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Posted on 12-07-2016

This information can be helpful to the many holiday puppies that will be gifts this year!

Housetraining your puppy

One topic I discuss routinely with clients is housetraining.  I’m always excited when I ask a new puppy owner how housetraining is going and they tell me great – he has had a single accident in the house or he’s completely paper trained (and the puppy is only 8 weeks old).  I wish I could have that success. 

I will start by telling you that it is always easier to housetrain a large breed puppy like a Great Dane than a small breed like a Chihuahua.  This is due to the principal that we are using when we housetrain a pup.  Housetraining uses a dog’s natural “denning” instinct to teach them not to soil our homes.  In the wild canines will not urinate and defecate in their den.  Most dogs don’t live in 1500 square foot dens.  So we must teach our canine companions that the whole house is their den.  This is why it is easier to train a large dog than a small one – large dogs tend to appreciate that they are still in the same space more than small dogs do.

There are several tricks to help house train your puppy.  I am currently attempting to train a small puppy myself.  I opted not to open Housetraining for Dummies because she is already succeeding in making me feel that way.  I can’t complain; my children didn’t potty train overnight so I can’t expect that from her either and she is making progress, just not as fast as I might like.  It is important to remember that four to six months is a common time frame to completely housetrain a puppy.

My favorite technique for house training is crate training.  This involves putting your dog in a crate that  is big enough to turn around and lay down in but not big enough to sleep on one end and potty on the other end.  This worked well with my Labrador Retrievers.  They stayed in their crate when I couldn’t watch them and as they learned to control their eliminations they were given larger areas in the house to have free roam.  Dogs begin to recognize the crate as a safe place and even like to sleep in them as they get older.  When using a crate it is important to remember that the puppy cannot be left for eight hours and expected to not need to go “potty.”   A general rule of thumb is not to leave a puppy hours longer than they are months old (so don’t leave a three month old puppy longer than 3 hours).

 It is important to keep the puppy on a regular feeding schedule.  Most dogs do well initially with two or three times a day feedings to help to start to anticipate times for bowel movements.  The puppy needs to be on a schedule to help her start to associate where and when to eliminate.  First thing in the morning she should be taken outside.  It is important to go out with the puppy every time. Try to take her to the same area she has used previously in the yard so she starts to associate the scent with the activity.  I recommend not interacting except to tell her to go potty until she does.  Then give lots of praise and maybe even a treat.  Some people have success training dogs to eliminate on command with the phrase high lo.  I suggest taking a puppy outside first thing when they wake from a nap, after they’ve been playing for 20 minutes, or anytime you see them starting to sniff suspiciously.

Puppy pads are used successfully by many people.  The premise is to place the pad down in the area where the puppy is being kept.  Pheromones in the pad will attract the puppy to it and they will learn to eliminate on the pad.  As they learn to use the pad you should move it closer to the door every few days until they learn to go outside.  Some small dog owners are happy if their dog continues to use a pad throughout their lives.  Obviously this is not an option for a large dog.  My current puppy likes to shred the pad and use it for a toy so it has not worked well for me.

Whichever method you choose it is important to remember that you are the most important factor in the training process.  You must have patience and provide consistency to the puppy.  Pay attention at all times and be ready to offer praise when your puppy performs well. In no time at all your new family member will have the basics of potty etiquette down!

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