How to Survive Housetraining With Your New Puppy
Because most people embarking on the adventure of housetraining will be doing so with a puppy, most the information in this guide relates directly to puppies. However, each of the principles can be successfully applied to adult dogs as well.
Have a Plan
As house training is probably the first thing you will teach your dog, it is important that the method you choose be one that instills a basis for trust and understanding. House training does not need to be traumatic for you or your dog. What house training requires is persistence combined with a little knowledge. To make the process go smoothly, keep in mind some basic principles:
- Your dog is instinctively a clean animal.
- Your dog will be happy to follow your rules.
- Your dog does not soil the house out of spite or to “get even” with you.
- Your dog soils the house for one of two reasons: either because he doesn’t understand that he shouldn’t or he doesn’t have the necessary control not to soil in the house.
Keeping these principles in mind, your house training program can be divided into 3 parts:
Take Advantage of Your Dog’s Instinct to Be Clean
Most dogs will not soil their living or sleeping quarters, so use this to your best advantage. When you can’t watch your dog, confine him to a small area or crate (see Crate Training handout). The crate should be just big enough for your dog to be able to stand up, lie down and turn around. Too much room will give him enough space to sleep in one end and soil the other. Puppies should not be confined for more than 3-4 hours as their bladder and bowel control are very limited. One general rule is that the number of hours a puppy can “hold it” is their age in months, plus one. This means a three month old puppy can most likely control his bladder for 4 hours. This rule is not set in stone and all puppies are different, so only use this as a starting point.
Give Your Dog Clear Cut Rules
Dogs are not born knowing what we want. We must teach them our rules in a manner they can understand. Dogs understand absolutes: black and white, yes and no, pleasant and unpleasant. There are two absolutes in housetraining: eliminating outside is good and eliminating in the house is not. Teach your dog where to go. Choose an area of your yard to serve as your dog’s bathroom. Take him there often, on leash, and wait for him to go. Some people find it helpful to use a command such as “do your thing” or “go potty” so that their dog will associate the command with what they are supposed to be doing. As a bonus, many dogs will later void on command, which can save time and frustration. As soon as your dog goes to the bathroom, praise him and give him a reward. A piece of food or a toy usually works for most dogs. Teach him that the first order of business when he goes outside is to go the bathroom. Always take your puppy to the bathroom area first, then play with him or take him for a walk. It is also important to remember that your puppy needs to go outside EVERY time he eats, plays for a long time, or wakes from sleeping. Even after short naps, puppies will need to go outside to the bathroom.
Teach your dog where not to go as well. If you catch your dog going to the bathroom in the house, say a sharp “STOP!” or make a startling noise to get him to stop. Immediately take him to his bathroom area and wait for him to go. Then praise and reward him. If you do not catch him in the act, do not scold your puppy! Do not yell at him, drag him to the mess or rub his nose in it. Your dog will not make the connection between your anger and his having gone to the bathroom earlier. Just clean up the mess and keep a closer watch on your dog the next time. Be sure to use an odor neutralizer when cleaning, this will discourage your dog from going back to the spot he has soiled.
Make it Easy for Your Dog to Succeed
Set a Schedule. Take your dog out on a regular schedule – every hour or so for young puppies – and stick to that schedule, even on weekends. Feed your dog on a regular schedule as well, this will help regulate his system. Puppies need to be fed 3-4 times a day and adult dogs should be fed twice daily. Regular feeding will enable you to know
when your dog will most likely need to go outside.
Be Alert. Keep a close eye on your dog. Watch for cues that he needs to go out. Circling and sniffing are strong indications that your puppy needs to go out. There are other times that your puppy will need to be taken to his bathroom area. He will need to go out after waking up, after playing, after he has been confined, and after eating or
drinking. When in doubt – take him out! Feed a High Quality Diet. Many dog foods have excess salt, sugar, and fillers that can interfere with housetraining efforts. If your dog is consuming a lot of salt, he will drink more and therefore have to urinate more. If he is getting too much bulk in his diet he will have to move his bowels much more frequently.
Monitor Water Intake. Give your dog lots of water with his food so he will be less likely to drink between meals. Always have water available, though, especially in hot weather. With young puppies it is a good idea to pick up their water a bit before bedtime to enable them to sleep through the night without having to go outside. Make Sure Your Dog is Healthy. If you have followed the above guidelines and your dog appears to have no control at all or seems to need to eliminate more than you think is normal, he may have a problem needing medical attention. It is best to play it safe. If you suspect a problem, seek veterinary help.
Learning Takes Time!
There will be days when your puppy seems to be getting the idea and others when it feels like all your efforts have been in vain. Don’t be discouraged. This is a normal part of the learning process. Your dog may even do well for several months and then have a setback. This is also a normal part of housetraining. Remember that dogs are individuals and learn at different rates. If you take it one step at a time and keep in mind how your dog learns, it won’t be long before you realize you have a housetrained dog!