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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A TIP for Tuesday: PUPPY POTTY TRAINING, step one

A new puppy comes home.  Do these things first!

  • Buy an appropriately sized crate.  This is your most important tool!  (More about crate training later.)
 If you get a large breed puppy, buy a crate that has an expandable divider.  The crate should just be big enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around.  If the crate is too large, your puppy will learn to potty at one end.  Your puppy has a natural instinct to keep his (or her) sleep area clean.  Never use the crate for punishment; the crate should always be your puppy's special place.  Always crate your puppy at night and whenever you are not home.

  • Buy a buckle collar and an inexpensive leash.
Your puppy will need to learn how to behave on a leash; the best way to teach this is to let your puppy drag a leash around (hence the cheap leash--you won't be mad when he chews it up).  The leash also makes a good "handle" to catch him when he shows signs of needing to potty.

  • Select a small area in your home to first contain your puppy.
Select a room, like your kitchen, to block off at first, or you can buy an adjustable plastic pen (highly recommended!) to section off part of a room if it is big.  Think about where you will spend most of your time, or where it will be easiest to clean up after your puppy, and plan to keep your puppy there.
  • Design a feeding and potty schedule you can live with. 
Puppies have little bladders, and less control.  Expect them to potty 15-20 minutes after drinking or eating.  Puppies will only be able to hold themselves in the crate for one hour plus one hour for each month of age (an eight week old puppy might only be able to hold himself for 1 plus 2 hours).

At eight weeks old, puppies should be fed three times a day.  Monitor food and water intake.  Don't be afraid to limit water after 7:00pm--or you'll be up more times per night to take your puppy out to pee!


It is important to be consistent and persistent!  As my friend Katie says, "A couple weeks of intense effort will pay off with years of pleasant co-habitation with your dog."


SOME KEY RULES

Keep your attention on your puppy!
  • If you cannot devote your entire attention to your puppy, he must be contained, crated, or tied to you by a leash.
  • NEVER leave your puppy unattended after eating or drinking--what goes in will come out--it's a perfect opportunity for learning.
Contain
  • Your puppy must EARN the right to roam the rest of the house.  He must be accident-free in the smaller initial area before expanding access to the rest of the house.  Just because your puppy won't potty in the kitchen (if that is the initial area), doesn't mean he understands that the living room is not a bathroom.  Expect to backtrack training as access is allowed.
Communication is YOUR responsibility!
  •   YOU must learn to read your dog for signals he has to potty.
  • Your puppy will learn by making mistakes, so you must be able to "catch" him in the "act."  Or better yet, just BEFORE.  A stern NO, sweep the puppy up and get him outside where you want him to potty, stand in one place (he should be on a leash) and give a command.  Leader Dogs teach us puppy-raisers to say "park" to our Future Leader Dogs.  I knew one lady from England who taught her puppy to "spend a penny."
  • Remember to PRAISE your puppy when he pottys outside.  Be careful using treats, your puppy will learn to "fake it" just for the treat!
  • If your puppy doesn't potty within the time you are willing to stand there, put him in his crate when you return inside.  Leave him in the crate for 15 minutes, then take him outside and try again.  DO NOT LET HIM FREE UNTIL HE POTTYS!  If you are consistent with this, he will learn quickly. 


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