By Chris S
The arrival of a new puppy is cause for great excitement in any household. It soon becomes clearly apparent that puppy housebreaking is an urgent priority and the number one thing to teach our new housemates.
You’ll find lots of puppy housebreaking articles and theories across the net and in books everywhere, but I’ve got a method that has never let me down. The potty training technique I have come to rely on and trust requires a fair degree of commitment to begin with but the rewards are quick and last forever. My veterinarian first told me about this house training method which could be summed up as follows:
“Closely monitor your puppy to prevent messy mistakes, enthusiastically reward desired behavior every time, and if a mistake happens work out where you went wrong.”
Things To Keep In Mind When Puppy House Training
* Owning a puppy is a big commitment for all family members, especially in the first few days and weeks.
* Puppy potty training is not a race, the key is to prevent mistakes and establish good habits early – dogs are creatures of habit.
* From your dogs point of view there is no right or wrong place to go to the toilet, they feel like going and just do it. It is our job to clearly communicate and reinforce where it is acceptable to eliminate and also where it is not acceptable.
* Opening your back door every couple of hours to let your puppy out will not house train your puppy.
* A puppies natural instinct is to keep their bedding/sleeping area clean – the puppy housebreaking method outlined below utilizes this knowledge to our advantage.
* No matter how attentive and diligent you are in the house training process there is bound to be the odd slip up. Don’t worry about it just ensure that you clean mistakes up thoroughly, including the use of an odor neutralizer to take away any lingering smell.
* My puppy house training strategy involves close supervision and confinement to start with but only so we can allow our puppies greater freedom much sooner.
* Understand your puppies capabilities and be realistic, keep in mind you are dealing with a very young animal. Young puppies can only hold on for so long before they need to go, they don’t have much control early on. As a general rule a puppy can hold on an hour for every month of his/her age, plus another hour. This means that a 2 month old puppy can be expected to hold on for three hours and at 3 months old this same pup could be expected to hold on for four hours at a time.
* Develop a food and water schedule. Each day feed at the same time (never close to bed time) and take away your dogs water bowl before you go to bed (don’t forget to put it back first thing in the morning!). You’ll develop a routine this way and “what goes in on schedule comes out on schedule, if you know what I mean…
Puppy House Training – Step by Step
This method is for when you are at home with your puppy, follow it as closely as you possibly can.
Equipment you’ll need:
I prefer to use a good quality crate. Ensure that it is nice and safe and the right dimensions for your puppy.
You can also set up a small pen area with a comfortable dog bed, water and a couple of chew toys (like a food stuffed kong toy). Do not put a toilet in this pen area.
Puppy Housebreaking – Step-by-Step
* Choose the spot outside where you would like your puppy to go to the toilet (eliminate).
* Keep your puppy in his/her crate, pen area or even tethered to a chair where you are working. Your puppy cannot have free run of the house at this stage, he must be confined. Every 60 minutes take your puppy straight to the designated toilet area outside. Carry your puppy or walk out on leash.
* When you reach the toilet area walk back and forth or circle around and around. At the same time say and repeat a cue word you would like to attach to the act of your dog eliminating. I use “hurry up” but just pick out a cue word or short phrase and stick with it. In your dogs mind you are building an association between the cue “hurry up!” and him emptying out.
* If your pup does eliminate continue to repeat your cue word and the instant your dog finishes doing his business enthusiastically praise and reward him with a small tasty treat. Make it clear that you are very happy with him and that he is the best little puppy on the block! If after 3-4 minutes of circling around your puppy shows no signs of needing to eliminate take him back inside (put in crate or pen) and try again in about twenty minutes.
* Immediately after a successful toilet trip outside you can allow your puppy some free play time (under supervision) in the house. Just spend some time enjoying the company of your puppy, then place him back in his crate or pen area.
* Continue with this 60 minute puppy house training schedule, you’ll be rewarded for sticking to it. Remember that you are trying to prevent any mistakes and at the same time establish good habits in your little puppy.
* “What about overnight?” I hear you ask. Yes well, firstly do not feed your puppy close to bedtime and take away his water before you go to bed (don’t forget to put it back first thing in the morning). You’ll need to set your alarm clock to go off once and possibly twice throughout the night. This is an important step, just take your puppy out to the toilet area as usual and then hop back into bed. When your puppy is young it is physically impossible for him to hold on all night, but before long you will be both sleeping peacefully right through the night.
In addition to your 60 minute schedule it is important to take your puppy outside after each meal time (most puppies go to the potty within 15 minutes of eating).
That’s the puppy house training process, follow it consistently and I’m sure you’ll experience pleasing results. When you are not home you will need to set up an area with comfortable bedding, water, toys and a toilet. Place the toilet (you can buy one from a pet store or just use plastic and papers on top) at the opposite side of your puppy’s living area. When you arrive home remove any toilet area inside and follow the potty training method detailed above.
The Final Step In The Puppy House Training Process – teaching your puppy to let you know he needs to go outside.
If you aren’t able to install a doggy door it is handy if you teach your dog the right way to let you know he wants to go outside. Do this by hanging a bell on a piece of string attached to the door handle (at the level of your puppies nose).
* Follow the puppy house training schedule as detailed above. Each time you get to the door to go outside give the bell a bit of a shake and say “go potty”. Do this every time you take your puppy outside to the toilet for a week or two.
* After a week or so when you arrive at the door say “go potty” but don’t touch the bell. You want your puppy to give it a nudge, if he does give lots of enthusiastic praise and quickly open the door. If your puppy doesn’t nudge the bell after standing at the door for 10 seconds, shake the bell yourself while saying “go potty”.
* Keep trying this procedure every time you go outside until your dog “gets it”.
* Eventually your dog will make his way to the door and tap the bell every time he needs to go outside to the toilet.
Good luck with your puppy housebreaking – remember to be consistent in your training and show a bit of patience.
Chris Smith is a long time dog lover and creator of How To Train A Dog.
Discover the right way to train your puppies and older dogs yourself, at home. From puppy housebreaking to solving problem behavior right through to advanced obedience training.
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