When we first get our new puppy, or a new dog from the local rescue, the first thought that comes to mind is how do we break him of potting in the house. We all love our house to be clean and free of smells, so why wouldn’t we want to keep it clean? As complicated a process as it might seem, it really isn’t, if you stay on a regular schedule, follow through with your commands, and praise your pup when they do well. Remember you are the pack leader, and your puppy is looking up to you for guidance. Without that guidance, they will do what they want, when they want.
There are three tried-and-true methods for training your puppy, says Mary Burch, Ph.D., director of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen and S.T.A.R. Puppy programs. These include:
Dr. Burch says that there are pros and cons to each, but they all can be successful if you follow a few basic tips, including:
- control the diet
- keep a consistent schedule; this pertains to trips outside, feeding and exercise
- provide regular exercise—exercise helps with motility
- reinforce your puppy for “going” outside
Many people new to dogs cringe at the idea of confining their puppies in a crate, but the reluctance to use this tool generally evaporates after a few days of living with a new pet. Crates make life easier. It’s a good idea to get your dog accustomed to one for many reasons, such as vet visits, travel, convalescence, and safety.
Dogs are den animals and will seek out a little canine cave for security whether you provide one or not. That makes it relatively easy to train your dog to love her crate. Puppies will not usually soil their bed or den. Therefore, if the crate is set up as a resting space, the puppy will wait until he leaves the crate to do his business. This will put you in control of where and when your puppy relieves himself.
It’s important that the crate is the right size—just large enough for the dog to lie down, stand up, and turn around. If it is too large, the dog will feel that it’s OK to use one corner for elimination and then happily settle down away from the mess.
When she feels an urge, the puppy will usually let you know by whining and scratching. That’s her signal that she has to go and wants out of her little den. Now! Don’t delay because if you let your pup lose control in her crate, she’ll get the idea that it’s OK to mess up her living space. Then she’ll think nothing of leaving little packages around where you live, too.
To avoid making crate training your puppy a traumatic experience, make sure the he feels at ease throughout the entire process. You can do this by placing an old shirt or blanket on the bottom of the crate so that he is comfortable. You can also urge him into the crate with kibble, or lay him inside the crate, but keep the door ajar for a little while so he doesn’t feel trapped or put in ‘jail’. Once he is inside for a little while, call him out and praise him. Once your puppy shows no signs of being frightened inside of the crate, go ahead and close the door. You will gradually increase the time the puppy stays inside the crate. If he whines, wait for him to quiet down – or five minutes, whichever is first – before you open the door to let him out. Praise him when he comes out, and take him outside to relieve himself immediately. Repeat this a few times a day, as consistency in training is a key tool to success.
Puppy Pad and Paper Training
When doing puppy pad or paper training, keep her on leash with you, in a free-standing pen on an easy-to-clean floor (while supervised), or in a properly-sized kennel. When she looks as though she’s about to pee or poop, say “potty” (or whatever word you choose) and take her quickly to her pad. Give her lots of praise and a small treat when she “does her business” there. Do not leave her full access to the house. If she pees or poops in the wrong areas, she will return to those areas more and more. If you are away for sometime, leave your puppy in a small bathroom with pads covering the entire floor: leave her some water, toys and some bedding to lie on. Do this for 2-3 days, then take away one of the pads (leaving all the others). In two more days, take another pad away. Two days later, remove another, and so on. The idea is to wean Fluffy off of each pad until there is only one left in the room. If she pees outside of the remaining pads, put the rest back and start over.
Keep your Puppy on a Schedule
This is vital to house training success. Puppies have tiny bladders, and water just runs right through them. The same holds true for solid matter. So it is imperative that you take them outside on a regular basis. Remember, though, that 10 to 12 hours is a long time for anyone to hold it! A 6-month-old pup can reasonably be expected to hold it for about 6 hours.
When you set up your puppy’s schedule, these are things that you should consider.
- First thing in the morning
- Last thing at night
- After playing
- After spending time in a crate
- Upon waking up from a nap
- After chewing a toy or bone
- About an hour after drinking or eating
If you have a busy schedule that includes work, you might want to think about hiring a dog walker to help you with your schedule. They can come out at various times of the day to take your puppy outside. There are plenty that advertise on internet, so this might be an option that you seek out.
Your puppy is a huge responsibility, and potty training is just one facet that can’t be ignored and is better taught at a young age. Crating, scheduling, and putting papers out are just a few ways to do that. Be diligent, constantly praise your pup, and stick to a regular schedule will get your puppy trained so much faster.