Housetraining Your Pit Bull Puppy
Housetraining your new pit bull puppy or rescued adult doesn't have to be a long, arduous process. Due to their high intelligence and strong desire to please, pit bulls are easier to housetrain than many other breeds.
Using the method outlined below, adult pits and older puppies can be housetrained in as little as a week or two. Younger puppies may take a little longer, if only because an 8-12 week-old is physically not able to hold it as long.
Case in Point
Roxy, a beautiful pit bull mix, was placed with a rescue organization when she was six months old, because she was supposedly "impossible to housetrain." The problem, however, had clearly been with her previous owners who punished the poor dog for going in the house, but never taught her what she was supposed to do instead.
Using the method I'm about to describe, Roxy was completely housetrained in ten days. In fact, she never had a single accident in her new home.
The Canine Den
In the wild, dogs and wolves live in packs, and the pack resides in a den, usually an underground burrow. Imagine what would happen if all pack members used the bathroom inside the den.
Right. It would become filthy and intolerable very quickly.
Consequently canines are naturally inclined not to soil their sleeping area, a trait you can use to your advantage when housetraining your pit bull. Of course the average person's house is substantially larger than the typical canine den, so parts of your home may strike your dog as a fabulous toilet.
Your challenge will be to teach your pit bull to think of the entire house as the den.
What You Will Need
- A crate: It doesn't much matter what type of crate you select--wire, aluminum, and solid plastic crates will all work fine--what is important is picking the right size. Choose a crate that's just big enough for your dog to lie down and turn around comfortably. Putting a puppy in an adult-sized crate could result in the pup using one side of the crate as his sleeping area and the other side as his bathroom area, and that would obviously defeat the point of what we're trying to accomplish. If you've already purchased an adult-sized wire crate for your pit bull puppy, you can buy a divider to make the crate smaller during the housetraining phase.
- A crate pad or mat: Your dog will be much happier in her new crate if you provide her with comfortable bedding.
- A bottle of natural enzyme pet odor and stain remover: If you follow the steps outlined below, you'll have very little occasion to use this cleaner, perhaps none at all. However, it's important to be prepared, and if your dog does have an accident in the house, it's critical to get rid off the odor entirely, not just the stain.
- One or more safe chew toys: Particularly important for teething puppies, but older dogs will also enjoy having a chew toy while crated.
- Some delicious treats: You will use these to encourage your dog to enter his crate as well as possibly as a reward for using the bathroom outdoors.
Until your pit bull is reliably housetrained, she will always be in one of three places:
- In the house with you watching her closely.
- In her crate when you can't watch her.
The goal is to help your dog do the right thing from the start and prevent accidents from happening. You will accomplish this by starting your new companion on a potty training schedule as soon as she arrives in your home and never leaving her to explore your house unsupervised. If you can't watch her--even if it's only for a few minutes--she needs to be in her crate or in the yard.
The other critical part of the equation involves praising your pit bull for doing the right thing. Don't stand in the doorway and praise her when she comes back in; by that time she'll have no idea what you're praising her for. Walk outside with her and take her to the part of the yard you've designated as her bathroom area. As soon as she has urinated or defecated, tell her what a good dog she's being for going outside.
Praise her lavishly. You can even start jumping up and down and do a little celebratory dance. Do this every time she eliminates outdoors.
If you're clicker training, the time to click is right at the tail end of her urine stream. You need to capture the behavior as it occurs, but since the click ends the behavior, clicking when she's almost done is the way to go. After you've clicked, offer an exceptionally delicious treat and erupt into praise.
TIP: When you see that she's about to relieve herself, say something like, "Do your thing." You can use any phrase you like, but try to pick something you don't use in everyday conversation and will be comfortable saying in public. If you wish, you can use different commands for urination and defecation. Do this every time she uses the bathroom, and she'll soon associate the phrase with the act of relieving herself. This can come in very handy on walks, or when she's older and you're traveling together, as anyone who's ever waited impatiently for their dog to eliminate at a rest area can attest.
Establishing a Routine
Dogs thrive on routines, so get one started as soon as you bring home your furry companion. Here are some key points to keep in mind when setting up your pit bull's potty training schedule:
- 8-12 week old puppies have limited bowel and bladder control and will need to be taken out at least once an hour when they're awake and active. An 8-10 week-old who's busy exercising and playing may need to go out every 20-30 minutes!
- Let your puppy out of his crate as soon as he wakes up in the morning or after a nap. For the first week or two, it's a good idea to carry him outside to prevent accidents on the way to the door. If you've adopted an older puppy or adult pit bull, you can put him on a short lead and take him straight outside, but make sure you watch him carefully on the way there.
- Young puppies will need to use the bathroom within 15-30 minutes of drinking or eating anything of substance. Feed your pit bull in her crate, wait 10-15 minutes, then take her back outside to relieve herself. Don't free feed and don't leave a water bowl in the crate.
- Allow your pit bull to play in the yard after eliminating. You don't want him to get the idea that the fun of being outdoors comes to an end as soon as he has used the bathroom. Better yet, pick up his favorite toy and play tug or fetch with him. To make sure you're sending the right messages, act nonchalant and even slightly disinterested as you're standing in your yard's "doggy bathroom area," waiting for him to go. Once he has eliminated, the fun begins! Praise, hugs, happy dances, treats, play--whatever you can think of to let him know how absolutely thrilled you are that he used the bathroom outdoors.
- Schedule plenty of indoor and outdoor play and fun training time with your new companion. When outdoors, remember to praise her every time she uses the bathroom. When indoors, carefully watch her for signs that she might need to go (e.g., sniffing and circling), and take her outside immediately when you spot these signs.
- Feed young puppies their dinner and take up their water bowl no later than three hours before your bedtime. Just before you go to bed, let your puppy outside one more time. Put your puppy's crate in your bedroom, so you can hear his whining if he needs to go in the middle of the night.
- If you've adopted an 8-10 week old puppy, you'll need to get up once in the middle of the night to let him out. Puppies that young don't have the bladder control to hold it for 7-8 hours at a time. Set your alarm for four hours after you last let him out. When your alarm goes off, take your puppy outside and praise him for eliminating. This is the only time you want to take him straight back inside and not make a big production with toys and games. You'll both have a much easier time getting back to sleep if you keep things low-key. And don't worry, by the time he's 11-12 weeks old, your pup should be sleeping through the night.
- Don't keep your pit bull crated for more then 6-8 hours at a time. In the case of young puppies, that number drops to just 3-4 hours. If you're at work during the day and no one is home to let out your puppy, either come home during your lunch break, or, if that isn't possible, hire a pet sitter or ask a trusted friend or relative to go to your house around lunchtime to let out, feed, and play with your puppy. Sure, you could also put the pup in the laundry room with toys, food and water, and cover the floor with newspapers, but that will only confuse your puppy ("I thought I wasn't supposed to go in the house") and prolong the housetraining process. Alternatively, consider adopting a slightly older pit bull who'll be able to hold it longer.
Well, actually they don't have to if you're very diligent, though with young puppies, a few accidents tend to be par for the course. So let's say you discover a puddle in the kitchen or a wet area on the carpet. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT PUNISHING YOUR DOG! If he had an accident in the house, you either weren't watching him closely enough or you didn't let him out in time. Neither is his fault. Just clean up the mess without comment using your natural enzyme cleaner.
Even asking your pup to examine the puddle, while demanding "What is this?" in an accusatory tone, is an exercise in futility. Your pup may well act guilty but that's because he realizes you're unhappy about the mess. He's not going to connect the puddle on the floor with the act of relieving himself in the kitchen ten minutes ago. Consequently any type of scolding will only confuse him.
But what if you catch him in the act? Let's assume you've been observing him carefully, and you realize he needs to go. You tell him "outside" and start walking toward the door, but before you get there, he starts urinating on the carpet. Firmly tell him "No! Bad!" while you scoop him up and carry him outside to finish. If he urinates more outside, praise him, letting him know how great he is for going outside. Then leave him in the yard, while you clean up the mess.
If you're housetraining an adult dog who's too big to pick up and carry, clap to (hopefully) interrupt him while saying, "No! Bad!" If you succeeded in interrupting him, tell him "Quick, outside!" while you open the door to let him out. If he finishes urinating outside, praise profusely.
Follow this method, and you'll have a reliably housetrained pit bull in no time!