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This is the 10th instalment in my complete guide to house training series.
One of the most important aspects of a successful house training method is preventing mistakes. To achieve this, you must never let your puppy wander off alone unsupervised.
It takes just a couple of seconds for a puppy to have a little accident on your carpet, and it’s extremely hard, if not impossible to keep a constant eye on your puppy 100% of the time.
To address this problem, the method of umbilical cord training was devised.
What Is Umbilical Cord House Training?
Umbilical cord training is a constant supervision based method where you have your puppy permanently attached to you by a leash.
Being a constant supervision technique, it does require concentration and effort on your part.
But due to the physical attachment between you and your dog by a leash, it’s not as demanding as ‘pure constant supervision’ where your puppy can sneak off at any time and you must watch them like a hawk.
With umbilical cord house training your puppy goes everywhere that you do and can never be more than your chosen leash length away.
You take them room to room as you go about your home and they are never left alone.
This removes your puppy’s ability to make any house training mistakes without you being right there beside them to interrupt, correct and redirect them to potty in the right spot.
It’s a method that works extremely well and gives good results, particularly when combined with the house training method of using a crate (though this isn’t at all necessary if you don’t want to use a crate.)
What Equipment Is Needed For Umbilical Cord Training?
First and foremost you need a leash and collar for your puppy to wear and to attach to yourself to form the umbilical cord between you.
A 6-foot leash is ideal as this gives the puppy some room to move around while remaining close enough to you that you always know what they’re doing.
Any longer and it will be too loose and tangle around both yours and your puppy’s legs, any shorter and it’s too restrictive.
As with all methods of house training, you will also need some food treats to reward your puppy when they potty in the right spot, and some odor neutralizing cleaners for the inevitable accidents…although with this method if you do your job well there will be close to none!
You might want a crate if crate training forms a part of your overall plans. You can read a detailed guide to selecting the right crate by clicking here.
And it’s highly likely you will need baby gates or an exercise pen to confine your puppy to a single room or small area if you do have to go out and leave them alone for hours at a time.
You can read my guide and recommendations on necessary house training equipment by clicking here. You should take a look so you know what’s needed while avoiding spending on unnecessary things!
How Does Umbilical Cord Training Work? A Step By Step Guide.
Umbilical cord training relies on tethering your puppy to you and taking them wherever you go so you always know what they’re doing and can always intervene before they make a house training mistake.
These are the basics steps to follow:
First of all, you need to get your puppy used to wearing a leash and collar. For instructions to do so, please see the following article: How to get your puppy used to a collar and leash
Once your puppy is comfortable wearing a leash and collar, you now have them attached to you or a family member any time they aren’t confined to their crate.
Attach a 6 foot leash to yourself by either looping your belt through the handle, putting the end through a belt loop or having it around your wrist.
I recommend not looping it around your ankle as your puppy will soon be able to pull you over this way when they grow stronger.
Now you simply carry on about your usual day with your puppy following you around wherever you go.
If you’re going to settle anywhere for a while, such as watching TV in the evening, you can tether your puppy to an item of furniture such as a door handle or chair / table leg to give yourself a little break.
Just make sure they can’t pull the item around or pull it over, and make sure you don’t walk away and leave them unsupervised.
Remember, a mistake only takes a second and the very essence of umbilical cord training is that you always have them at your side for you to guide and correct them.
While spending time with your puppy tethered to you, it’s your job to take your puppy to their bathroom spot on a regular schedule that fits their age and recent activities (this is explained further in my article on house training a puppy.)
But you also have to constantly watch your puppy for any signs that they’re about to or need to eliminate. And because you’re attached to them, this will be very easy for you to do.
Your puppy might start to sniff the floor, circle around, become more agitated, try to get away from you, whine or start squatting.
When you see the signs, you need to get your puppy to their bathroom spot ASAP and when your puppy eliminates where they’re supposed to, praise and reward them lavishly.
If your puppy begins to relieve themselves and you catch them (which you should when you’re attached to them!) you need to correct them with a firm but calm ‘NO!’ and lead them outside to where they should be going. Remember, no shouting or getting angry. Firm but calm.
As soon as you get them to the correct spot and they finish what they started, make sure you praise and reward them enthusiastically.
With umbilical cord house training you’ll be able to catch every single mistake and intervene and correct them.
So they experience lots of lessons, while getting away with no mistakes. It’s this that teaches them so quickly and makes the method so effective.
They have no opportunity to get away with eliminating in the wrong places so no bad habits form and you also get many more opportunities to praise and reward them for going in the right spot.
If you take your puppy outside for a scheduled bathroom stop, or they were making moves to relieve themselves but when you get them outside they don’t go, take them back inside and watch them intently to make sure they don’t make a mistake indoors.
In 5, 10, or 20 minutes time depending on their age, take them back outside to have another try.
What’s important is if they’re due an elimination, or they attempted one before but you intervened, they will need to go very soon so you must be extra vigilant at this time until they do go.
After your puppy has both urinated and defecated outside (or their indoor bathroom spot if that’s your aim) you now have an opportunity to grant them some freedom off leash.
Release them for a short while, how long depending on their age and how trustworthy they’ve become.
For puppies under 12 weeks, just 3 to 5 minutes. If 12 to 16 weeks old, give them 10 minutes.
Over 16 weeks, give them 15 minutes. Increase the time as they get older and as they prove within the time you grant they don’t make a mistake.
The important thing to remember here though is: This is supervised free time!
You’re not letting them free roam your home alone, you’re still right there with them and ready to react if they make moves to have an accident on your carpet, they just aren’t on the leash.
Over time, the duration they can be trusted off leash in the house increases and increases until eventually, they’re house trained and you can let them roam free and stop using the umbilical cord at all.
Some Confinement Will Still Be Necessary
Although umbilical cord training is a perfect complementary method to crate training, some people use it because they do not wish to use a crate at all.
However, crate or no crate, some level of confinement for your puppy will still be necessary.
There will be times that you’re alone with your puppy and you need to take a shower, or deal with a visitor and at this time you cannot allow your puppy to roam free unsupervised.
This allows accidents and defeats the purpose of house training.
Also, where will your puppy sleep at night?
They’re best in a crate when you cannot watch them, but if you aren’t using one you should invest in a baby gate to confine them to a small room, or erect an exercise pen / puppy pen to hold them.
You should also use paper or puppy pads as a fall back in these areas too. Just keep their use to a minimum.
Is Umbilical Cord Training Difficult?
It’s not as easy as paper training which after a brief training period is mostly hands off. But it’s far more effective with none of the disadvantages of that method (discussed in the linked to article.)
It’s nowhere near as hard as standard ‘constant supervision‘ house training where your puppy is off leash and allowed to roam free so you have to watch them like a hawk.
And again, it’s more effective because your puppy has less chance to make mistakes. With normal constant supervision, you WILL take your eye off the ball and accidents WILL happen. Not so with umbilical cord training.
I’d say it sits somewhere in the middle of these two other methods when it comes to difficulty, probably alongside crate training as a method.
Both umbilical cord and crate training techniques allow you to let your guard down a little while still knowing your puppy cannot sneak off and make a mistake.
And both methods are extremely effective if applied correctly without being too taxing on you as a trainer.
The Biggest Downside Of Umbilical Cord Training
The one big downside of umbilical cord training is you must have your dog tethered to you all the time.
This can become a bit tiresome although it does have the benefit of building a very strong bond between you after spending all that time together.
I would say if you’re going to use this method, use it alongside crate training and that way you get the best of both worlds and can enjoy the benefits both methods bring.
Umbilical cord training forms a very strong bond between you and your puppy and cuts out a lot of opportunity for mistakes.
Crate training hastens your puppy’s learning by teaching bowel and bladder control, has a whole range of other benefits and allows you to confine your puppy when you’re busy and have peace of mind that they’ll not soil in your home.
Using a papered room or exercise pen alongside umbilical cord training is also a good option, but it isn’t as effective compared to using it alongside crate training.
With a papered room or pen your puppy will still toilet inside where with using a crate they won’t.
Ultimately, the final decision comes down to personal preference, but if you read this entire house training series, at least you can make an informed decision.
Who Is The Umbilical Cord House Training Method Best Suited To?
People who spend a very high majority of their time at home can use it full-time and exclusively. People who work from home or the retired.
But most people spend hours each day out of the home while at work so they cannot use this method full-time.
However, it’s a method that everybody can use at least some of the time mixed in with other methods, because everybody spends a great deal of time at home.
Consider that no matter which method you choose, you must constantly supervise your puppy if they aren’t in a crate or confined to a small papered area. Umbilical cord training IS supervision so you can use it at these times.
This technique is also recommended for people already struggling with other house training methods because they’ve found they keep allowing their puppy to sneak off unsupervised and make mistakes.
We all start house training with the best intentions, but sometimes life gets in the way and we can be less than perfect when it comes to watching our puppy.
If this is you, don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s a lot of effort and not very easy to constantly supervise a puppy.
Try switching to umbilical cord training for a while and you should find it dramatically cuts down on your puppy’s mistakes and will make you feel better about the improved progress your puppy makes.
It’s Not Suitable For Large Dogs That Pull Hard On A Leash!
One word of warning on when this method isn’t suitable.
If you have a large, strong dog that pulls hard on the leash, this method isn’t suitable. Some Labradors particularly grow up to become very hard and strong pullers.
A Labrador at just 4 or 5 months old can give a really strong tug and this isn’t nice if they’re attached to you all day. So you might have to spend time training your dog to be nice on a leash before this gets out of hand.
For young puppies and owners of small breeds, this isn’t a problem. But for Labrador owners it’s something to keep in mind.
What NOT To Do When Umbilical Cord Training
The first thing you have to remember is that no reason is good enough to leave your puppy unsupervised. They must always be tethered to you, out in the yard or inside their crate or a small, paper covered confinement area.
It’s very easy just to let them off the leash while you do something for 2 or 3 minutes, but this is time that your puppy can and likely will make a mistake.
And each mistake sets your house training back and means you have some cleaning to do. Just don’t do it.
Secondly, don’t let your puppy wander around dragging their leash behind them as it can get snagged very easily.
You will be using a quick release, breakaway collar (won’t you?!) but they aren’t completely fool-proof. A leash and collar is still a choking hazard. If you aren’t at the other end or watching VERY closely, the leash must come off.
Additionally, if you tether your puppy to a piece of furniture or something else while you sit to watch TV (which is perfectly fine to do) you must untie them if you leave the room for even a second.
Again, because it’s a choking hazard.
But remember what you’re supposed to be doing here anyway. The idea is they are with you always so if you must leave the room, you take the leash and you take them with you.
Finally, if you do tether them to something, make sure it’s something they cannot topple over and that there’s nothing on top that can fall down and harm them if they pull on the leash.
A Few Final Tips For Umbilical Cord Training
Use a quick release, breakaway collar on your puppy. It’s a safety net for when they do get snagged on something. Better safe than sorry for what might happen.
Use a 6 foot leash because longer than this and the leash will forever be getting tangled around yours and your puppy’s feet, any shorter and your puppy will have too little freedom.
As discussed earlier, allowing your puppy some time off leash right after eliminating in the correct spot is part of training.
Make sure you do allow this to happen, both as a reward for doing the right thing, but also to give your puppy some rest from the method and to learn from the experience of freedom.
Finally, ask every family member in your household to take part and take turns.
It helps everyone to bond with the puppy and the puppy to bond with them, lessens the burden on the main person responsible for training and gives more options for covering all hours of the day when the main house trainer is busy.
Umbilical cord training is a form of constant supervision that isn’t too hard to put into practice.
It requires dedication and patience, but the skill and concentration required isn’t too high. You and your puppy are attached so you can’t fail to know what they’re doing all the time.
The method is without doubt one of the most effective because if done correctly, your puppy either goes to toilet in the right spot every time, or they’re caught in the act and corrected when they do try to make a mistake.
Additionally, the whole family can take part and benefit from the extra bonding that the closeness of this method brings.
Umbilical cord training is often put forward as an alternative to using a crate, but it can also be used alongside for a very powerful house training program indeed.
Umbilical cord house training is simple, gentle and will work very well for the majority of dogs.
My Complete House Training Program
This was part 10 in a 12-part series where I’ve tried to provide all the guidance you could possibly ever need and covered everything I can think of for you to be able to successfully house train your puppy or adult dog.
Please see the entire series linked to below:
- Part 1: House Training – The Ultimate Guide
- Part 2: Basic Need To Know Facts Before You Start
- Part 3: The Mindset And Approach You Must Take
- Part 4: House Training Products, Supplies And Equipment You will Need
- Part 5: Accidents Happen: How To Remove Pet Stains And Odors
- Part 6: Feeding Choices Make A Massive Difference
- Part 7: How To Use A Crate To House Train A Puppy
- Part 8: House Training WITHOUT A Crate: Constant Supervision
- Part 9: How To Paper Train Your Puppy Or Dog The Easy Way
- Part 10: Umbilical Cord House Training: What is It? How Does It Work?
- Part 11: How To House Train A Puppy
- Part 12: How To House Train An Adult Dog – And Solving Common Issues
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