One of the first questions new puppy and dog owners invariably ask is “how do I housetrain my dog?” Housetraining takes time and effort on your part, and there's no surefire method that will ensure your dog or puppy will never have an accident. Of course, you should expect accidents from time to time. They're just a natural part of the housetraining process.
Many pet owners mistakenly believe that the best way to ensure a puppy or dog doesn't relieve himself in the house is to rub his nose in the mess. Unfortunately, that's simply not true. As a rule, you should never discipline your dog after the fact. For example, you run into the living room and notice your dog has left a puddle on the carpet. Even if you've just taken him outside, and he refused to go, hold onto your frustration and anger, and simply clean up the mess. (Remember, it's essential that you make sure the smell is completely gone. If you leave a scent behind, your dog will just continue to use the same spot over and over again. ) Don't punish or threaten your dog because he won't understand what you're going on about.
However, if you walk into the room, and your pooch is in the middle of eliminating, make a loud noise to interrupt him and use a stern tone to show him that what he is doing is wrong. Make sure the loud noise doesn't scare him. You just want to get his attention. Then try to get him to go outside to finish eliminating, but this time use an upbeat, positive tone. If he succeeds in finishing outside then praise him for a job well done.
Puppies naturally need to eliminate more times a day than full grown dogs, so be prepared to take your puppy out a lot. The general rule is: a two-month old puppy should go out every two hours; a three-month old puppy should go out every three hours and so on until your puppy has reached six to eight months of age. Adult dogs, however, can generally wait eight hours between going out.
At first, the potty training schedule may seem somewhat overwhelming. With time, however, you'll learn when your puppy needs to go out by the signals he sends you including circling, sniffing, licking and stopping suddenly when playing. Some puppies even get a certain look or demeanor when they have to eliminate. The better you get to know your dog, the easier you'll be able to detect his distinct signals.
Take your puppy out after he's woken up, eaten or finished a play session. Put your puppy on a strict eating schedule. If he's on a feeding schedule then you'll also have a better idea of when he'll need to eliminate, thus reducing the potential for accidents.
When you take your puppy outside, take him to a specific spot each day. This way he will learn that this is where he is supposed to eliminate. With time, he'll return to his spot on his own. Give him ample time to eliminate, praising him and giving him affection, when he is finished, for a job well done.
There are essentially two methods of housetraining: using a “den” area and crate training. Den training is simply designating a confined area, such as the bathroom or a corner of the kitchen, especially for your pup. This is where he'll eat and sleep and where you'll play with him sometimes. Make sure the area is big enough for a bed of some sort and for his food and water bowl. Spend plenty of time with your puppy in his den area. He may eliminate in his bed in the beginning, but once he realizes it is his special place, he will cease to do so because dogs are naturally clean animals. It is extremely important to take your puppy out every few hours (according to his age), so he will not be forced to eliminate in his den. If you don't take him out and he does begin to soil his bed, you'll have a much more difficult time housetraining him.
After he learns not to eliminate in his den, you can start introducing him to other areas of the house slowly by moving his bed from room to room, always tying his leash to a piece of furniture or something that will keep him confined to his bed. Remember, however, that your dog should only remain leashed while he is supervised. Some experts suggest tying the leash to yourself, so your puppy will follow you everywhere you go. That way you'll always know where he is and when he's ready to go out. Whichever method you prefer, you'll be teaching your dog that he is only supposed to eliminate when he's outside.
Always remember to praise your puppy when he has successfully eliminated in his designated area outside. By the same token, it is extremely important not to punish him if he does have an accident since it will likely confuse your puppy thus making the housetraining process slowdown.
Crate training is another popular method of housetraining. If you decide to try crate training, be sure to choose a crate that is just big enough for your dog to turn around and lie in. Introducing your puppy to the crate is an important process because you must make sure that he doesn't see it as a punishment. Start by introducing him to the crate slowly.
First, put him in for a few minutes a time, always making sure he has his favorite toys and maybe a few treats. Keep enough in the crate so he doesn't get bored. You'll then gradually increase the time he spends in his crate until he can stay for a few hours at a time. If your dog howls or cries, ignore him. If you let him out because you feel bad then he'll know that all he has to do to escape from the crate is to howl or to cry.
In all reality, you shouldn't have much trouble with howling or crying if you introduce him to the crate properly. Take it slow, and your puppy will learn to adjust to his crate just fine.
Remember, the crate is for training purposes only, and it isn't meant for the dog or puppy to spend excessive time inside. Only leave your puppy confined to his crate when you are home. If you have to go out then leave him in a small, confined area such as a corner of the kitchen. Leave him with plenty of toys and fresh water.
When crate training, try to take the puppy out every hour to give him a chance to eliminate. If you take him out, allowing him around five minutes to eliminate, and he succeeds, praise him, play with him, or offer him a treat. On the other hand, if he fails to eliminate, put him back in his crate immediately. This will quickly teach him that eliminating outside is what he's supposed to do.
If your puppy begins to soil his crate then you've left him in there too long without a bathroom break. Just as with den training, it is extremely important that you keep your puppy on a strict bathroom schedule, taking him out as frequently as needed, or the potential for a housetraining setback is likely.
Once you have a good idea of when your puppy needs to eliminate each day, you can begin to take him out only at those times and also allow him free, but supervised, run of your house. An hour or so before he is scheduled to go outside, put him back in his crate. This is advantageous on two fronts. First, it helps to prevent your puppy from having any accidents in the house. Second, it teaches him to control his bowel and bladder, thus, showing him that he is supposed to go to the bathroom outside at scheduled times, instead of having an accident in the house or in his crate.
Whichever housetraining method you prefer, there are several important points to remember. Always be positive during this sometimes frustrating time of potty training, and always use plenty of positive reinforcement including supervised free run of the house, treats, and lots of love and affection. Your attitude rubs off on your puppy, so if you're calm with him, he's more likely to respond in a positive manner. Expect accidents. You puppy is in the process of learning, and mistakes happen. Simply clean the soiled area well, so no scent remains. That way, your puppy won't be inclined to return to the same area to repeat the pattern of elimination there. Most importantly, never punish your dog after the fact, or else you'll just confuse him, thus setting the housetraining process back.
Beth Williams is a full-time writer, published author, and co-founder of Creative Inklings LC, a full service writing firm found at http://www.creativeinklings.org Beth is also the co-founder of a Pet PLR membership Web site.