A dog learns from interactions it has with its environment. This can be through classical conditioning, where it forms an association between two stimuli; non-associative learning, where its behavior is modified through habituation or sensitisation; and operant conditioning, where it forms an association between an antecedent and its consequence.
Non-associative learning is a change in a response to a stimulus that does not involve associating the presented stimulus with another stimulus or event such as reward or punishment. Habituation is non-associative learning. An example is where a dog that reacts excitedly to a door bell is subjected to repeated ringing without accompanying visitors, and stops reacting to the meaningless stimuli. It becomes habituated to the noise. On the other side of habituation is sensitization. Some dogs' reactions to the stimuli become stronger instead of them habituating to the repeated stimuli or event. Desensitization is the process of pairing positive experiences with an object, person, or situation that causes fear or anxiety. Consistent exposure to the feared object in conjunction with rewards allows the animal to become less stressed, thereby becoming desensitized in the process. This type of training can be effective for dogs who are fearful of fireworks.
Sometimes, despite all of your hard work, your puppy might slip up and eliminate in the house. If you catch him in the act, make an abrupt noise to stop him then quickly bring him outside and give him a reward for finishing in the right spot (it’s okay if you take him out and he doesn’t go). Don’t punish your dog for the accident; simply clean it up with an appropriate odor eliminator and vow to watch him more diligently in the future.
As your puppy becomes more reliable about using his toilet area and his bowel and bladder control develops, he can begin to spend more time outside his room or pen with you in the rest of your home. Begin by giving him access to one room at a time. Let him eat, sleep and play in this room but only when he can be supervised. When you cannot supervise him, put him back in his room or pen.
Though it differs by each individual dog this is the time when most will come up with their own little way of letting you know they’ve got to go. It might be crying at your feet, ringing a bell you’ve set up or waiting at the door — just be sure to pay attention to these signals & follow up. Once your dog knows how to get your attention when he’s got to go you can relax a little and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
If you’re like me and have trouble keeping up with your pup at all times try using a tether. You can buy a tether from the pet store or simply do what I did and use a long lead or leash. If tethering your pup to you at all times is what it takes to make sure they’re not sneaking off then go for it. If you’re not keen on keeping your dog tethered you can use baby gates or closed doors to restrict your dogs access to the whole house.
Training clubs that run the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme - the largest dog training programme in the UK are a sensible place to begin. Here you will learn about every aspect of dog ownership from the Puppy Foundation Courses through to Bronze, Silver and Gold award levels. Go to GCDS Training Clubs in your County to find one near to you or email the GCDS Team ([email protected]) or call 0207 518 1011.