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Be consistent, patient in house training pets
By Allison Matthews
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- House training is the hard work that goes along with the fun of owning a new pet, but consistent and patient owners won't have to wait long for successful results.
Jane Yeatman, a member of the Golden Triangle Kennel Club, teaches Superpuppy training classes at Mississippi State University. She said owners should expect puppies to have accidents, but spending extra time with an animal is helpful in teaching the desired behavioral habits.
"Young puppies have to go outside to the bathroom pretty often, usually at least once every hour," Yeatman said.
She recommended keeping a dog in a crate when owners are not actively playing with the pet or watching it.
"A crate gives the dog his own space where nobody bothers him, and he can sleep and play. Dogs enjoy having a crate because it simulates a den," Yeatman said. "When puppies have to be left alone, leave them in the crate, and be sure to take them outside to a regular "bathroom spot" as soon as you get home," she said.
She said the best way to avoid accidents is to take a pet outside often so that it can develop an understanding about where its "bathroom spot" should be. Patient owners will understand that accidents happen, but continue to praise a pet when it behaves appropriately.
Rewards play an important role in house training because they reinforce the pet and encourage it to repeat the positive behavior. Rewards can be in the form of food treats, or they can be a rewarding tone of voice, or petting and showing affection to the animal.
Rewards teach pets which behaviors are good or bad. Yeatman said negative disciplines are sometimes necessary, and she recommended using a quick negative sound to let an animal know it has done something displeasing to its owner.
The word "no" is not the best choice to let animals know when they have done wrong because it is used regularly in daily conversation. Yeatman said dogs may be confused if they hear the word in another context.
"It is the trainer's responsibility to minimize confusion. Conflicting messages add to confusion for the animal and slow the learning curve. Be simple and clear-cut in your body language and voice commands," Yeatman said.
"Dogs are really smart, and most of the time they really want to please. Once they understand what their owner wants from them, they are usually happy to do that," she said.
Yeatman also reminded owners that puppies have short attention spans. Make training sessions short with a lot of play. Older dogs can learn almost as quickly as puppies, but they may require more serious training sessions.
"Be fair and consistent when you are training an animal. If you allow an animal to do something once but fuss at it the next time, it gets confused and doesn't understand what is and is not acceptable," Yeatman said.
"If you are not going to allow a dog to get on the couch, never allow it on the couch without disciplining him in some way that lets him know he will not get away with that behavior," she said.
"If you are inconsistent, you are not really being fair to the animal," Yeatman said.
For more information, contact: Jane Yeatman, (662) 325-3416