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  • Wildhaus Kennels

Potty Training Your Puppy

There are two things a new puppy owner can do to make housebreaking go as quickly and smoothly as possible:

  • Keep the puppy on a set schedule

  • Get a crate

Schedules are important to dogs; they thrive on routine. Whenever possible, feed, water, play with and take your puppy outside at around the same times every day. It is important to remember that puppies have to go outside after playing, after waking up from a nap, and within a few minutes of eating and drinking. If you see your pup circling and sniffing the floor, he is looking for a place to go. Get him outside quick!

Young puppies cannot hold it the way an older dog can, so they will have to go outside several times a day and usually at least once in the night for the first few weeks. We recommend taking away food and water 2-3 hours before you go to bed. Take the pup outside just before you go to bed and give him plenty of time to do his business. Then put him in his crate. By picking up the food and water earlier, you will be able to make sure that he has cleared everything out before bed, and he will be more likely to make it through the night without having to go out. Then first thing when you get up in the morning, out he goes again. When you take your pup outside, don’t assume he’s done after he goes once. Puppies will often urinate several times and defecate one or two times, each time they go outside. So if you bring him back in to soon, he may have an accident in the house because he wasn’t finished.

We also strongly recommend using a cue phrase, such as “go potty” or “go outside”. Whenever the dog does his business outside, praise him lavishly and tell him “good potty!” If he does have an accident in the house and you are able to catch him in the act, scoop him up quickly to interrupt the behavior and take him outside immediately. As soon as he finishes what he was doing, again praise lavishly with “good potty!” In this way, the puppy will quickly learn that by doing his business outdoors he gets praise, while doing it inside garners a rather unpleasant interruption of him taking care of business. The potty command also has the advantage that within no time the dog will associate the word with his actions. Using this method, by the time our dogs are only a few months old we are able to tell them “hurry up and potty” and if they are just sniffing and playing around, they will get down to business. When they are restless in the house, we can ask them “do you have to go potty?” and if they do, they will go to the door.

We do recommend, at least on occasion, taking your puppy outside to potty on leash even if you have a fenced yard. There are two reasons for this. First, puppies are very easily distracted and if they are given the freedom to run all over and sniff and play they often forget the reason they are outside in the first place. Second, learning to potty on leash with a person standing there is an important life skill for a dog. Even if you have a nice, securely fenced yard that your dogs can enjoy, there will probably be times in life where this option won't be available. Travelling, stays at the vet, dog shows/trials, even just an afternoon spent at the park are all situations where your dog must be comfortable doing his business in a strange location, on leash, with company standing next to him and surprisingly this can really unsettle some dogs and make it difficult for them to go to the bathroom when you need them to if they haven't been exposed to this from a young age and are used to just always going potty unaccompanied and offlead in the yard.

In addition to trying to keep the pup on a schedule and using a potty command, have a crate for the puppy and keep him in it when you cannot supervise him. Dogs are den animals and like their wolf ancestors will naturally pick a quiet and secure space to call their own and to retire to when they want peace and quiet. If a dog does not have a crate, he will still seek out such a place, often under the table or in a closet. Crates simply provide the dog with a safe spot that he recognizes as his "den". And unlike a closet or table, the crate is something you can not only shut the dog in when needed.

Dogs also have an instinct not to soil where they sleep and, as crates work with the dog's natural instincts to have a den and not to soil it, they can be extremely helpful in housebreaking. When it is time to play with or train the puppy, immediately take him outside after letting him out of his crate. Then when he’s done, bring him back in for play. In this manner, the puppy never has the opportunity to make a mistake in the house because he himself will try not to go in his crate, and the first opportunity he has to go when he gets out of his crate is outside.

Not only are crates invaluable as housebreaking aids, they also keep puppies safely confined when they cannot be supervised. This avoids damage to your belongings from a rampaging, chewing puppy and also keeps the puppy safe from possible household dangers. The most important part in raising a good house dog is only allowing the pup to develop good habits, and no bad ones. He can't sneak off and chew on the table, pee in the corner or raid the garbage when he's crated, and thus doesn't have the opportunity to practice unwanted behavior and possibly develop bad habits. This is why it is so important to make sure your pup is under constant supervision when he is loose, so he doesn't have the chance to get into trouble, and whenever you cannot supervise the puppy, it is best to keep him safe and out of trouble in his crate.

For housebreaking, we prefer the plastic airline crates over the wire ones. While people often are inclined to use wire crates because they feel the dog should be able to see everything that is going on around him, most dogs seem to prefer the plastic ones as well for the simple reason that being more enclosed they are more den-like. They allow ample ventilation and do allow the dog to see out if he wants to, while providing a greater sense of security for the dog. The same thing can be accomplished by throwing a blanket over a metal crate, but many puppies will just chew up the blanket. The plastic crates are also quieter when the dog moves around inside and have the added advantage of keeping dog hair and any accidental messes confined, rather than all over the walls and floor outside the crate.

Whichever crate you choose, it is important that the puppy have only enough room inside to turn around in. When he lies down, he should fill up most of the space. If he has too much room so that the crate does not feel sufficiently enclosed and den-like, many puppies will sleep in one corner and use the extra space as their bathroom. Rather than buying several crates to accommodate the puppy as it grows, you can purchase a crate that will be large enough for the puppy when it is an adult and partition it off. Then just gradually increase the size of the area he has access to as he grows. Many crate manufacturers make crate partitions for this purpose, and you can also rig up your own way to block off part of the crate or take up the extra space. Just make sure whatever you use is relatively destruction proof.

Most puppies and dogs will not take to the crate immediately, and may whine for a day or two when put in it. The important thing to remember is not to give in. If the puppy starts to cry, take him out of the crate and immediately take him outside. If he doesn’t do anything after several minutes, take him back in and put him back in his crate. Only take him out for playtime or training when he is being quiet. This teaches him that crying is not the way escape puppy prison or to get attention, it only gets him a chance to go to the bathroom. Before long, the pup will be quiet when in the crate and will only cry if he has to go outside. Providing safe, indestructible toys for the puppy to play with in his crate, feeding him his meals in his crate, and playing crate games where he runs in, gets a treat, and gets to come right back out again are also ways you can help make the crate a more enjoyable, comfortable place for your puppy.

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