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Housebreaking Your Pet

Housebreaking your pet, also often referred to as house training, is essential for the health and well-being of everyone in the home. How you go about housebreaking your pet and how long the process takes depends on a variety of factors, especially the species of animal and the temperaments of everyone involved. As with any kind of training, housebreaking your pet requires patience, consistency, and lots of positive reinforcement.

Like all species of pets, dogs learn best when training is consistent. Identifying cues that your dog needs to eliminate, such as turning in circles or looking for the door, are helpful when housebreaking your pet dog. Confining the dog to a single room or a crate when you are not home helps with housebreaking your pet, since dogs will generally not urinate or defecate near where they sleep or eat. As soon as you get home, and immediately after all meals, bring your dog outside to a specific spot and use a consistent command (such as "Do your business" or "Go now"). Be sure to praise your dog lavishly when he eliminates outside; this is one of the keys to housebreaking your pet. Dogs respond much better to positive reinforcement than punishment or negative reinforcement.

The most common form of housebreaking your pet cat is litter training. The keys to effective litter training are a clean litter box, accessibility to the box, and praise for using the box. When first housebreaking your pet cat, keep him near the litter box as much as possible. When you leave him alone for any length of time, keep him confined to the room with the litter box. Using a room with a hard, non-porous floor, such as a kitchen or bathroom, is best. When you are home with the cat, observe his behavior to see what his elimination habits are; most cats use the litter box when they wake up, after they eat, and after they play. It is important to “catch” your cat using the litter box and praise him right away. If your cat eliminates somewhere other than the litter box, do NOT scold him and drag him to the litter box. That will only cause him to associate unpleasant experiences with the litter box, and he will avoid it even more. As with dogs, housebreaking your pet cat requires consistency and positive reinforcement.

Housebreaking your pet need not stop with dogs and cats. It is also possible to litter train reptiles. Choose a designated litter spot, and continually place the reptile there at the times you generally expect him to eliminate (immediately after waking, shortly after eating, after a play session, etc.). If the reptile tries to leave the area, pick him up and place him back in the spot. After he has successfully eliminated here, allow him to move around freely once again. Housebreaking your pet reptile will take time and patience. In some cases it may never work; in other cases the reptile may slowly begin to head to this specific spot on his own, and primarily eliminate there.

Housebreaking your pet is important for a number of reasons. It is critical for the health and welfare of everyone in the home to live in an environment free from pet urine and feces. It is also important for pets to receive basic obedience training like the kind of training that housebreaking your pet entails. When done properly, through consistency and positive reinforcement, housebreaking your pet is a bonding experience for human and pet alike.