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How Your Lifestyle Affects Your Dog's Housetraining

Housetraining isn't always a simple matter. Different factors can affect where and when you want your pooch to potty, as well as her ability to learn what you want her to know. Your lifestyle can complicate a housetraining enterprise, but you can help your four-legged friend cope successfully with those complications.

Outdoor training and the working owner

Housetraining is generally pretty easy when the canine trainee has a human around all day to supervise her progress. But that's not the situation in most twenty-first century households. Even most homes with children under the age of 6 are empty during the day, because parents work and their children go to day care or preschool.

This economic and social reality complicates any effort to train a puppy to potty outdoors. That's because a pup under six months of age can't be expected to hold her poop or pee all day long while her people are at work. Think about it: Do you spend an entire day — or even a half-day — at your workplace without making at least a couple of trips to the restroom?

At the same time, though, you can't give your outdoor trainee full access to your home. No way would you want to expose your carpet and furnishings to canine waste deposits.

But confinement in a crate isn't the answer, either. A couple of hours in a crate is reassuring to a dog, but that coziness can turn mighty claustrophobic to a dog who's forced to spend eight, nine, or even more hours there. Plus, the puppy who's crated all day is all too likely to poop or pee in the crate — which defeats the whole purpose of crating in the first place.

For that reason, the working puppy owner who opts for outdoor training needs to find some way to allow the puppy to eliminate during the day. You have several options from which to choose, including the following:

  • Hiring a pet sitter or dog walker. Try asking an at-home neighbor you trust to walk your puppy and play with her once or twice a day or even to stay at the neighbor's home while you're at work. You can also contact a commercial pet-sitting service.
  • Going to doggie day care. Many veterinarians and dog trainers offer some form of doggie day care to working owners and their puppies. In fact, some enterprising dog lovers are opening facilities devoted strictly to day care for pooches. Many retail pet Web sites include listings for such facilities; you can also obtain recommendations from trainers and vets.
  • Bringing your pup to work. Some companies allow their employees to bring their pets to work with them. Check to see if your company's one of them — and, if so, what the rules are. You may find that you can have a canine officemate. (Having a dog in your office makes work a lot more fun!)

If none of those options is available, you must reconcile yourself to not having your puppy trained to potty exclusively outdoors — at least not right away. If you or someone else can't be with her during the day, you need to combine paper training with outdoor training.

Here's how it works. You start by creating an indoor home-alone area for your puppy — preferably someplace that doesn't have a carpet and is easy to clean. The kitchen, laundry room, or bathroom would work well here.

Then, cover the entire floor area with several layers of newspaper. Put the puppy's crate and dishes at one end; leave the door to the crate open. Enclose the entire area so that your pup can't venture beyond the room. If your puppy poops or pees on the papers, clean them up without comment. She hasn't done anything wrong by eliminating on the papers, but you don't want her to think that you want her to use the papers over the long term. Any time you're home, pick up the papers, bring her outdoors to her potty-training area, and instruct how to use it. If you're headed out on a quick errand or otherwise can't watch your little darling, put her in her crate.

Eventually, when your puppy nears six months of age or so, you'll be able to bypass the papers forevermore. You'll know she's ready to become a totally outdoor-trained dog when you repeatedly come home from work at night and find nothing on the papers.

Moving the potty outside

Some puppies can't be allowed to potty outside, no matter how much time their people can spend at home with them. These pooches live in cities, where the only available places to do the doo are places where other dogs have already pooped and peed. Exposing a puppy to such places can be hazardous, because if those other dogs have certain illnesses, germs and bacteria from those illnesses can longer in their poop and pee, just waiting to pounce on your puppy.

To protect your little darling, you need to make sure that she has her puppy shots — immunizations against diseases such as distemper, hepatitis, and parvovirus. Your veterinarian gives your puppy these shots in a series, starting at about six weeks of age and finishing up at about 16 weeks of age.

Until your urban puppy completes her shots, she can't be allowed to potty outdoors in places where other dogs might have pooped or peed. (If you have your own fenced backyard, it's fine to let her do her business outdoors.) After her last shot, though, you can move her potty from the newspapers to an outdoor spot.

Start by moving the papers themselves to an outdoor area and let your puppy eliminate on them. Gradually reduce the size of the paper until the puppy just goes to her potty spot and does her business sans paper.

Traveling with your dog

When motoring with Fido, remember to give him a bathroom break at least as often as you give yourself one: generally every couple of hours. Car travel is just as stimulating to the canine bladder as it can be to its human counterpart.

Bring your pooch's potty equipment with you: paper for the paper trainee, litter, and litter box for the litter trainee. For the outdoor trainee, bring a collar, leash, and bags for scooping.

For all canine travelers, it's a good idea to bring along the crate. Many hotels won't accommodate dogs unless they're crated. And no matter where you stay, the crate will give Fido an oasis of familiarity in an unfamiliar environment — and can help prevent accidents, too.

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