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Posted on 04-13-2016
Congratulations on your new puppy!! So now what do you do? Before we discuss house training tips I would like to discuss crate training for your puppy. Crate training and house training go hand in hand. If you train your puppy to be kenneled, the house training will be accomplished much faster.
Most dogs will accept being placed in a crate if you make it a positive experience. Often they will see it as their own little den. Never use the crate as a punishment as that will undo any positive reinforcement you have done. You want to choose the appropriate size of crate or kennel for your puppy. It should be big enough that your puppy will fit in it when he or she is fully grown. You want to keep the crate in an area that is social, such as the living room. You may have to move it into the bedroom at night.
When first introducing the puppy to the crate, do not force them in. Let them explore it on their own. You can encourage them to enter the crate by tossing a toy they like in it or by using treats. When they go in on their own praise them, but do not close the door yet. Allow your puppy to go in and out freely the first few times. Once your puppy has gone in a few times you can then start to close the door behind them. The first few times it only has to be for a few seconds, but each additional time it should be for longer periods. Remember, do not let your puppy out if he or she starts to whine or bark this only will encourage that behaviour and make the training exercise harder. You can feed your puppy his or her meals in the crate at the beginning to reinforce that this is their “special” area.
I am not going to lie to you. You will most likely have a few sleepless nights when you first start to crate train. It is important to remember not to let your puppy out while they are in that state of crying or barking as this will only reinforce that behaviour. You may put in a bed of some sort or a stuffed animal to help, but just make sure they don’t eat it. If they do, then it is safer to have them in the crate with nothing. Your puppy should never be left unattended when you are not home or asleep. Placing them into a crate helps to keep them safe.
Now lets talk about house training. The amount of time you can leave your puppy indoors without a bathroom break is based on the number of months old he or she is. For example, if your puppy is 8 weeks old then he or she should be able to have bladder control for about 2 hours. As they mature the length of time they can hold it will become longer. Things to keep in mind when house training your puppy; they will have to urinate when they first wake up from sleeping, 30-40 minutes after they drink or eat, and after any playtime. If you keep track of this you can try and account for when your puppy will have to go to the bathroom. It will take some time before you learn your puppy’s tells, so until you do it is best to not leave your puppy unattended. You may even want to attach your puppy to you with a leash.
Be sure to put your puppy on a regular feeding schedule. Any puppy under 6 months of age should be fed 3-4 times a day. After 6 months they can be fed twice daily. This will help you have an idea of when they will have to defecate and how many times they should defecate. The puppy’s food and water should be cut off 2 hours prior to bed. Make sure you allow your puppy a chance to urinate or defecate just before putting them to bed.
Keeping them in a smaller area, such as a crate, will help the training process. Most puppies do not like to mess where they sleep. However, if you have an area that is too big there is still a potential they may have an accident. Never scold a puppy if you have found an accident in the house. Dogs live in the present. Anything they did, even if it is minutes ago, does not register like it does for people. They may know you are mad and they may cower like they are feeling guilty, but they will not relate it to the mess you have found. The best thing to do is put your puppy outside while you clean up the mess. Do not let your puppy watch you as this reinforces the behaviour. When your puppy urinates or defecates outside make a BIG PARTY! If you catch your puppy in the middle of urinating or defecating in the house, distract them (clap your hands or make a loud noise) to stop them, then hurry them outside to finish. Once again make a BIG PARTY.
Often, we will carry our puppies outside. This can be counter-productive. It is ideal to lead your puppy to the door rather than always carry them. You need to teach them where you want them to go and they can not learn that if they are carried. Experts say that if your puppy does not have a single accident for an entire month they are considered fully house trained. If you experience a set back don’t panic, go back to the step you were last successful and start again from there. Remember, it takes time to house train your puppy, it will not happen over night. Have patience and be positive with your puppy and the training will be faster than you first think.
Terri Richter, RVT
Registered Veterinary Technologist
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