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The Basics of House Training Your Puppy
House training is one of the easiest yet hardest problems people have to overcome when raising a new puppy. It takes an investment of time at first, but the rewards are huge.
To start training your puppy, you will need:
- box. Big enough for him to get up and turn around, but not so big that he can eliminate in one corner and take a nap in another.
- belt. Take him out to the bathroom.
- treat. For the potty, you’ll want very high-value foods such as Natural Balance dog food rolls, cheese or hot dog cubes.
Dogs love schedules and routines, and these are essential to your puppy’s home training. Do not feed your puppy casually. While it may be convenient to fill his bowl when it’s empty, it doesn’t make his elimination schedule predictable, and therefore, you can’t consistently reward him for proper potty habits. Decide when you want to feed your puppy. Like 7a and 7p, so he eats every 12 hours.
He needs to go to the toilet every time he wakes up, drinks or eats. Also, praise him more often for a job well done at first.
The general rule is that if he potties on the spot when you tell him to, he’s freed for treats and supervision. If he doesn’t, then he is kept in a cage for a short period of time before being taken outside for another chance to get out. Here’s a basic plan:
- When you wake up in the morning, put your pup on a leash (with treats for you) and run to the potty. Running stimulates his bladder and increases his chances of going to the bathroom. Say “Fido, Go Potty” when you reach your designated potty location. This is one of the first commands he will learn.
- Stay in this position for up to three minutes. If he goes potty, reward him with a “good boy” and a treat after he’s done (not during). Then go back inside. If he doesn’t potty, he’ll stay in his crate for 15 minutes, then repeat the process until he goes potty.
- Even if you have a yard and you think you don’t care where he chooses to knock out, keep him with you. You’ll know exactly when he’s going to the bathroom, and you can reward him for letting him know that’s exactly what you want. Come to think of it, do you really want him to go anywhere in the yard? Wouldn’t it be more effective to teach him to go to a specific spot instead of planting mines all over the yard?
- After his first potty, it’s time to feed him. I recommend hand feeding for the first few weeks. He’ll know you’re controlling the food, encourage him to eat because you’ll be feeding him straight up and not protecting the food bowl. Remove food if he doesn’t eat all of it within 15 minutes. Likewise, you control the food and he will know he needs to eat right away or he has to wait until the next meal time.
- Five minutes after eating, he was ready to go to the toilet again. Put the water bowl by the door and keep it on a leash. Give him water before taking him to the potty. Run to the spot, issue the command, “Fido, go potty.” and wait up to three minutes. Dogs have a higher metabolism than us and can process food faster. He’s supposed to poop around this time, so be sure to wait three minutes for him to poop.
- If he goes potty, he gets 30 minutes of supervised freedom. If he doesn’t potty, he returns to the crate for 15 minutes, then repeats the potty process. Supervised freedom means he cannot be alone in his room. You don’t leave your toddler alone in the room. Like a toddler, your puppy can get into places he’s not supposed to be, and accidents can happen (and you might not be able to find out for days).
- Then start your morning ritual, and make sure to give your pup another chance to potty shortly before you leave.
If you can’t supervise your puppy, then keep him in his crate until you can. If you want to watch a movie in the evening without being interrupted by frequent trips to the bathroom, you can put him in his crate and give him a bladder boost to last 30+ minutes. If he falls asleep in his cage while going to the toilet, let him sleep; just keep an eye on him and see when he wakes up. He needs to get out quickly.
A general rule of thumb for the maximum number of hours he can be in the cage is: take his current number of months plus one. So, for example, if you have a two-month-old puppy, you can expect him to be able to keep him in the crate for three hours. Once you start your home training program, he will last longer and longer.
Keep 30 minutes free for two days. Then increase the time by 15 minutes every two days. If he has an accident, set the clock back five minutes. In the process, he may be asked to persist longer than he is capable of at the time.
At night, he will most likely need to go out. If he’s whimpering to get out, take him out, but watch the time. Set the alarm 30 minutes before that time the next night. You want to be able to dictate the schedule, not him. Similar to daytime, extend nighttime bathroom time by 15 minutes every two days.
Puppies develop differently. So don’t be discouraged if your friend’s puppy can hold you longer than yours. The real test will be when your puppy hits puberty (around five to six months). Many puppies who do well in their early years will enter their teens and suddenly act as if they don’t remember where the potty is.
Prevention forms good habits. If he does make a mistake, roll up a newspaper, bang your head with it, and say, “Bad guy!” You’re just pushing him too hard, and you need to pay more attention to your home training program. Punishing him for getting dirty in the house will teach your dog to defecate in a more private place.
Training a puppy can sound like a lot of work. it is! But the rewards are endless. A month’s investment in proper potty training will bring years (even a year or two) of relief.
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