Housetraining Your Dog
The major key to housetraining your dog is consistency. You have to remember that he has no idea that he should potty outside. From the time he was born, he hasn’t had to worrying about controlling his bowel or bladder, he could potty anywhere at any time. Of course, this isn’t how most people choose to live with dogs, so some training is required. Puppies, just like young children, thrive on schedules and consistency. So make sure that even before you bring your puppy home, you consider what kind of potty schedule you will want him to follow. A typical potty-training schedule goes something like this:
• Wake up, take puppy outside immediately (before using the washroom yourself). I often carry the puppy outside to avoid any accidents along the way.
• Feed puppy, take puppy outside again
• Crate puppy while you shower and get ready for the day
• Take puppy outside - if puppy potties outside (both #1 and #2), bring him inside and play with him for 15-20 minutes. If not, put puppy back in crate for 15-20 minutes, and then take him outside.
• Crate puppy and spend time around the house, doing chores or running errands – keep in mind that puppies can only be expected to hold their bladder for the length of time equal to their age in months plus one. So a 3 month old puppy should only be asked to stay clean in its crate for up to 4 hours. This is a guideline only, it varies per individual puppy.
• Take puppy outside, as per the fourth bullet point
As a rule of thumb, puppies need to use the bathroom right after waking up from a sleep, after eating and after playing. During the times that your puppy is in the house with you (play time), ensure that your puppy is supervised at all times. This means either having the dog blocked into the same room as you, or tethering the dog to your waist using a 6 foot leash. Although this can be awkward, it’s the only way to ensure that your puppy isn’t going off to another room of the house to potty. Another important point is the size of the crate. Some people want to buy their puppies the biggest crate they can find, to ensure that the dog is comfortable. Unless the puppy is having secret parties in his crate, he is just going to chew a toy or sleep. So a crate that is large enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around and lay down in is sufficient. If the crate is too large, some puppies will potty at one end of the crate and then sleep in the other end of it.
If you absolutely refuse to use a crate to housetrain your dog, it will make the job much more difficult, especially if you work outside the home. If you must use an alternative method, choose a small room in the house that you can use baby gates to block your dog into (such as a laundry room or a bathroom). It’s preferable to choose a room that has easy to clean flooring, in case of accidents. Place a bed in the room, as well as one or two safe chew toys (nothing that can be chewed up and ingested), and a small bowl of water. Most puppies are likely to keep their sleeping area clean, as long as the space isn’t too large and that the puppy isn’t left alone for too long.
When your puppy does potty outside, praise him like he is the smartest dog you have ever seen. Make a huge deal, and have a puppy party in the backyard. Give him a high-value treat, like a piece of hot dog, or something else that is easy to eat. It is important to go outside with your puppy, so that you know when he is pottying outside versus when he is just playing outside. It is also important that you praise and give him the treat as soon as he does his business. Don’t wait until he comes back inside the house, otherwise he will think he’s being rewarded for coming inside. If you simply put your puppy outside without accompanying him, then you will never know for sure that your dog has done his business. He may just be going outside to play, and then he may forget to potty. It sounds odd, but this can happen, especially with a very active puppy that has a short attention span (which is almost every puppy in the world).
Many people teach their dogs to potty on command. This is not hard to do. Choose a word, such as “go potty” or “do your business” that isn’t too embarrassing to say in your backyard. Then, watch your puppy, and when he starts to potty, say the word and then praise like crazy. If you do this consistently, the dog will learn to potty on command. This can be very helpful when you are traveling with your dog, and only have short breaks in which your dog can potty. It can also be helpful to have your dog potty on a variety of surfaces while he is young enough to not have formed opinions about where he should go to the bathroom. Otherwise you may end up with a dog that refuses to potty on anything but grass, and if you’re in a paved parking lot, that just won’t work.
If you do happen to catch your dog eliminating in the house, do NOT yell at the dog or hit the dog. Accidents are not the puppy’s fault. We are the ones responsible for training the dog, and if an accident occurs, it means we weren’t paying close enough attention. If you do catch the puppy, speak sharply to get the puppy’s attention. Pick him up and take him outside quickly. Use the cue word for pottying, and then praise the world if he does finish his business outside. Give him about 10-15 minutes to finish off. If he doesn’t do anything, bring him inside and place him in his crate for 20 minutes or so, and then try taking him outside again. If you do start yelling at or hitting your dog when you catch him pottying in the house, he will become afraid to potty in front of you. Then he will simply search for places to hide from you while he potties, either inside or outside. It’s much better to prevent accidents through diligence and attention.
Kelly & the KLAD Cockers
Farley, Grace & Jack Jack