Tips for housebreaking pets
By Jenny Anderson
Special to Today’s News-Herald
Potty training can be a difficult task, whether the pet is a youngster or older animal. Puppies take time to gain control of their elimination, unlike kittens that will use a litter box if the placed in the box immediately after feeding time.
The important thing is reward for eliminating in the proper place. When we scold or give undue attention to accidents, we can inadvertently reinforce unwanted behavior.
This involves changing our thinking. Swap “How do I stop my pet from going potty in the house (or on the carpet)?” for “How do I teach him to go outside (or in the litter box)?” Think positively about the desired behavior.
Our pets pick up cues from us, including non-verbal behavior.Rather than trying to shame a pet for mishaps, try making a game of elimination tasks. Animals do not have feelings of guilt, even when they may look guilty.
There are strategic steps to take when an animal is learning toileting in the appropriate place. First, always consult with a veterinarian to rule out the possibility of a urinary tract infection, particularly if there are repeated accidents. This is especially true for cats. They are masters at hiding illness.
Next, make frequent trips outside to encourage outdoor elimination. This may be as frequent as once hourly. Make sure the bladder does not get too full. Pets adopted from a rescue or humane society may have lapses in their potty training after being kept in kennels with infrequent opportunities to get outside.
When we first adopted Shadow, I made sure she got outside frequently. nce a regular routine was established, including a good morning walk, she was fine.
Use encouraging words and praise to reinforce the desired behavior. Add a treat when the pet uses the appropriate spot for elimination. It is not silly to talk to your animal. This, along with a reward, is an important part of bonding. Surprisingly, not only dogs want to please.
Cats also like praise; however, they need a clean litter box which is located in a safe space. Most cats do not enjoy being disturbed while doing their business.
A male cat, or one that is accustomed to outside living, may have learned to mark territory by urinating to leave its scent. This behavior can be modified by neutering and having a clean litter pan for each cat. This needs to be placed away from the feeding area. Pheromone diffusers also help reduce stress for cats, and this can the urge reduce the need to mark.
When a dog is in the house, he should be supervised until he’s completely housetrained. Pay attention to behavior. When a dog gets restless, get him outside before he has a chance to soil the carpet. A kennel or crate is ideal for periods when the animal cannot be supervised. Few animals will soil in their crate, but confinement in a kennel or crate should not be used as punishment.
Working with a new dog or cat requires patience. Training involves being consistent in getting the dog outside and in rewarding with praise and a treat. Keep a cat’s litter pan clean and readily available. Practice makes perfect.
Contact the Western Arizona Humane Society at 928-855-5083.