November 29, 2006
House Training Your Puppy
House training is an important facet of your puppy's early training program. It can be a relatively simple task if approached properly from the outset.
Set up a regular feeding schedule and stick to it. Most puppies require two or three daily feedings. For example, 7 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. feedings work nicely for house training. You will find that scheduling a puppy's meals in this fashion will lead to more regular elimination. Avoid between-meal treats until your pup is completely house trained.
Confinement is an important part of your house training program. If you wish to avoid "accidents" in your home, you must deny your pup run of the house until you are confident he can "hold" himself while inside. This takes time and patience.
You can employ crates, gates or exercise pens to confine your puppy to small areas within the home. Some homes have "mud rooms," which are helpful to house training. Also bathrooms and laundry rooms are convenient puppy zones, as they are easily enclosed with baby gates.
Puppies do not begin to develop bladder and bowel control until they are three to four months of age. For this reason, I use newspapers to line a puppy's confined area until he is at least 14 weeks old. In the early stages, cover over half the puppy's area with newspapers (The New York Times has always been a favorite with my dogs). As your puppy learns to eliminate on the paper, gradually remove some, shrinking his "potty" area, until there is only a small space for him to use.
Although your puppy is "going" on newspapers in his confined area, it is important to get him to start going outdoors as well. Frequent trips to a specific outdoor "potty" area are important. Bring some of your pup's soiled newspapers to this area to encourage him to eliminate in this spot. ALWAYS PRAISE YOUR PUPPY FOR DOING HIS BUSINESS OUTDOORS.
At fourteen weeks of age, your puppy is ready for the next phase of his house training. At this time, remove all newspaper from his confined area. You may need as many as 10 potty trips daily, for your goal is to get him to do all his business outdoors. Pay close attention to your pup's body language. You will notice he sniffs and circles before eliminating. As he does this, say, "Go potty," or "Get busy." Over time he will come to associate this command with the act of elimination. Again, always praise him for going in his potty area.
After your puppy urinates and defecates outside, you can then give him some unconfined "house time" under supervision. Because puppies can sleep upwards of 16 hours a day, follow his house time with a nap, preferably in his crate. When he wakes from his nap, take him straight out to his potty area and tell him to "Get busy." Praise him when he does.
By 16 weeks of age, your puppy should be able to sleep the night without a potty break. Before this you will have to sacrifice a few minutes of sleep time each night to take your puppy out to his potty area. It may be convenient to keep a crate in your bedroom so that you can hear your puppy whining to go out in the middle of the night (most pups instinctively avoid soiling the crate). Limit your pup's water intake after his 4 p.m. feeding to help him learn to make it through the night.
At some point in your house training, your puppy will make a mistake and soil the house. Never punish a puppy for this behavior. If you catch him in the act, correct him with the words, "No potty" and swiftly bring him to his outdoor area and give the "get busy" command. If you do not catch him in the act, but discover evidence of his mistake, simply clean it up, as he will not associate your correction with his act of eliminating on the floor. Remember, when a puppy makes a house training mistake, it is more your fault than his. It is your responsibility to get him outside as often as is necessary every day.
If you are patient, your training efforts will be rewarded. By the time your puppy is 18 weeks of age, he should be fully house trained and enjoying lots of "family time" in the home.