Journey To A House Trained Dog (Part 2)

By: Michelle Mantor

May 2007

In the April issue, I bared my shame to the world that Sake, my 3 lb. Yorkie mix, is not completely house trained by the age of two (a lot of readers admit they share the same fate). If you happened to miss the first article in this series, you can find a copy on Jim Burwell’s Petiquette web site, www.petiquettedog.com.

In part 1 of this series, I detailed how my dog is soiling in the house and due to my short attention span, I am really a large part of the problem. I know her “potty” routine fairly well but I seem to have an inability to capitalize on this information by letting her outside at the opportune time. At the end of the first article, I called Jim Burwell and scheduled our first training session. Here is how Sake and I have progressed:

First Training Session:
Much of the first session was spent arming me with information needed to understand why I have this “issue” in my household and how to correct it. It was like dog psychology 101! There are basic premises you must understand to be successful in shaping your dog’s behavior to meet your expectations. It all makes perfect sense but having the discipline to execute the plan is a different “animal” altogether!

If you can grasp these basic principles, you are well on your way to successful house training as well as other behavior modifications.

  • Strong leadership is key with a regimen of earned praise and petting
  • Discontinue any scolding or punishment
  • There are three house-soiling categories of dogs – the naïve un-housetrained dog, the diet-change victim and the insecure dog (be sure to have a veterinarian rule out health issues before beginning a program that is based on the assumption of a healthy dog).

Sake is most likely a combination of un-housetrained and insecure. According to Jim’s rules of training and enforcing a strong leadership position, I have been making a lot of mistakes. From a leadership perspective, I have not given my dog a strong sense of place, which in turn creates insecurity. A strong sense of place in the pack for the household dog should be below the human members of the pack.

Since dogs live in a black and white world, we must be very clear with our expectations and use leadership tactics that enforce our position as “alpha”. Among my many mistakes are allowing Sake to jump on the furniture, climb in my lap and roll over for a long tummy scratch. I inadvertently elevate her to my position by allowing her on the furniture where I, the alpha sit, without earning the right. I also pet or “groom” her on her terms. I don’t require her to earn the attention.

As the leader, we must control food, praise, grooming and playing. Many pet owners mistakenly believe they are being “mean” to their pet when they require them to sit before petting, sit before eating, sleep in a crate or out of the bedroom, always win in games of tug-o-war, etc. However, it is not unjust, it is simply the way dog packs work and our pets adjust best when we follow their pack rules and give them a clear, black and white world to live in.

So, before we can get to the actual house training techniques, I will start working on my role as a strong alpha, thus making my dog more secure and sure of her place in the pack. This will be harder for me than Sake…I may have to tie my hands behind my back to train myself not to absent mindedly pet her tummy! I think this is what Dr. Phil might call tough love!

Stay tuned for the third article in this series in the June/July double issue.

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