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House Training a Puppy
No dog training means more to most new puppy owners than that first important lesson: not at home!
Teaching your dog to go to the toilet outside the house, not in it, usually starts between six and eight weeks of age. Four-week-old dogs were started on house training, but at such a young age, a puppy is unlikely to have enough muscle control.
As with any dog training, the trainer’s patience is as important as the dog’s temperament. “Sit”, “stay” and other behaviors can often be learned in a few days. “Potty” training can take weeks – sometimes as short as two, often a month or more.
As with other learned behaviors, you must look for signs of impending action, then enforce and direct it with a voice command followed by praise. In this case, the technique works to the trainer’s advantage, since all dogs will naturally go to the bathroom. The trick is to do it when and where you want!
Look for signs like circling or squatting, then pick up the puppy, say “out” and run away. The puppy may search a little more, but often squats immediately. When you start, say “quickly” (or some other phrase) in a clear and firm (but not angry) voice. Wait until the puppy finishes and give lots of praise.
You will not always be able to catch the puppy to begin with, but do not become angry or impatient when the dog goes to the bathroom at home. It takes time for the dog to learn to say that it is time to “go outside”. There is still time for the muscles needed to control the bladder and bowels to develop.
Young dogs need to go to the bathroom every 2-3 hours, on average. If you haven’t seen the evacuation behavior in that time, take the dog outside anyway. Issue the command “quickly” and wait. At first, usually, the dog has no idea what you want.
Again, even when outside, it helps to wait and watch the desired behavior, then issue the command. That helps the dog associate the command with the behavior. If the dog has not gone after a few minutes and a few commands “quickly”, take it back inside for an hour. Of course, if you see pre-toilet behavior in less time, go out again immediately.
Dogs have an amazing ability to quickly learn what their “alpha” (the pack leader) wants. This is almost always accomplished by associating a verbal command with the behavior, followed by praise. Punishment is usually counter-productive, and nowhere more so than in toilet training. Never rub a dog’s nose in the waste.
Paper and/or cash training is preferred by some. A puppy can be trained to go on a newspaper, or on one of the chemically treated puppies designed for the purpose. Some small breeds that live all day indoors don’t need to go outside.
However, the technique has a couple of drawbacks. Unlike cats, dogs will rarely go into a scented box. Newspapers (even with the top layer removed after the dog goes) eventually create an unpleasant smell in the house.
Also, long before the smell becomes unattractive to humans, dogs can smell their own distinctive aroma. They don’t find it attractive – quite the opposite. And that is the problem.
Dogs that are paper trained often prefer to eliminate at home. Sometimes they will miss the paper by just an inch, creating a mess to clean up.
When the smell is in the carpet, the dog will often look for that place as its own “place to go”. This makes training the dog to go to the bathroom outside even more difficult. It is better to suffer a few accidents than to create a habit that is difficult to overcome.
Patience, praise and consistency are the keys to any dog training. Elimination training is the first test for you and your dog.
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