How To Housebreak A Dog
Publishers often send me books on dog training with requests for my endorsement – they call them blurbs in publishing – and as a lifelong owners of dogs and the current owner of two border collies, I am always glad to get these books, I consider them to be works of inspired humor and fantasy.
Most recently, I've been sent Cesar Millan's best-selling work, How To Raise The Perfect Dog, and the title alone ought to get Cesar a gig on Saturday Night Live. I'm not sure what a perfect dog is, or why anyone would want one – would you want a "perfect child?," or buy a book with that title?
I do know I have never had one or met one or seen one, and the idea seems like something out of a horror movie to me.
Dogs are animals, they are not people, or very much like people, (I know this is a controversial idea) so the relationship will almost certainly be unpredictable, messy and filled with ups and downs. If you expect that you will train a dog to be perfect after reading anybody's book, you are setting yourself on a course of self-loathing, disappointment and pain.
I aim to have a good enough dog, a dog that is good enough to live happily and lovingly with this. I would not ask a dog to be perfect anymore than I would ask a dog to expect to have a perfect human. I don't know any of those either.
Cesar is perhaps the most popular dog trainer in America, and far richer and popular than I will ever be – he certainly does not have to crowdsource for a new camera. If General Electric put out a pamphlet advertised the "perfect refrigerator," the government would haul them into court and fine them millions of dollars.
in the dog world, there is no such wariness, Cesar sells a ton of books.
Desperate and loving animal owners would do or pay almost anything to have a perfect dog, they are perhaps the most hapless suckers in the publishing spectrum. Most dog lovers are desperate to find gurus and quote them, even if they rarely can do what the gurus do. Cesar sells a lot of books most telling people to do things they will never do, don't need to do, or even want to do.
He has 20 aides, trainers and assistants, and you will not see his failures and mistakes on You Tube or his television program. You don't see too many of mine either. Cesar is to most dog owners what I am to the world of professional soccer. Your life with dogs has little relevance to his.
I have nothing against Cesar Millan, this is America, everyone is entitled to make a buck. And most of what he says is sound and sensible. I love his smiling face on the book jacket, I do notice he is not hugging the feaersome Pit Bulls he magically flips on television but two cute pure-bred dogs, a Schnauzer and a Bulldog, one in each arm.
I am reading through this book to see if I can have a perfect dog, since I've spent weeks trying to persuade Fate not to jump on my head in bed or steal hamburger off of the counter. Okay, I'm being a bit sarcastic, even a little jealous maybe. I would never have the heart to tell anybody they could have a perfect dog.
Cesar knows his stuff, his instincts are good, we should, of course, all be the leaders of our dogs, not the followers.
Perhaps I don't need to have sheep for the dogs to herd, or take them for three walks a day, or run them in the pasture whenever they get restless, or cover the floor with stuffed toys, rawhide bones and important antlers from Nepal.They should follow me, sit in my study, sit quietly in the morning while I sleep and not tear around the house in pursuit of one another.
Nothing is more fun for me than to read the many passages on housebreaking that best-selling dog training books offer.
Cesar has about 20 pages on it, it seems that training a dog not to pee or dump in the house is now a complex undertaking requiring elaborate and strategic planning. There are yard rules, theories offered by vets, passages about smells, voice, crates, yards and gates and crates, food, diet and biology.
"If you are planning to let your puppy out your yard, make sure it's been puppy-proofed, and always begin by supervising," cautions Cesar. "If you are going to use a dog door and make the yard a part of the space in which she's allowed free rein, make sure – especially if it's a large yard – that you start off by containing her in a small part." Set up gates between your yard and side yard, establish a yard pen, hook up a dog run, he suggests.
And that's just the start. Folks, I am here to tell you that this does not have to be this hard. You don't really have to think about this too long or plan for it too much. Honest. Don't feel like an idiot or an animal abuser if you do this more simply, as people have done this through the history of dogs and people.
My best advice Take the $15 bucks and buy your kids a pizza or buy them popcorn at the movies.
I have owned dogs for most of my life, I have housebroken every one of them within three days, and I never read a training book in my life. They include rescue dogs, mutts off the street, pure-bred Labs and border collies, a fierce Rottweiler-Shepherd mix.
I often think of the housebreaking technique of almost every farmer I have known, I have never met one who had any problem house-breaking a dog or thought to buy a book about it.
"Simple," one farmer told me some years ago, "I separate them from the house and lock them in the barn for a couple of days, they pee and poop outside and that's that."
You don't need a barn, either. A basement or living room will do.
My own method is a little different from the farmers, but not much, and I will share it with you, and for free.
When I get a puppy, I also get a crate and make sure it's fairly small or blocked off. I feed the puppy in the crate and keep him or her there when not supervised. Five to ten minutes after eating, I take him or her outside on a leash, wait for them to pee or poop (they will invariably do that, because they have to go and it is their nature to go outside), praise them with a hug or treat and then bring them back inside to the crate.
This takes two days on average, three the most. An occasional accident is inevitable, clean it up and be quiet about it. The bigger fuss you make the longer this will take. Nervous dogs pee a lot.
Dogs and humans disagree on many things, from having sex to chewing furniture, but they agree on this: dogs want to go to the bathroom outside, where they are stimulated and drawn by smells, and people want them to go outside. They are not drawn to toilets like people are.
This is not brain surgery, it does not require hours of worry and vigilance or massive digging and renovation and construction projects in the yard.
When puppies are young and with little bladder or bowel control, they need to go out often and soon after eating. They should not run loose in the house until they are housebroken, it shouldn't take long.
I'm afraid that's about it for me, I'd like to add 20 pages or more to the process, as Cesar has, because publishers know people want a lot of text if they are going to pay $15. Common sense information is generally briefer than guru information, most often it is free and in your head.
In the next weeks, I'll continue to explore this idea of the perfect dog and how it relates to dog training. The news is often grating or worse, we need some inspired humor and fantasy. I told Fate to get ready, I am aiming for perfection. And put down my sock.