Your Puppy’s First Week Home, Part Two
Yes. Your puppy is adorable. And yes, it’s fun to have him running about the house and sleeping in the bed at night, but unless you enjoy cleaning up after your bundle of fur when he poops and tee tees in the floor, you’ll need to house train him.
House training is probably the most important behavior to teach a new puppy. It’s your job to cultivate the pup’s natural instincts and help teach him where he can potty and what’s totally off limits. When puppies first begin to walk they naturally leave their “den” to eliminate. You, as the new owner, must provide an appropriate potty area, and timely trips outside, so the puppy can continue with their natural desire to leave their living area to potty. Many dogs, that never learn proper potty protocol, end up in shelters or turned out on the streets and homeless. There’s no reason for this to happen. It’s an easily trained behavior and with a little effort and consistency on your part, your puppy will be house trained in no time.
Prevention is Key
In order to prevent your puppy from ever having an accident you need to supervise your puppy whenever they aren’t in their crate. Keep them in either an enclosed area of your home or in a playpen where you can supervise their play.
You can also have them on leash, with you, while you are walking about the house, or sitting and reading a book. Just make sure they cannot walk away and potty somewhere in the house.
A young puppy should be taken outside and given the chance to eliminate every two hours. It’s also necessary to give them the chance to potty outside after a play session and after they’ve had water. Typically a puppy can hold it for as many hours as his age in months. For example, an eight week old puppy needs to go out every two hours. Just like us they can hold it for longer at night, because they are inactive, but they should still go out to potty about every four hours. By four months old, a puppy can hold it for four hours, and can usually sleep through the night.
Home Sweet Home
Puppies learn to love their crates fairly quickly. It’s natural for them to need a place of their own. In the wild their den is a safe and comfortable retreat where they can get adequate rest without worry of becoming someone else’s meal. Young puppies need frequent naps, so several two hour nap sessions, in the crate, spread out throughout the day are appropriate. Your pup should also sleep in the crate at night. Not only does the crate provide a cozy place for them to rest, but it also keeps them out of trouble when you are sleeping. A young pup is curious and has a need to chew. The vet bills can become enormous if your pup chewed and swallowed something during the night that becomes lodged in their gastrointestinal tract.
Follow these steps to teach your new pup to love their crate:
- When you introduce your puppy to their new crate, don’t shove them inside! Instead, sit on the floor next to the crate, with the puppy standing beside you, and feed him some kibble. Next, place kibble on the floor of the crate and see if he will walk inside to get it. If he does, reward him by telling him “good boy!” and giving him a few more pieces of kibble. If he doesn’t readily walk in, you can pick him up and gently place him in the crate and drop a few more pieces of kibble. Speak very enthusiastically to the pup. Keep this fun and exciting! Don’t close the crate door, but allow your pup to enter and exit as they please, always rewarding them for entering the crate. Once your pup has gone inside the crate once, only give them kibble when they are inside. Do this for 5 minutes and then take your puppy out for a potty break and a short walk.
- After your walk, repeat step one.
- After your second walk, you can rest assured that your puppy is pooped. This time, sit beside the kennel and place kibble inside. When the puppy goes inside, reward him with some type of toy, and close the door. Kong toys, stuffed with peanut butter, make great crate rewards because it gives the puppy something to do until they fall asleep. When in the crate, don’t give them toys such as stuffed animals that can easily be ripped apart and ingested.
Important things to remember about crate training:
- Don’t isolate your puppy in another room by themselves. Remember, this is the first time they have been away from their mother and littermates. Keep them in a quiet area of the house that you will be in a good bit. Most pups will whine the first time they’re crated, and maybe even for several days. It’s important that they learn it’s ok to be separated from their family, and confinement is ok. If they don’t learn this now, they could develop anxiety disorders in the future.
- NEVER let your puppy out when he whines. Dogs continue to use behaviors that get them desired results. Don’t underestimate your pup and think he isn’t yet smart enough to figure out what gets him out of the crate! Just a few mishaps on your part and you can create quite a noisy dog that won’t give up and stop the whining because he knows you will eventually give in. Only open the crate door to let them out when they are quiet. This is teaching them that quiet and calm behavior opens the door.
- It’s important that you not put a puppy in the crate when they will need to potty. Make sure they eliminate before you put them in their crate, and then be sure to give them the opportunity to go out every two hours. If you notice your puppy waking up in the crate go get them and take them out immediately before they have the chance to start whining or have an accident.
- Set an alarm at night so you can wake up and take your puppy out before he wakes up and either starts whining or has an accident.
- It’s also very important that you be observant of your puppy and start reading his behavior. If you hear a whine that you think isn’t a typical “let me loose!” whine, go get him and give him the opportunity to eliminate. You want to prevent an accident at all costs. After the potty break, place him back in his crate. Don’t give him time to play. This was just a potty break.
- Reward your puppy every time you put them in their crate by giving them a treat, a toy, or some kibble. This makes a positive association with the crate and it becomes a great place for them to go.
- To put the behavior of going in their crate on cue, start by saying the cue every time you put them in the crate. When you place the kibble on the floor and the dog starts to walk in, say “Kennel! Good kennel, Dean! Good boy!” You can use any cue you choose. I taught my older dog, Lola, the cue “room” so I could tell her to kennel by saying, “Go to your room!”
- When you take your puppy out first thing in the morning, pick him up and go straight outside to your chosen potty spot. Once they’re a few weeks older and can hold it longer, you can start letting them walk from their crates outside so they learn the route to the appropriate potty spot. Make sure you still run to the door once you let the puppy out. They just woke up and have to go! Get them outside!
Putting Potty on Cue
It’s actually very simple to teach your pup to go to the bathroom in a specific area of the yard and to potty on cue. Follow these simple steps:
- Always take your puppy to the desired area of the yard to eliminate. When your pup is young and you are carrying him out to potty, simply sit him in the area and wait for him to go. Once he’s older and you are allowing him to walk on his own to the potty spot, run and encourage your pup excitedly to follow you to the potty spot. Reward with tons of petting and praise when the puppy eliminates in the correct area.
- To add a cue to eliminating, simply start by saying “Good get it done! Good boy!” once they start to potty. After you’ve learned to read your puppy’s body language better and you can start to predict exactly when they are going to eliminate, add the cue word before it happens. Right as they are about to squat say “Get it done!” and then reward them with tons of excited verbal praise, “Good get it done! Good boy!” and petting when they are done.
- You can use whatever cues you choose. I use “get it done” for tee teeing and “hurry up” for pooping. A friend of mine uses “High/Low” for both cues for his male dog. I thought that was clever because he wants his dog to go high and then go low!
Oopsy! There’s a Poopsy!
It’s important to know how to handle an accident in the house. Never scold your dog. This can teach him to pick a more secluded area, away from you, in the house to eliminate. It can also encourage a dog to eat his feces to hide the fact that he had an accident. It’s your fault if they have had an accident because you didn’t take them out frequently enough, or you weren’t supervising them. You can go ahead and punish yourself by rubbing your nose in the accident, instead of your puppy’s. 😉
If you see your puppy in the middle of eliminating in the house:
- Interrupt them with by saying “oops!” and carry them outside immediately. Place him down in the appropriate potty spot and wait for him to finish.
- As he is eliminating calmly say your cue word and “good boy.” When he’s finished, give him tons of praise!
- Be sure to clean up the mess thoroughly. Use an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate any traces of animal waste.
- Now, supervise your puppy better, and give him the opportunity to potty in the appropriate spot by taking him out more frequently.
- It’s important to watch your puppy and if you suspect they potty more frequently than they should, take them to the vet. There are several common issues that could be present and are easily fixed with medication, including a urinary tract infection.
You are now well on your way to having a potty trained puppy! Good luck!