Got a new pup? Unless you want him peeing all over the place, you’ll need to train him. It’ll be a huge relief to not worry about your dog going in the wrong spot. House training is an important part of caring for a dog properly and with some basic knowledge of what to do, you’ll master it in no time.
Knowing About Dog Behavior
- Understand dog behavior. Most importantly, dogs do not know right from wrong. What a dog understands is “safe” and “dangerous”. When your puppy comes into your house, he doesn’t understand that it is “bad” behavior to urinate on your carpet. As far as your puppy is concerned, the carpet is an extension of everywhere else he roams. It is also a warm and comfortable place to be, unlike the cold, dirty yard outside.
- You want to teach your dog that urinating or defecating in the house is unacceptable. You do this by catching your dog in the act––not after the behavior has occurred––but while the behavior is happening. Punishing your dog after the unwanted behavior has occurred can confuse your dog, making the house training process much more difficult. After your dog goes in the house, immediately take him outside and show him the correct place to go. Be kind and simply show the dog the preferred place––scolding now would just confuse the puppy.
- Never physically punish your dog. Not only is this cruel but it will usually instill bad associations and therefore bad behavior, like crawling under something to poop and hide it from you. It teaches your puppy to fear you, not to change natural habits.
- Know nature’s bladder boundaries. The age of your puppy has a bearing on the puppy’s ability to be house trained and the amount of time you can take between potty breaks. A general guide is as follows:
- A puppy weaned too soon will have difficulties being house trained and will have many other problems too. House training between weeks 5 and 7 should occur within the litter environment, as many socially beneficial behaviors continue to be transferred during this time.
- Training between 8-16 weeks needs to be consistent. This is the time when puppies learn that they’re either in a safe or a dangerous environment. Make your puppy’s world a safe one and treat him to consistent, caring house training. Also accept that bladder control is poor for puppies in this age range and he may appear to know what’s expected one day but let go the next. Do not take this as being difficult––it’s simply the act of a baby still learning to control his bladder.
- By 16 weeks: A puppy can usually hold his bladder for up to four hours. (Prior to this, the bladder can withstand about 2 hours before the puppy must go.)
- At 4-6 months: Puppies in this age group can often seem “half” house trained due to their ability to be easily distracted. He’s likely to want to explore the world, which means chasing a moth might prevent him from eliminating when you take him to his spot. By now, a puppy of four months can wait about four to five hours before needing to eliminate, while a puppy of six months can go as long as six or seven hours.
- 6-12 months: Sexual maturity can cause males to raise their legs and pee on furniture, while females can come on heat. The bladder can cope with seven to eight hours before eradication is needed again.
- 12-24 months: Depending on the breed, your puppy may not be an adult yet. Hopefully you’ve established house training well by now, but if not, you can still do so, even for adult dogs.
- Note the breed of your dog. Larger dogs tend to be easier to house train than toy dogs, simply because the smaller dogs need to go more frequently (with tinier digestive systems). Smaller dogs can also get into places to eliminate where you may not notice or be able to find until a bad habit has been established. Be as assiduous with house training a toy dog as any other size dog and you’ll succeed. Remember––nothing is cute about eliminating in the house, no matter how cute the dog, so don’t assume small mishaps will just “go away”.
Creating a Suitable Environment
- Acquire a crate or “den”. Proper housing is crucial to teaching the puppy that it’s important to eliminate away from food and sleeping areas. A puppy unable to move away from these areas may learn very early on to eliminate “just anywhere” because that’s all that was ever allowed. The crate also gives security––most dogs love curling up inside something that cradles them, just like a den in the wild. When you’re about, leave the crate door open for going in and out as needed. When you need to confine your puppy, give both of you some time out or to ensure your puppy’s safety, you can shut the door to the crate, happy in the knowledge that it’s base camp for your puppy.
- The crate can be an airline type with a door or a simple laundry basket with a tray table lid hooked on. You can be creative, but basically, your dog must not be able to escape. Most pups and dogs will not eliminate in their crate.
- Use the crate for short-term confinement. When you need to go to work, leave the house for a while or perform an activity that you don’t want the puppy getting caught up in, you can put your pup in the crate. When you come home or finish the activity, you can immediately take your puppy outside and not give him the opportunity to make a mistake in the house.
- As noted above, puppies under 16 weeks can only hold their bladder for up to two hours, while puppies over 16 weeks can go as much as four hours. Never crate the puppy for longer than these natural boundaries, or a mess will ensue!
- Using a crate is excellent for young dogs. At some point in your dog’s life, he will probably have to get into a crate. The vet, travel, and grooming visits all require your dog to get into a crate. It is better to get him used to one while he is young. However, note that if the crate is too big, the dog may still excrete in it. Dogs will not “go” in their immediate territory. Some dogs will go within 9 to 10 feet, and some will go within 3 to 4 feet. Make sure the crate is properly compact.
- Choose a designated area for your puppy to “go” before bringing him home. This spot might be somewhere at the back of the yard, somewhere next to a structure like a tank that provides shelter from wind or some other suitable place in the garden. Wherever it is, have a firm commitment to it before getting the puppy, so that you don’t create inconsistent messages by shifting his toilet around the yard while you make up your mind!
Developing a Schedule
- Develop a schedule. Putting your puppy on a feeding schedule during the house training process can make your efforts much more successful. A puppy allowed to eat whenever he wants will make house training very difficult. Also, developing a schedule to take your puppy outside will make it easier on you. Always take a puppy outside within 15 to 20 minutes after meals, like clockwork.
- The most important thing of all when house training a puppy (or dog) is consistency. If you are consistent, and do the same thing and expect the same action every single time, your puppy will cotton on very quickly. On the other hand, if you chop and change your actions and expectations, your puppy will be confused and will do whatever seems right at the time, regardless of what you “want”. Create good routine and ensure predictability.
- A puppy should be taken out immediately (to a prearranged housebreaking area outside):
- When he wakes up first thing in the morning (before, if you manage to get up before the puppy)
- After each and every meal
- After each and every nap
- Before he goes to bed for the night.
- When you bring your puppy home the first day, start puppy housebreaking him immediately. After he has been briefly introduced to his home and new surroundings, give him a drink of water and immediately take him outside to relieve himself. Take the puppy to the area you chose before bringing him home.
- As soon as your puppy finishes, praise him excitedly and immediately take him inside. From that point on, take the puppy to the same housebreaking spot each time and encourage him with a command such as “go potty,” “hurry up” or whatever you choose. Once he starts, don’t say anything else. Once your pup is finished, praise and reward him immediately. You need to let your dog know that he is doing the right behavior. During the house training process, it is a good idea to take your dog out on leash. If you let your dog out into a fenced in area and you are not there, you will not be able to communicate to your dog that he is acting appropriately.
- Be consistent using this single command only for the process of puppy housebreaking. This allows the puppy to associate this act with the exact command, which will be a huge help in the future, especially when in a new environment or location when traveling, visiting relatives/friends, etc. Being completely housebroken and completely reliable is the final outcome you are looking for.
- Get everyone involved. If you live by yourself with your puppy, this step will be easy. If your puppy lives in a house with more than one person, make sure that everyone is taking the steps to make the house training process quick and easy. The closer everyone sticks to the plan, the faster the training will progress.
- Take up the puppy’s water early in the evening. Do not feed or water him after say, 6:00 at night, otherwise you may have to make more housebreaking potty trips than usual outside to let the puppy relieve himself.
Cleaning Away Messes
- Clean up any accidents (and there will be plenty) quickly and thoroughly. Hardwood (and tile) floors should be wiped cleaned, and then sprayed with a disinfectant. Carpets need to be cleaned with a carpet cleaner. This is probably the most important step because dogs have such a great sense of smell. If they can still smell the urine they will continue to urinate in that same spot. This is also why you should have a designated area outside.
- A lot of people get commercial cleaners at the supermarket. Many of these products contain ammonia. Ammonia smells like urine to your dog. So if your dog urinates on the carpet and you clean with an ammonia product, your dog will come back to that spot and think that a strange dog has gone on the carpet. Your dog will eliminate again on that same spot to cover it.
- Commercially produced pet mess cleaners contain special enzymes that eradicate the urine odor that attracts the puppy back to the same spot. These can be purchased from pet stores, online sources, your veterinarian and discount department stores. They are the most effective means for removing, not just covering up, the odor.
- Some people say that white, distilled vinegar and water work well. Follow up with baking soda, and vacuum up the residue when dry. However, don’t be surprised if this doesn’t do the job as nicely as you’d hoped––spending the money on the commercial cleaner is your best bet if this homemade remedy fails.
Increasing Unsupervised Time Gradually
- Let your puppy be free in the house with supervision at first. Allow longer periods only when you are sure he will ask to go out when he has to go. This strategy should not take more than two weeks for him to get the picture.
- Once your puppy is potty trained and is now going to the door and crying when he needs to eliminate, then he is pretty much potty trained. But remember––if you leave the house and there’s no one to take the puppy out, he will have to go so urgently that he will find a place indoors and go. Don’t get angry with the puppy. The same applies if you ignore the puppy when he is telling you that he needs to go outside. This is not the puppy’s fault––it is mostly yours.
- Don’t be surprised by “reversions” to eliminating indoors just when you thought you’d house trained your puppy. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as sexual maturity, change of routine, curiosity overwhelming the need to go at the usual time, etc. Simply resume the consistent practice of removing the puppy to his usual elimination spot after meals, as outlined above and keep doing this for a time.
- Always reward good behavior with sweet talk and petting, ignore bad behavior as best you can. Placing him back in his kennel is not to be considered a punishment but is sometimes necessary, so do it lovingly and with sweet talk if you can. He will soon learn that good behavior gives him more time with you and will seek that above all else.
- If you are consistent in your puppy housebreaking in the very beginning, especially when it is inconvenient to you (late at night, while you are watching your favorite TV show, etc.), you will actually help the puppy housebreak himself to alert you when he “has to go.”
- Watch your puppy like a hawk at all times, in the beginning of housebreaking especially. If you cannot keep an eye on your puppy for some reason, put him in a safe and secure puppy-proofed spot (such as a crate or some other small room with easy to clean floors, such as linoleum, closed off with a baby gate so you can peek in as needed).
- Most dogs will learn to associate a specific door with going outside. As a puppy gets older, he will usually go to the door to be let out. Each dog will develop whatever habit gets him let out. For some this is barking, for others running to the door and back to you, and others will scratch at the door (this should not be encouraged if you don’t want to replace the door).
- If there is a lot of crying at first, try not to encourage it by giving him a lot of attention. You can move the crate beside the bed and dangle your hand to comfort the babe on those first few nights. Afterwards, a slap on the top of the crate and one firmly spoken “No” should let him know you’re not pleased with the whining behavior. Try to tire him out so that you can get some sleep on the first few nights.
- Leaving a puppy’s food bowl out all day filled to the brim is a bad way to house train him (or keep him in shape). A puppy should be given 1/2 a cup of food and about 2 cups of water twice a day from weeks 1-15. as they grow, take it slowly. Don’t rush from 1/2 a cup to 3 cups extremely quickly.
- If you need to eliminate a smell, pour about a teaspoon of vanilla extract on the area where the puppy has eliminated. The puppy will no longer be able to smell his urine and will not have the urge to urinate there again.
- Remember that your puppy will get used to your schedule. So even if you have the day off, you will still need to get up to take your puppy outside around the same time as usual. Dogs are solidly creatures of routine.
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Edit Sources and Citations
- http://housebreakingmypuppy.com/house-training-puppy/ House Training a Puppy Fast Track – Original source of some of this content. Shared with permission.
- http://www.amazingdogtrainingman.com/articles1.htm AmazingDogTrainingMan.com – Original source of some of this content. Shared with permission.