Like an infant child, your Boston Terrier puppy has yet to develop bladder control or learn what areas in the home he can hang out in. He relies completely on you for guidance and to care for his basic needs, from feeding to eliminating and everything in between. Even if you adopt an adult dog, he needs to know when and where he can eliminate. With your patient leadership and instruction, however, your Boston will learn his household manners from day one.
Setting the Stage for Success: Housetraining Basics
Reinforcing positive behavior
– Reward him for doing the right thing: When your Boston goes potty when you tell him to, reward him immediately with treats, praise, playtime, and other positive motivators.
– Correct him in the act and redirect him: When your Boston makes a mistake (and he will!) correct him by saying, “No,” and then pick him up and take him to the bathroom area, praising him when he goes in the right spot. (See the “Mistakes Will Happen” section for tips on correcting behavior.)
– Timing is critical: Dogs have short memories; when you praise or correct your dog, he associates it with the action he just performed. Any positive reinforcement or correction needs to be done during or immediately after he does something.
Your Boston wants nothing but to please you. When you reward his correct behavior with praise and love, he knows that he did the right thing, and he’ll want to keep doing that to reap the reward.
Making the trip to the bathroom area
– Designate a space: Choose a bathroom area outside and always take your pup on leash to that area. It could be a patch of grass or dirt, a curb, or even a litter box on your patio. When he eliminates, use a voice command, such as “Go potty,” to help him associate a command with eliminating.
Immediately after your Boston eliminates outdoors in the bathroom area, praise him lavishly and give him a treat. Don’t wait until he comes inside — by then it’s too late, and he won’t associate the reward with relieving himself. Immediately giving the dog positive reinforcement lets him know what’s expected.
– Plan frequent visits to the bathroom area: Your pup’s small bladder doesn’t hold much, so you need to take him outside frequently: after every meal, after playing, when waking up from one of his many naps, and about every half-hour to two hours in between, depending on his development. After sleeping all night, carry your puppy outside because he may need to relieve himself right away. (See the “Training Your Boston” section later in this chapter for more about taking him to the bathroom at regular intervals.)
– Go out with him: You need to accompany your pup outside, using the “Go potty” command. Going with him is the only way you know that he’s going to the bathroom and not sniffing and playing instead. You also need to continue praising and rewarding him for eliminating outside. Eventually, your Boston will be able to go on command, which is very useful in the middle of the night or when you’re traveling.
Your puppy may want to play as soon as he gets outside, but command him go to the bathroom first. Doing so reinforces that he should do what you say first — take care of business — and then enjoy the reward of playing with you.
– Show him the other “living areas” in the home: Besides learning where he can go to the bathroom, your Boston also needs to learn where he can’t go to the bathroom. Introduce your dog to other living areas, like the bedrooms, guest room, dining room, and den, besides the frequented areas of your home. After he recognizes these rooms as places where the family lives, he’ll be less likely to use them as alternative bathroom spots.
– Clean up accidents: When your pup goes potty someplace he shouldn’t, clean it up with an enzyme-based cleanser and deodorizer. Dogs have a keen sense of smell: They’ll sniff out a spot they’ve used before and use it again. Remove all traces of the accident so he doesn’t think it’s another bathroom area.
Restricting his freedom
– Use his crate: Because your pup’s instincts tell him not to eliminate where he eats and sleeps, you can use his crate to teach him bladder and bowel control. Limit his time in the crate to two hours at a time during the day, letting him periodically stretch his legs and play in his X-pen; at night, he’ll stay in his crate until you let him out to go to the bathroom.
Young pups who were kept in kennels and allowed to eliminate where they slept (like at a disreputable breeder facility or pet store) will be harder to housetrain using a crate. Because they are already used to eliminating where they eat and sleep, you’ll have to work diligently to untrain and retrain these dogs.
– Use an X-pen or playpen: These devices keep your Boston contained to one area that you can easily monitor. Because Xpens and playpens give your Boston more space, your pup may choose a corner for a bathroom area. Line the entire area with several layers of newspaper or some absorbent housetraining pads to sop up accidents, and clean the area thoroughly if (and when) accidents happen.
– Give him supervised “freedom:” Of course you’ll want to let your pup romp and play while you’re watching television or hanging out in the living room. It’s perfectly okay to do this — as long as you (or a responsible family member) are there to keep a constant eye on him. Take him potty regularly (see the next section, “Training Your Boston,” for specifics) and lay down some absorbent pads, just in case.
Training Your Boston
Plan to follow this routine until your pup is at least 6 months old, depending on the dog’s maturity level. Even then, restrict his free access to the entire house until he’s 1 year old. You want to be able to trust your Boston completely, and even though 6 months or a year sounds like a long time, it’s really not when you compare it to a lifetime of no accidents!
- As soon as he wakes up in the morning and after every nap: Those small Boston bladders don’t hold much, and after a full night’s sleep or a relaxing nap, he’ll be ready to relieve himself. When your pup is very young, carry him to his bathroom area after he wakes; when he gets older and develops bladder control, you can walk him outside.
- • Right after he eats: Most dogs need to do their business shortly after they eat. Take your puppy outside no more than 15 minutes after he finishes his meal. Older dogs can wait a bit longer.
- Right after he plays: When puppies get excited, sometimes they lose control of their bladders. (Think of when you were young and somebody tickled you until you almost wet your pants.) Right after a fun play session, take your pup to his bathroom area. As he gets older and learns to control his bladder, you can taper off this trip.
- Right after you give him a bath: That warm sudsy water can trigger the urge to go potty, so take him outside as soon as he’s bathed — and try to keep him out of the dirt!
- Every two hours (or so): At first, you’ll take your pup outside every one to two hours to relieve himself (which includes the occasions I’ve listed above). Your Boston will gradually develop bladder and bowel control as he gets older, so you can adjust this rule as he matures.
- Right before he goes to bed: To help him have an accident-free night, take your puppy to the bathroom right before you put him in his kennel at night.
Prevention is key to housetraining. Don’t give your pup the opportunity to make a mistake. Keep him in your sight at all times by attaching his leash to your chair or waist, or using a baby gate to keep him confined. If you see him start to sniff around or walk in circles, immediately grab the lead and take him outside to his bathroom spot, saying, “Go potty.” Then praise and give him a treat.
Mistakes Will Happen
– Correct him in the act and redirect him: The act of going to the bathroom isn’t the mistake; it’s going in the wrong place. So if you catch your pup in the act, say in a corrective tone, “Pete, no,” and immediately take him to his bathroom area and let him finish his business there. Then praise your Boston and celebrate that he’s going outside.
Don’t correct the dog after he makes a mistake — he can’t understand the connection between the correction and the mistake he made hours (even minutes) ago. Also, never rub your dog’s face in the mess. It’s not only an unnecessarily harsh punishment, but your dog will think that you’re mad because he defecated, not because he went in the wrong place. Instead, encourage and praise your dog even more when he does go in his correct bathroom area. Reinforcing the positive behavior is the best way to discourage house-soiling.
If your Boston seems to be having more accidents than usual, it may be a sign of stress or illness. Sometimes dogs react to pain or discomfort by soiling in areas where they normally don’t. Talk to your veterinarian if you see any changes in your Boston’s urinating habits.
– Clean it well: Clean the soiled area with white vinegar or an enzyme-based pet stain cleaner. Dogs tend to continue soiling in areas that smell like feces or urine, so removing all traces of the accident prevents your dog from using that area again.
– Watch him: You also want to keep a close eye on your Boston. If you know where your dog is, he can’t make a mistake. A circling and sniffing dog means he’s searching for a bathroom, so ask him in an upbeat happy voice, “Pete, do you have to go potty?” When he runs to the door, take him out and praise him after he goes.
The scoop on pooper scoopers
Let’s face it: Cleaning up after your pooch is dirty business. He may be the love of your life, but bagging his little presents can be a smelly job. And if it’s raining or snowing, that makes the task all the more, err, delightful! (I’m being sarcastic, of course!)
Innovative inventors realize this, so they have designed all sorts of devices to make this task mess-free. No longer is the old plastic grocery bag the receptacle of choice. Now you can choose from scoops, claws, and shovels for minimal handling. You can purchase waste bags in bulk to attach to your lead, toss in your purse, and pack in your Boston’s carrier. With so many options, cleaning up has never been easier!
For Boston owners who want nothing to do with cleaning up their dog’s droppings, however, pooper scooper services can do your dirty business. A pet sitter, dog walker, or someone who is in this line of work (really!) comes to your home a number of times during the week and cleans up your Boston’s feces for a fee. It’s certainly a convenience to consider.
Okay Ways to Go Inside
Teaching your Boston both traditional housetraining and an alternative method may confuse him at first. Be patient while he’s learning, and continue to be diligent with his training. If he just doesn’t seem to get it after a couple of weeks, forgo the alternative method and focus on the traditional method. You can always teach your pup the new bathroom trick after he learns the first routine.
Read all about it: Paper training
Don’t be discouraged if your pup misses the paper or makes remarkable progress and then regresses. Lay down a larger area of newspaper and start again. It’s normal to make mistakes. Just stay determined, and your Boston will eventually get the hang of it.
A litter box of his own
Yes, your Boston can be trained to use the litter box! Just as you’d train your dog to use newspaper or a bathroom area outside, you can teach your dog to use a bathroom area inside or on your porch.