Housetraining your Italian Greyhound
By Karen Thayne

I've picked a puppy out.. Now what?

Before you bring that puppy home decide where he/she will stay during the day while you are gone.  Young puppies should not be crated for more than four hours a day.  If you work and are gone for 8 hours a day do NOT crate your puppy.  If you ignore this advice you will be creating more work for yourself and potential misery for your puppy.

There are tools available, which can be used to aid in the successful completion of housetraining. One common tool is the "exercise pen" or "ex-pen".   These can be obtained through pet supply catalogs.  Purchasing one of these pens is like acquiring a mobile kennel or playpen for your puppy.  They are small and fold up into a manageable form for easy storage.  A pen consists of 8 connected pieces (each 2’ wide, for IGs either 24” or 30” high), which expand into a 4' x 4' square. More "panels" can be bought to enlarge the area, but the most common size is 4' x 4’. You will also need purchase a top (or two 2’ x 4’ panels) for this pen.  If you cannot find these exercise pens through pet supply catalogs, then buy a very large (4' x 4') wire crate.

The location where you decide to place the ex-pen should NOT be out of the way! Puppies need socialization.  When you cannot attend to the puppy, he should have the ability to see what activity is going on around him even though he's confined.  This will not only teach him that he cannot have your attention 24 hours a day but will also help him to understand that he's not been abandoned.  As a last resort, kitchens and/or bathrooms can be used, but this is not recommended.  However, in both cases, the area should be puppy-proofed CAREFULLY. Puppies are masters at finding trouble!  Be careful of swinging doors which have the ability to shut... do NOT use them.  Use baby gates instead.  Enclosing a puppy in an isolated area can lead to destructive behavior. With some puppies the reaction is almost claustrophobic.

If it is possible to be home full-time or even every four hours and housetraining is in progress, use the crate.  See below for advice on crate training your dog.

Who should do the housetraining?

Never use the phrase "house-breaking".  This gives the impression of having to break the dog of a bad habit... one that (hopefully) your dog will NEVER learn in the first place! .You are training, not breaking your dog.  If there are several people in the household then try to involve only ONE person to take responsibility for the training.  If more than one person needs to assist because of time limitations, etc., then sit down together and pick some phrases beforehand.  If one person says, "Go potty outside," his partner should not say, "Go tinkle outside".  Both should use the same phrase.  If children are going to help out, then they should also know the correct phrases to use.  Don't change these phrases in mid-training.   This will only confuse the puppy.  If your partner or children are unwilling to co-operate... ban them from teaching!

Do I want to paper, litter box or outdoor train?

Italian Greyhounds are extremely bright.  If you live in a cold climate or a wet environment, you may choose to paper train or litter box train your puppy first.  But please take precautions and decide beforehand the method that you want to use.  You will only confuse your puppy if you decide to try paper training AND outdoor training at the same time.  Pick one first and then choose another AFTER your puppy has mastered the FIRST!

I live in a cold climate what do I do?

Italian Greyhounds are NOT good all weather dogs.  During the dead of winter on those cold nights, it might be wise to have your dog trained in the use of litter boxes or paper-trained.  Paper training can be accomplished in the same manner as training for outdoors.  The key is picking ONE spot for papers and teaching your puppy to use those newspapers.

I've got my puppy now what?

If you did your homework and bought from a responsible breeder, you are one step ahead of the game!  Most of the housetraining has already been started for you!  One of the main reasons why it is smart NOT to buy from a pet store is that puppies receive little attention in the matter of housetraining and therefore are harder to work with later. Most responsible breeders have already begun crate training and housetraining.  This makes the transfer of positive learned behavior to the new owner's home much easier!

Do not expect a perfect puppy in 24 hours!
The best medicine is in preventing accidents BEFORE they take place!

Outdoor training:

Training begins now!  Before the puppy is even introduced to his new home, take him outside! Choose a spot that is as sheltered as possible.  Remember that Italian Greyhounds do not like cold, wet and wind! .Sometimes an outside shelter can be created.  If this is possible - go for it!. If you live in an apartment or do not have a fenced-in area, the exercise pen is recommended. This is because it is difficult to get a puppy to "go potty" while on a lead!  Please do not let your Italian Greyhound outside in an unsecured area.  Set the exercise pen up outside BEFORE you come home with your puppy!

Setting the ex pen up outdoors and letting your puppy use the bathroom BEFORE coming inside is the key to the start of a wonderfully housetrained puppy!  Tell your puppy "Go potty" (or what ever phrase you decide on... keeping in mind that the same phrase must be used every time!). .Praise like crazy when he relieves himself!  Do NOT bring him in until he does go!

A puppy should only be out of his pen under supervision!  No more than 20 to 30 minutes of free roaming behavior should be allowed at a time.  After this time, call the puppy to you and head for the door.  ALWAYS USE THE SAME DOOR!  Pick a phrase like, "Let's go potty OUTSIDE!"  This gets him excited about going outdoors.  Again, a cheery "Go potty," and high praise will do wonders in teaching your puppy the preferred behavior.

BEFORE you put your puppy down for a nap, or before putting the puppy in his pen, ALWAYS take him outside for the chance to relieve himself!  Again, use the phrases that you have chosen and be consistent!

After nap time, or in the morning... take your puppy immediately outside.  Do this before you even have a chance to get comfortable yourself!  The key is to prevent an accident BEFORE it has a chance to happen!  Again, use the phrases you have chosen, but this time carry your puppy outside because he WILL have to go.  While holding your puppy, go to the same door and tell the puppy again, "Let's go potty OUTSIDE!" (Remember to always use a happy voice... even though it might be tough to act cheery at 6 a.m.!).. Take the puppy out the SAME door and straight to his potty area.  Again say, "Go potty," and praise like crazy when he does.

Puppies are going to use the newspapers in their pens, especially during the night and/or if you are working and are gone during the day.  Change those papers frequently!  Keep the pen fresh and odor free.  This will teach your puppy to be clean!

Always keep a watchful eye on your pup.  If he heads for the door... immediately ask, "You want to go potty outside?"  Get him excited about it.  Praise him for going to the door.  Some owners report that their dogs learn to bark, jump, dance against the door, or even ring a bell when they need to go out.  Take the puppy out and say, "Go potty," (or the phrase you chose) and praise like crazy when he performs!  You will know that success has been achieved when it is no longer necessary to personally escort him to the door.  Instead he will CONSISTENTLY go to the door by himself!

How do I crate train my dog?

It is always wise to teach crate manners to puppies.  Your dog’s breeder should have already completed most of the hard work!  Crating is a valuable tool and can be an asset later in your dog's life.  Even if you do not want to use a crate, teaching them crate manners will be an added reward.  Your vet will be extremely happy that you did!

The above advice on using an ex-pen also applies to crating with the exception that when your dog is unsupervised, he is in his crate.

Always feed your puppy/dog in his crate.  Crates should be a haven for the dog, a place where they feel safe.  Food makes a dog feel "safe" so feeding in a crate will teach your puppy that crates are a safe place.  The added bonus of feeding in crates is that your puppy will NOT become a finicky eater and lose weight.  There are no distractions in a crate and eating can proceed in peace.  Feed treats in crates.  Again, your dog's breeder should have started this process for you and you will just need to keep it going.

If you are going to crate your puppy overnight, set an alarm and/or have the crate near you at night.  Puppies WILL have to go during this time period and it is important to help them NOT mess in their crates.  Getting up and taking them out will help avoid accidents. You do not want your puppy to learn that messing in the crate is acceptable.

Some pet store dogs will not have good crate manners because they have already learned to soil their crates.  If you have a pet store dog and crating is becoming a problem use a pen instead.  If you take the crate door off and put the crate inside of the exercise pen with soft bedding you may be able to help your puppy learn to go outside of the crate to pee and poop.  If the pup still relieves itself in the crate then take the crate out for a while until it is using the papers reliably then try again.  This will help the pup get used to enjoying the crate as a safe cozy space.

Never hit, yell or scream at your puppy if he is in his crate OR pen!  You will ruin all your good work if you do this.

Please remember,whether crating or using a pen to confine your dog,these are tools for training and NOT storage bins. All dogs need love and attention!

Litter Box Training

Italian Greyhounds take well to the use of a litter box.  The use of such a box avoids the IGs three big hates: cold, wet and wind.  When training an IG outdoors just be aware that the presence of any one of these three conditions is an immediate negative reinforcement.  In the case of an IG, training the puppy to go inside is much easier than training him to go outside (though, for many owners, not as convenient).

A dog litter box is larger than a cat's.  An ideal size is 2' by 3'.  If the dog refuses to use your box, you know it is too small.  Lining with newspapers or clean papers is preferable to the use of kitty litter (which is a mess in itself).  These newspapers should be changed often.  A morning and then an evening change may be acceptable but it is better to change more frequently.  In the case of litter box training, if you were smart enough to buy from a reputable breeder then most of the work has already been done for you.  Most breeders paper-train their puppies.  The mother dog assists in this training.

Make sure the litter box is placed in a position where it is ALWAYS accessible to the puppy.  In this way he can use the box at HIS convenience - not yours.  As you can imagine, this is very comfortable for the dog.  It is also convenient for you.  Your dog will learn to take care of his own bathroom needs and not demand your attention at an inopportune time.  Litter box trained dogs are also quite willing to use the outdoors for their bathroom needs once you signal that this is acceptable.  When the weather is fine (according to IG standards) they are more than willing to go outside.  Otherwise, the litter box is put to good use.  All of the methods discussed earlier apply to litter box training.

Paper training:

Simply put, paper training IS litter box training.  The above advice of litter box training will train your puppies to use newspapers.  If you choose to paper train have the papers that the pup will use in his pen.  If you have your puppy out during the supervised time, call him to you and head for the newspapers!  Say, "Go potty papers," or whatever phrase you choose.   As the puppy is relieving himself say, "Good potty!” You know you are on the road to success when the puppy goes to his newspapers by himself!

How do I stop a puppy from crying?

Screaming, yelling, or hitting will stop a puppy from crying... however a monster will then be created.  You will return to square one, develop a fear biter and instill distrust in your puppy.  Remember that dogs do not understand "words", only sounds.  As dogs mature the sounds become "words" to them.  The word "no" means nothing to a puppy. It is only a sound.  Too many times people yell, "No", until they are blue in the face with no success.  So what should you do?  Try sound.  Remember when you were a child and Dad caught you getting into trouble?  Those sounds always seem to be "AHHHH," or "Ahh Ahhh," spoken in a deep, sharp voice.  This sound is extremely effective with puppies.  While it's hard to transfer that sound to paper, a phonetic spelling might be, "Eaah"!  This is a sharp, almost irritating sound and a real puppy attention getter.  They don't like that sound any better than you did as a child!  When they begin to whine, using an "Eaah!" and then ignoring them will help get across the idea that crying is unacceptable.  If the whining then persists past a reasonable time, walk up to them and sharply say, "Eaah!" followed by "Quiet", and walk away.  When they are quiet, praise them quietly... "That's a good puppy," softly spoken will get across the message that they are being praised for being quiet.  One of the main reasons why puppies appear noisy or hyper is that people act noisy and hyper.  When greeting a puppy while freeing him from his crate or pen do so in a calm manner.  Almost always, people have a tendency to shout an exuberant "HI YA, PAL! Aren't you happy to see me?" or some other type of up-beat phrase in squeaky baby talk which encourages your dog/puppy to get hyped up. This invariably creates an excited dog that will whine, jump or go crazy when you come home or leave them in a pen.  The dog thinks that this is a good time to lose all inhibitions because you have told it by your actions that this is what you like.  It certainly is more fun than sitting quietly in a crate or pen.  Just remember that gentle greetings are always better.  This teaches the idea that being confined is NOT a bad thing and that what you desire is a calm sweet puppy not a wild out of control dog.

It is very important and only fair that you control yourself and show the puppy/dog how you want it to act.  Most people seem to have an irresistible urge to rile dogs up and then complain because they are too wild.  Think about how you are acting and how your dog will interpret this.  It is very unfair to punish a dog (or even be displeased) for what you have express as behavior that pleases you, i.e. play that is stimulating and gets the dog wound up.

Help, we've had an accident!

If you're the one in a million with phenomenal luck, your dog will never make a mistake. The rest of us, however, live in the real world and are occasionally faced with the spectacle of a puppy "accident".  NEVER bury your dog's nose in it!  NEVER yell, hit, or scream.  A better approach is to use the "Eaah" sound along with ... "We go potty outside!" (Or wherever you have chosen for the puppy to go).  At this point he should immediately be taken to his designated spot. Hopefully you'll have caught him in the act BEFORE he's finished.  This allows you to tell him, "Good puppy!" when he completes his business. .If not, STILL take him to his designated area. When you return, immediately confine the puppy and clean up that mess!  A better situation is to have someone there to clean the mess while you and the puppy are outside.  Just remember that priority number one is in making the correction.  Take care of the puppy FIRST then worry about clean up.

There are plenty of good cleaning products on the market for cleaning up dog messes (avoid Pinesol and Lysol which can be harmful to pets) and make sure that you always have some hand. Try to avoid any cleaning product that contains ammonia. .Ammonia is a component of urine and when a dog smells a spot cleaned with ammonia he thinks that this signals a prime place to do his potty.  By using ammonia on the carpet you are encouraging further accidents in the same location.  Just be aware that with most dogs there are times when a return to square one is necessary and training must start again from the beginning.. If you have one accident retrain do not wait for another and another this would be reinforcing behavior that you do not want.  Just don't get discouraged. Puppies are smart and they WILL learn if you're just that little bit smarter than they are. Some of the most common reasons for accidents in the house are: an owner letting his guard down, an owner failing to catch the dog's signals for a trip outside, an owner allowing the puppy too much freedom too soon to soon or a relaxation of training before it is complete.   Here is the final principle: If there is a breakdown in housetraining it is the owner's fault and not the puppy's fault.

I've adopted an older dog what do I do?

You may have decided to get an older dog instead of a puppy.  Again, the key to successful housetraining is in the prevention of accidents.  While training an older dog should (hopefully) not prove as extensive a process as discussed above, use the same guidelines.   Hopefully, your adopted dog has already been trained in good house manners.  To help PREVENT accidents the first couple of days in your house, the dog should be treated like a puppy.  This will also give the dog a chance to adjust to a new environment and different schedules.  Every dog can be taught "good citizenship".  Older dogs can be re-trained in house manners!

I've got a dog now and I can't get him housetrained!

Use the above methods!  However, there are sometimes mitigating circumstances.  Some of the nastiest, most stubborn, hardest to housetrain dogs are puppies that came from irresponsible breeders or pet stores who did NOT teach cleanliness at a young age.  If the recommend methods do NOT work see a professional trainer for additional help.  Some dogs have anxiety issues and may take a lot of patience and understanding.  There may be a better chance of success, however, with paper training and/or litter box training such animals.

My dog is paper-trained; now I want to outdoor train.

Many times people will paper train first because of cold, wet or windy weather.  Once your puppy has mastered paper training, you can begin outdoor training.  Since the puppy will understand some of the phrases you have already taught him he will learn this in a shorter period of time.  But please, make sure your puppy understands FIRST what you want before you expect him to perform in an acceptable manner.

How long will this last?

Always.  If you have even one slip-up, go back and retrain house manners for a few days.

Whether it is a puppy, a new dog or a retraining situation, there should be a minimum of 2 weeks training before lengthening the time between potty trips outdoors!  This "2 weeks training" refers to day in and day out training, consistently using the same words, the same door and the same time frame (not necessarily the exact same hours, though). During this time there should have been NO unsupervised romps through the house for your puppy!   Some owners have found using a leash and collar in the house - the leash tied to them - to be highly successful.  This is recommended if you do not have the time to concentrate on your puppy when he is out of his pen unsupervised!

After two weeks, times can be lengthened between trips outside.  However, if there are any slip-ups, go back to doing the original times for a week before trying again.

One of the main reasons why people fail in housetraining is that they give puppies too much freedom too soon.  Even when a puppy begins to consistently go to the door, keep an eye on him in the house.  Don't be too trusting.  A puppy should not be allowed free roam of your house until he is at LEAST 6 to 8 months of age!

Patience, persistence and praise are your three greatest weapons in the war on accidents.  A consistent and loving application of these methods will result in a reliable, trustworthy, housetrained dog.