that its actions have met with approval; nothing can cause the dog greater displeasure than to know that its behavior has called forth disapproval.

When the dog performs its functions properly, it should be rewarded by a profusion of endearing words, by petting, or even with a tidbit. When the dog performs its functions improperly, it should be grasped by the scruff of the neck, told briskly and in no uncertain terms that it has done the wrong thing, shown what it has done, and then put back on its paper. The animal also may be slapped over the haunches with a piece of folded newspaper; this will cause the animal no pain, but will make a loud and impressive noise. Since, however, some trainers feel that the newspaper routine may tend to cow the animal or somehow break its spirit, it should be used only as a last resort. It must also be remembered that these expressions of approval or disapproval must be made immediately after the animal performs or is about to perform. If there is a delay of even a moment, the animal simply will not associate the praise or punishment with its natural functions, and will be at a complete loss to understand the favorable or unfavorable outbursts on the part of the owner. In any case, the owner must be rigidly consistent in his rewards and punishments in the housebreaking routine. For the speed with which housebreaking will be accomplished depends on the owner's diligence in maintaining that consistency. It must further be borne in mind that a dog does not have a human mentality; so a reasonable amount of patience in training will be required.
In a variable amount of time—anywhere from a week to three weeks—the dog will become conditioned to the fact that when it does not perform its functions properly, it is punished. When it does perform its functions properly, it is praised. Soon the dog will always perform its duty as required, not because it recognizes a sanitary code, but simply because of the desire to meet with approval and avoid displeasure.

Very young puppies, say between the ages of six weeks to two months, are usually first broken to paper indoors. This is commonly accomplished by lifting the animal and placing it on paper as soon as any "danger signals" are noticed. This is combined with punishment for mistakes and reward for correct conduct. After any mistake the dog should be put back on its paper. The paper should be placed in one specific area. Usually, after a few days, the animal will be noted to make a beeline for the paper whenever it has to "go."

When the animal becomes strong enough and if the weather is agreeable, the animal is broken to the outside. With older pups, or with pups acquired during the warm seasons, it will save time to break the animal directly to the outside.

It has often been suggested that the most effective way to housebreak a dog is to rub the animal's face in the excretory matter whenever it has made a mistake. While the effectiveness of this procedure can hardly be denied, it is at best a barbarous, unclean, and unnecessary practice. Consistently good results will be obtained by the painless method described above.

For the proper maintenance of a dog's health it is most advisable to walk the dog four times a day: morning, noon, early evening, and bedtime, though many dogs will get along very well when walked three times—or even, on occasion, twice—a day. The dog that is not yet housebroken should be walked somewhat oftener until housebreaking is accomplished.