by Ms Dany Canino
Teaching your new puppy not to use your home as a bathroom, is not as difficult as you might think. All you need to do is remember some basic rules and to be consistent in your application of those rules.
Before you start, there is a basic principle that you need to know about your puppy. You must understand the pup´s natural instinct about this natural function.
Dogs are by nature den animals. If they were still in the wilds (non-domesticated) they would seek out a small cave to go into. That´s so that they can feel safe. They would eat, sleep, play, and procreate in the cave. They would never however, go to the bathroom in the cave because they wouldn´t want to soil their sleeping area and, they wouldn´t want to let their enemies know where they were.
To properly housebreak your puppy you need to simulate that same atmosphere. This is easily accomplished by the use of a dog crate. NOW DON´T GO WOOSIE . ON ME! CRATES ARE NOT CRUEL! They are similar to a cave. Remember that it´s a natural setting for your dog. You will discover that after your dog has used his crate a few times, even when he´s not required to go into it, he will choose to go in on his own.
Young puppies usually need to eliminate:
- upon awakening.
- right after eating.
- after about 10-15 minutes of play.
So if you want to have your puppy out of his crate to visit you´ll need to remember these things because it will be your responsibility to let him outside to potty at these crucial times. Always pick a key word or phrase to use when you let your puppy out to relieve himself. “Go Potty” – “Outside” – “Get Busy” – or any word or phrase you´re comfortable with. Just remember to always use the same word or phrase.
If you have a doggie door (another pet owner´s helpmate), be sure to let the puppy out through that door every time so that he´ll soon learn that this is his exit and entrance to good behavior. If you don´t have, or don´t want to have a doggie door, try to use the same house door every time you put him out to potty. You can even try getting him very excited about going out to potty. This sometimes helps to teach the dog to bark to let you know when he has to go potty. For example; “do you want to go outside” “what do you want to do” “do you have to go potty” Be sure to make your voice excited when you do this. Whether or not he responds right away with a “woof” praise him verbally and then let him out. After a short time he´ll be going to the door and barking to let you know that “nature is calling”. Respond to that call immediately or else he´ll feel you don´t care that he´s trying to be good. Remember, it´s him going out-you stay in.
At night is when our official housebreaking will begin. Make your dog´s last meal of the day around 5 or 6 p.m. Make his last bit of liquid around 8 p.m. Don´t Panic!, he won´t dehydrate from a lack of water for a few hours. Just before the time that you would be going to bed, let the puppy outside to relieve himself. Don´t forget to use the right words or phrase, and don´t go outside with him. Give him time to finish the job (15-20 minutes) When you let him back in be sure to praise him. Take the puppy to his crate and give him another key phrase like: “crate” – “go to bed” – “kennel” – “load up” or anything you want. Help him into the crate, close the door and again praise him. He´s allowed to have a toy or two in his crate, but nothing edible and no liquids.
In the beginning the puppy may whimper or even bark a little when you first introduce him to the crate. (You might want to put him in the crate a few times during the day before you start this nighttime regimen.) If you either ignore this little temper tantrum or if you hit the top of the crate and verbally scold him to “quiet”, this too shall pass. In a short span of time he will come to realize that this is just a part of growing up. Sometimes it helps to put the crate in your bedroom so that the puppy can be aware of you. He might not feel so abandoned. Remember, crates are portable and can be moved from room to room. If he is to be left in a room away from you, a radio playing soft music is quite soothing to a puppy.
First thing in the morning, as soon as you awake, you must let your puppy out to go potty. Leave him out until you get a chance to fully wake up, then you can let him in to feed him and, shortly after he´s eaten, let him out again.
If someone is home during the day the pup can periodically be crated for a few hours and then be let out to potty; then visit; then back into the crate for a little while. Don´t worry that this pup is going to spend his entire puppy hood in a crate. This is just during his training period. Another method is to set a cake timer every 3-4 hours to remind you to let the pup out (whether he´s crated or not). If you choose the latter method, don´t forget to keep an eye on the pup´s whereabouts. A puppy not seen is a puppy up to no good. I suggest that in the beginning you put a bell on the puppy´s collar so you know where he is at all times. After a few weeks of this your puppy will be getting a handle on where he´s allowed to potty and where he is not.
If there is no one home during the day housebreaking becomes a little more complicated, but not impossible. Here are a couple of rules to follow:
- if you have a doggie door you´ll need to flush the crate up to it with the crate door open and brace the crate with something heavy. Just make sure that he can´t squeeze under the fence or gate. If you have a pool you´ll need to make sure he can´t get in there either. Put the puppy outside (with a few toys and chew bone) and this way he´ll already be in his potty area and if he feels insecure he can go in to his crate to sleep.
- you could put him in his crate and bribe a neighbor to come in about every four hours to let him out to potty.
One of the worst things you can do is to put the puppy in a confined area of the house and then put newspaper down. The puppy will feel you´re giving him permission to use your home as a bathroom.
There is one thing you must ask yourself before worrying about housebreaking a puppy. The question is whether or not you really have time to properly care for a puppy. If your life style is such that you´re away from home all day and your weekends are filled with activities away from home, then perhaps an older dog might be a better idea. Remember that housebreaking is only one of the responsibilities connected with owning a dog.
However, if you are willing to face up to these responsibilities and you get a puppy, housebreaking can be pretty simple.
If everyone in the household is away during the day you may want invest in a kennel run
for the dog´s safety while you´re not home. You can also consider creating a run by
attaching a gate from the edge of your house to the fence; thus making the side of your house a secure place for the pup to be while no one is home. Just make sure he has a dog house to go into in case the weather changes to extremely hot or it begins to rain. Also be sure he gets a lot of social time when everyone is home.
There may be a time or two when your puppy has a potty accident in the house. You must be prepared to scold him for this. If you catch him in the act a slight slap on his behind and a scolding word will suffice. Then you must put him outside immediately, (don´t forg
et to say the potty phrase) reminding him where he´s supposed to go potty. His momma would do a lot more to him if he soiled in the cave.
If you discover the wrong deed after the fact, take him to it, but DON´T RUB HIS NOSE IN IT! Scold him verbally, give him one small swat on the behind and then put him outside (using the proper potty words) where he´s supposed to potty. Be sure to clean the mistake up by using any of the good commercial products on the market or, absorb it up with multi-layered paper towel and then pour salt over it. In the morning you can vacuum it up and the smell will be gone.
In either case, be sure to praise the pup when you let him back in. This way he´ll be reminded that inside is a definite No and outside brings about a kind word.
One word about the selection of a crate. It really doesn´t matter whether you buy a wire crate or the fibreglass type. Wire crates have the advantage of being able to be folded (suit case size) when you don´t need them. However, what is really important about the purchase of a crate is that if you decide to buy one so big that it would suffice a full grown adult dog, this will usually entice the puppy to sleep at one end of the crate and potty at the other end. If the crate is too big, try to block off a portion of it (with a piece of cardboard perhaps) to make it smaller. That way, the crate can grow with the puppy.
If you purchase your puppy at 7 or 8 weeks of age (the earliest you should take the pup from his momma), and if you are consistent in your housebreaking routine, you could start testing the puppy´s reliability at about 10-11 weeks of age for short periods of time.
However, even if the puppy seems to be fairly reliable don´t get too complacent. Your puppy will still need to go through his nighttime crating for a while. But by now when you´re home he won´t have to spend as much time in the crate as he did in the beginning.
If you follow through with these suggestions, by the time your puppy is 4-5 months old, he´ll be housebroken. Then he´ll be old enough to start a formal obedience class to learn the next set of rules about being a well-behaved dog and family pet. Good luck, and hang in there. The time will pass before you know it and you can be proud to know that you did it without the aid of some expensive behaviorist coming to your home to tell you to do exactly what you´ve just read.