House Training Your New Puppy Or Dog

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House training is an important part of bringing your new puppy home. With consistence, patience and practice, your new dog can start off on the right path to being house trained. While these guidelines are focused on house training a puppy, the house training process is the same no matter the age of your puppy or dog.

Be Prepared

  • Get a crate – An approximately sized wire crate can be very helpful when house training and gives your puppy a safe space to retreat to when they need a break. A crate is also a great way to manage the environment when you are not able to supervise. A good rule of thumb for sizing a crate is you want to be sure your dog can stand up, turn around in crate and comfortably lie down. If you have a dog who is not full grown, you may need to look for a crate with dividers that allows you to adjust crate size as needed.
  • Find a good location – Crate should be in a low traffic area of your home, but not completely secluded from where you spend time.
  • Avoid punishment – A crate should never be used as a punishment, the goal is for your dog to view the crate as a safe place.
  • Get an enzymatic cleaner – It’s important to use the right kind of cleaner to clean accidents. Nature’s Miracle or similar enzyme-based cleaners when cleaning accidents. While other cleaners often do not have this benefit, enzyme-based cleaners help to break down the bacteria and odors that dogs can smell but are not noticeable by people.

Keys to Success

  • Choose a location outdoors that will be your dog’s potty spot. Be sure that all members of your household take the dog to the same location each time they go outside. Every time your dog relives themselves in that location, offer them calm praise and a special treat. Always wait until they have completed urinating/peeing before you reward, this helps your dog understand that relieving themselves outside equals good things.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when going outside. The first thing you should do is bring them to their potty spot and wait until they go to the bathroom before moving from that spot. This helps teach them that before anything fun happens, they need to go to the bathroom. Once they have gone, you can then reward them and begin to play.
  • Establish a schedule that works with your dog and consider their age. A good rule of thumb is that puppies can hold their bladder for approximately one hour per month they have been alive. Using this rule a 3-month-old puppy may be able to hold bladder for 3 – 4 hours. Older dogs may also need to go out more frequently.
  • Feed your dog on a schedule. This creates consistency and gives you a better idea when they may need to be taken outside.
  • It is important to also give your dog opportunities to go outside after certain activities such as waking from sleep, after eating or drinking, playing, or training.
  • Always be on the lookout for signs your dog may need to be taken outside. They may start sniffing the floor, walking in circles, whining, or pacing.

Accidents Will Happen

Even with the best planning there are likely going to be accidents along the way. When your dog has an accident in the house, the best solution is to take them out to the potty spot to see if they still need to finish relieving themselves. Remember to reward any time your dog uses the designated potty spot and always watch for signs your dog needs to be taken outside. As mentioned above, cleaning up any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner helps to remove odors and reduce the chance your dog will return to the same spot to relieve themselves in the future.

Never punish your dog for having a house training accident. While it can be frustrating, even if you catch them in the act yelling or swatting at them will only worsen the problem. Your dog does not connect that you are punishing them for having an accident. Instead, they may think that they are not supposed to urinate in front of people resulting in a dog that hides indoors to relieve themselves. In short, punishment does not help with house training, slows progress and can cause long term behavior issues.

Contacting a Trainer

If you are following the guidelines above and your dog is still having accidents, it is best to rule out any medical issues that could contribute to house-training accidents. If your dog is having diarrhea, straining to urinate, swatting but only a small amount of urine comes out, or urine or feces contains blood you should contact your veterinarian.

If you are searching for a trainer, it is critical that you find a trainer who is certified through a third-party organization that requires: trainers prove they have a certain level of knowledge about things like body language, behavior, learning theory, and training; are held to a certain code of ethics; and are required to receive ongoing continuing education. The two main organizations where you can search a database to find certified trainers near you are the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. These trainers can help evaluate your situation
and create a plan that is appropriate for you and your dog.

  • Provide another outlet- if they jump and leash bite when exiting the house, bring along a toy to calmly give them as an alterative option.
  • Train calming cues using positive reinforcement training.
  • Teach them young- Even if it’s cute when they are young, focus heavily on teaching your puppy to keep four paws on the floor when meeting people or doing fun things. It can be extremely confusing and frustrating for dogs who have been rewarded the entire duration of their lives for jumping only to have it become a behavior that they are told not to do when they get bigger and it is no longer desirable. Set everyone up for success by teaching your puppy good things happen when they stay on the ground.

When Your Dog Does Get Overly Excited

  • Take notes- Take notes about when, where, and why your dog started displaying overly aroused behaviors. Use this information to modify your plan to ensure you can reduce the difficulty and set them up for success the next time.
  • Walk away- Refrain from giving your dog attention while they are displaying overly aroused behaviors. Any attention, even attention from punishment, further reinforces the behavior and will cause it to increase overall.
  • Be consistent- Be sure everyone in the household knows the plan. The more consistent everyone is, the faster the dog will learn and the less time it will take to resolve.
  • Be patient- Remember that it might take a while for your dog to learn this kind of self-control, especially if they are busy, active or highly intelligent dogs by nature.

When to Seek Additional Help

If you believe your dog is displaying these behaviors out of excitement, these guidelines can be helpful. However, if your dog is showing any signs of fear, aggression or is barking at dogs, other animals, or when you leave the house, there may be an underlying issue that you need to resolve first. In those cases, you should consult with a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist and/or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer so they can evaluate your situation and get you a plan that is appropriate for you and your pet.

The two main organizations where you can search a database to find certified trainers near you is the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. If you are seeing more severe signs of distress listed above and are looking for a BoardCertified Veterinary Behaviorist, you should search the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website to search for the closest behaviorist near you.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

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