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The Basics of House Training Your Puppy
House training is one of the simplest yet hardest problems for people to overcome when raising a new puppy. It takes an investment of time in the beginning, but the rewards are huge.
To start house training your puppy, you will need:
- Crate. Large enough for him to get up and turn around, but not so large that he could eliminate in a corner and be just fine napping in another corner.
- Leash. To take him out to go potty.
- Treats. For pottying, you will want a very high value treat such as Natural Balance dog food roll, cheese or hot dog bits.
Dogs love schedules and routines and these are essential in house training your puppy. Do not free feed your puppy. While it may be convenient to just fill up his bowl whenever it is empty, it does not make his elimination schedule predictable and thus, you cannot reward him for proper potty habits consistently. Decide on the times you want to feed your puppy. For example 7a and 7p, so he is eating every 12 hours.
He will need to go potty every time he wakes up, drinks or eats. Plus, in the beginning more frequent intervals to be able to praise him for a job well done.
The general rules are if he goes potty in the spot when you tell him, he has earned a treat and supervised freedom. If he does not, then he is confined in a crate for a short duration and then taken outside for another opportunity to go. Here is a basic plan to start with:
- When you wake up in the morning, put the leash on your puppy (have treats on you) and run to the potty spot. The running jiggles his bladder and increases the chances he will go potty. When you get to the spot that you have designated as the potty spot say, “Fido, Go Potty.” This is one of the first commands he will learn.
- Remain in that spot for up to three minutes. If he goes potty, reward him right after he is finished (not during) with a “Good Boy” and treat. Then go back in the house. If he does not go potty, he goes in his crate for 15 minutes and repeats the process until he goes.
- Even if you have a yard and you think you do not care where he chooses to eliminate, have him on leash with you. You will know exactly when he goes potty and can reward him to let him know that is exactly what you want. And think about it, do you really want him to go anywhere in the yard? Would it not be more effective to teach him to go in one particular spot rather than having land mines throughout the yard?
- After his first potty, it is time to feed him. I recommend hand feeding for the first couple of weeks. He will learn that you control the food, be encouraged to eat since you will be giving it to him directly and will not be protective of the food bowl. If he does not eat all of his food within 15 minutes, remove the food. Again, you control the food and he will learn that he needs to eat right away or he has to wait until the next meal time.
- Five minutes after he has finished eating, he is ready for another potty break. With the water bowl by the door, take him on leash there. Let him drink and then take him to the potty spot again. Run to the spot, give the command, “Fido, Go Potty.” and wait for up to three minutes. Dogs have a higher metabolism than us and can process food much more quickly. He should poop at this point, so be sure to wait the three minutes for him to poop.
- If he goes potty, he has earned 30 minutes of supervised freedom. If he does not go potty, he goes back in the crate for 15 minutes and the potty process is repeated. The supervised freedom means that he cannot be alone in a room. You would not leave a toddler in room alone. Just like a toddler, your puppy can get into things he should not and accidents can happen (that you may not find for days).
- Then go about your morning ritual and be sure to give your puppy another opportunity to go potty shortly before you leave for the day.
If you cannot supervise your puppy then put him in his crate until you can. If you want to watch a movie at night and not be interrupted with constant potty breaks, you can have him in his crate for him to build up the strength in his bladder to hold it longer than the 30 minutes. If he is asleep in his crate when it is potty time, let him sleep; just keep an eye on him to see when he wakes up. He will need to go out quickly.
A general rule of thumb for the maximum amount of hours he can be in crate is: take the number of months old he is and add one. So for example, you have two month old puppy, you can expect him to be able to hold it in his crate for three hours. Once you start your house training schedule, he will be able to hold it longer and longer.
Keep the 30 minutes of freedom for two days. Then increase the time by 15 minutes every two days. If he has an accident, back up the time by five minutes. He may have been asked to hold it longer than he is capable of at that moment in the process.
During the night, there is a high probability he will need to go out. If he whimpers to go out, take him out, but note the time. The next night set your alarm 30 minutes prior to that time. You want to be able to dictate the schedule, not him. Similar to during the day, every couple of days extend that nighttime potty break by 15 minutes.
Puppies develop differently. So, do not be discouraged if a friend’s puppy can hold it longer than yours. The real test will be when your puppy reaches adolescence (around five to six months). Many puppies that were fantastic in the early stages will hit the teenage months and all of the sudden act like they have no recollection of a potty spot.
Prevention creates good habits. If he does make a mistake, roll up a newspaper, hit your head with it and say, “Bad human!” You just pushed him too far and you need to pay closer attention to the house training schedule. Punishing him for soiling in the house teaches your dog to eliminate in a more secretive spot.
It sounds like a lot of work to house train a puppy. And it is! But the rewards are endless. A month investment in proper potty training will yields years (and even a decade or two) of relief.
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