Imagine that you are sitting on your sofa watching your favorite TV show and also watching your puppy. You glance up during a commercial and notice that your puppy is sniffing, circling, and assuming the position to urinate on the Persian rug. If you are like most people you will jump up - shout ‘NO’ and jump towards your puppy. Your puppy will react to your sudden anger and quick approach by running from you – likely continuing to urinate across the rug. The instant you react in this manner two things are likely to happen – first your puppy will be frightened by your action and may decide that it is not wise for her to ‘go’ in front of you inside. The second is that if you continue this reaction she may decide that is not wise for her to go in front of you outside either! Please consider a different approach to this scenario.
The first thing everyone should teach the puppy is where NOT to go! None of us enjoy cleaning up messes. Let us agree with four things before we proceed:
- Physically you are larger then your puppy
- Your strength (at least for now) outweighs your puppy
- Your intelligence and ability to think is useful to you in training your puppy
- Even though these three things are true your puppy has four paws and is quicker then you are likely to be!
We need to do something to even these odds.
First, during the housetraining phase it is wise to either roll up valuable rugs or limit the pup’s access to them. Attaching a short, flat, light-weight leash to your puppy’s collar or harness (long enough to allow you to catch her, but not long enough to cause a tripping hazard).
Then let’s replay this scene: you glance up from your TV show, notice that your puppy is sniffing and circling, but this time you casually approach the end of the leash, gently place your foot on it to catch your puppy, and then redirect her to where you want to go. Have you noticed that when you unintentionally frighten your puppy she seldom goes when you get her outside? With this gentle redirection approach she is far more likely to go when you get her to where you want to her go. Since she is already wearing her leash it is far easier to take her to her potty place!
Please remember that when using an indoor leash it is wise to cut the handle off the leash as this reduces (but does not eliminate) the leash getting tangled on things. It is essential that while using an indoor leash that the puppy be in the room where you are, in your line of visual sight. Consider natural hazards in your home such as very young children and those that may have physical limitations. In these circumstances you need to tether your puppy to you instead of allowing her to drag her leash.
“But she KNOWS she did wrong - otherwise why would she look so guilty!”
We all have the tendency to think of our puppies as children in furry coats. The housetraining process will be quicker, easier, and faster once you understand what is really happening here. Your puppy is reacting to you and your anger that she can only interpret as aggression. A puppy faced with aggression has several choices:
- She can run from you
- She can meet your aggression with her own aggression
- She can freeze
- She can show signs of submission in an attempt to turn off your aggression
What does submission look like in your puppy? Her ears droop and go back. Her tail lowers. She slinks, she rolls on her back, and she looks very small and pitiful. Unfortunately for your puppy, this set of body postures in a child looks like guilt. She does not feel guilt but is trying to escape an unpleasant situation. Your anger, although it may make you feel better, only derails housetraining. Please take my word this for this. Prove it to yourself by walking in to a room where your puppy has done nothing wrong. Put on your Oscar winning acting hat and act as if she has destroyed the room. Do you see the same behavior that you previously labeled as guilt? Enough said.
Remember the message you are conveying to your puppy is "Not here - there!" Punishment and fear will only teach her to avoid going in front of you. Gentle redirection using the leash is your key to teaching your puppy where NOT to go. I invite you to try this both ways, then decide which action really works!