Two Books on House-Training Dogs

book review by Pam Green, © 2015

This is another discussion of house-training, also called house-breaking, the process of getting a dog into a reliable habit of urinating and defecating only outdoors and never ever indoors.
I review two books, and add a short summary of housebreaking by Sue Matthews, one of our great Bouvier experts.

Two Books About House-breaking

I currently am trying to advise two Bouv people whose dogs are still NOT house-clean. A 10 month old bitch who poops on stairs and a 3 year old male who urine marks indoors.
So I got out a book I already had and reviewed it. And , as so often happens, another relevant book appeared on the sales shelves of my local SPCA Thrift Store. (someday I will write a verse in Kipling-esque style about "the gods of my local thrift store" who send me the things I need)

The two books are "The Evans Guide to Housetraining Your Dog" by Job Michael Evans, published 1987 and now out of print (but try Amazon) , and "The Super Simple Guide to Housetraining" by Teoti Anderson, paperback revised edition published 2004.

Each book has its own strengths and omissions.

Evans' book has a great chapter on Nutrition, the role of diet and feeding schedule on the dog's ability to control defecation. Feeding choices can make house-training much easier or much much harder. Anderson's book has a short chapter on Nutrition, which lacks some of the very useful warnings in Evans.

Evans discussion of Submissive Urination and of Leg Lifting (marking) are more extensive than the briefer ones in Anderson.

However Evans book was written in the era when corrections were a mainstream training technique and food rewards not mainstream. Plus he was a monk (of New Skete) for many years, where obedience to discipline was a way of life. Evans' chapter on Corrections is not a technique I'd recommend and not a necessary part of house-breaking. It's so much better to interrupt an "accident" about to happen or in middle of happening, as Anderson advises, but don't waste time "correcting" before you take the dog outdoors and encourage pottying there. And Evans advice that it's possible to "discipline after the fact" because you have "evidence" is very dangerous. Anderson's book in contrast relies on positive reinforcement for pottying outdoors and emphsizes the prevention of accidents indoors (rather than "correcting" them) and building of habit of doing potty outdoors

Evans has an excellent chapter on teaching your dog a cue (invitation or trigger cue) for peeing and pooping. He describes it as Pavlovian, ie classical conditioning, but I'd say there's also an operant conditioning element because the sensations of peeing and pooping feel pleasant to the dog, ie are a positive reinforcement. In any case , I certainly do recommend teaching such a cue, as I have done with my working trial dogs.

Both books are very good on scheduling, on the need to use confinement via crating and use of "umbilical cord" when dog is not crated, and on the absolute essential of the person accompanying the dog outdoors on potty breaks to observe, encourage, and praise, and to know whether one is returning to the house with a dog who is "empty" or not empty. These are the absolute requirements of sucessful house-breaking Evans also points out that some puppies need to poop twice to become empty. I'd add so do some adults (also some humans).

Both mention spayed bitch incontinence (leaking urine when sleeping or deeply relaxed) , at least enough that you'd recognize it and know it's a veterinary issue.

Neither book really says much about the great benefits of having a dog door so the dog does not have to rely on a human to let the dog go outside to potty. I am a huge fan of dog doors ("dog door means never having to say 'I'm sorry' "), but I recognize that there are situations in which the disadvantages or risks can outweigh the advantages.

Anderson has a great discussion of the mutual training process (you train dog and dog trains you) of establishing a signal for the dog asking to go outdoors. He further advises how to teach the dog to ring a bell hung on the doorknob (a method that is portable when you visit or travel) as being a clear and easy cue for dog and human..

If you only buy one book, I'd advise Anderson's. But do look for Evans' at the library and photocopy the chapter on Nutrition or take notes on it.


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