Friday, June 7, 2013

Make Then Earn Their House Privileges

How many pups have we raised and housetrained over the years?  I can’t even begin to guess since we often keep youngsters to see how they develop, later placing them on co-ownerships, as show dogs, or in pet homes.  We’ve also placed adult dogs that we were done showing and had no plans to breed.  Combined with all the dogs we've raised and kept over the past 40+ years, that’s a lot of puppies, and a lot of puppy raising experience.

I’ve never found Dals to be difficult to housetrain and most of them have not been particularly destructive.  Pups are all different of course, and some catch on to housetraining more quickly, or develop good bladder and bowel control sooner than others.  Some pups seem to play only with their own toys, while others are continually tempted by household items that look like fun and are hard to resist.

One thing I know from raising all those puppies is the importance of supervision.  Puppies are not born knowing they shouldn’t pee on the carpet, pull the drapes off the wall, shred the sofa pillows, or eat books and magazines.  It’s our job as responsible owners to keep a close eye on each puppy, get him outdoors at appropriate times, and prevent him from getting into mischief.  

Puppy buyers often ask when it will be OK for the puppy to sleep out (of his crate) at night, or have the run of the house during the day while they are at work.  The answer in all cases is LET HIM EARN IT.  Appropriate and consistent supervision will result in a puppy that knows the rules of the house and is trustworthy much sooner than a puppy that is given too much freedom too soon.

My last litter of pups went to experienced dogs owners, people who had all raised pups in the past, though in several cases not for many years.  I always emphasize supervision – keeping a close eye on the puppy so it does not develop bad habits.  When the pups were about 6 months old I found out that one of the puppies was still having regular accidents in the house both day and night.  Turns out she was being given the same freedom as the adult dog in the household – left uncrated at night and loose in the house for several hours at a time when no one was home.  Of COURSE the puppy was having accidents.  She truly didn’t know, and was not receiving proper supervision.  She had never earned the freedom she was being given. 

My puppy Max is doing well, but he still sleeps in a crate at night and goes back in his crate if we will be gone for an hour or two.  Not because he is a bad dog, but because he is a puppy!  He easily waits all night when crated and has done it for a long time, but if he had the run of the house at night it’s very likely he would have to pee, and it would be on the floor.  His house manners are very good, and he asks at the door if he has to go out – but if no one was there to let him out, he would certainly go on the floor.  Not his fault.

Max is an active, mischievous pup who assumes that everything is a toy.  He’s normally good at playing with dog toys, but if something catches his attention and it looks like FUN, he will pick it up and play with it – and possibly destroy it.  The same is true with counters.  He knows he is not supposed to put his feet up and take things off the counters, but if something looks or smells particularly interesting, he just might decide to check it out.  If he is successful at this a few times, it’s suddenly become a habit and MUCH more difficult to resolve.  If he’s never allowed to do it, or is caught and corrected when he does, it never becomes a habit.

Fern will turn a year old on Saturday and is a very good dog.  She only plays with dog toys, and never steals.  Her house manners are excellent and she has very good control.  Next week we’ll try leaving her uncrated at night – I think she’s earned it.  If she does get into any kind of mischief she'll go back in her crate for a bit longer.  Because she’s been very trustworthy when loose in the house, she’s getting increasing amounts of freedom during the day, and if we’re gone for an hour or two we know she will behave.  Soon we’ll try some half days, but if she gets into mischief she’ll lose that privilege for awhile longer. I presume by the end of the summer she’ll have earned full house privileges.  We probably could do that now, but I don’t want her making mistakes and learning bad habit.

I’m not sure that Max will be trustworthy by the time he is a year old.  He’s such a mischievous, playful, fun loving pup, and everything is a toy.  We’ll see.  But hee’s very like his father Argus who rarely got into mischief and could probably have had the run of the house at a very early age.  We’ll see how Max progresses over the next few months.

To repeat, the dogs have to earn the privilege of being house dogs, and if they screw up then it’s back to crating and increased supervision for awhile.  The goal is a dog that does not REQUIRE crating, but is comfortable being crated while eating, traveling, or just to have a few less dogs underfoot.  I try to give each of the dogs some “only dog time”, crating the others so each dog has some special time for petting, training or just snuggling, without having to compete, and I don't want the crated dogs fussing about this.  Being crated is just part of everyone's routine.    

Works for me.