House Training Help! by TD Yandt originally published at pupforum.com on September 14, 2005
We have a wonderful 6 month old male cairn terrier that we bought when he was about 2 1/2 months old. We are having difficulty in house breaking him. We tried crate/kennel training him for the first couple of months, he seemed to be doing well. We have started allowing him to be out of the kennel for 4-5 hours at a time when we're not home. We are diligent in taking him out to the yard to potty and praising him. Just when we think he's mastered this, he has an accident in the house. When we're home we have a doggie door which we put in and he is free to go in and out. Even with that in when we're home, he still has an occasional accident.
We feel frustrated that we're not doing the correct thing and that he may never master this. We cannot be home with him 24/7 so we need some direction. We don't want to keep him in the kennel all the time or locked in a room. Any help would be greatly appreciated. We love him so and just want us all to be happy. Thank you. (CherChav, Colorado)
First off, congratulations on your new family member Cherry! As you've already learned, puppies can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a huge frustration too. So, before anything else... take a breath, nice and deep, relax.
At six months old your Cairn is still a baby. He's really not ready to have full access to the house when you aren't home. At most I'd let him have a six foot by eight foot area, within which there is water, his crate (with a blanket), and a toy or two. Leaving him to his own devices is like letting a toddler wander around unsupervised. They're going to find something to do - and it's not going to be something you're happy about.
Keep going with the crate training, you're on the right track. You've just tried to t
ake too big a step for the age of your puppy, so simply take a step backwards, and remember to take things slow.
Keep praising when he does go outside - make a big deal about it, lots of praise and treats too. Your neighbors may think you’re nutty, but throw that puppy a party when he does the right thing. Ignore any mistakes he makes, just quietly clean them up. If you catch him in the act though, grab that boy up and run for the door - don't say a word until he's back down in the grass. Then act like he went outside to potty all on his own and tell him what a good boy he was.
Another thing that will help is keeping him with you when you are home. A puppy really should be supervised at all times. If you are right with him, he can't make a mistake in the house. You'll see him starting to sniff or circling... and then you can whisk him outdoors. If you can't be watching him, consider putting him in his crate. It won't hurt him to have a bit of a nap time.
I typically recommend the umbilical method of puppy training. If you aren't familiar with it, all you need is a good 6-10 foot leash, a step-in harness, and a belt. String the leash onto the belt, and wear the belt as normal, clip the other end of the leash to the harness which is on the puppy. Voila! The leash has now become an umbilical cord between the puppy and yourself. It's impossible for your puppy to get into trouble or to have an accident when they are right with you all the time.
In closing - remember to be patient. Your pup is still just a baby. House training is a difficult concept; there are so many variables. Dogs don't generalize well, and every new situation is like training a whole new skill. Be patient, consistent, and repetitious and the two of you are bound to succeed.
If you have a question about your canine companion that you'd like Tobi-Dawne's help with, then click the link to visit her blog - http://deardogma.wordpress.com. She's always happy to hear from readers, and will do what she can to help.