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House Training a Puppy
No dog training means more to most new puppy owners than this important first lesson: Out of the house!
Teaching your dog to go to the bathroom outside the house, not in it, usually begins between six and eight weeks of age. Dogs as young as four weeks old, they started on training at home, but at a young age, a puppy is unlikely to have enough muscle control.
As with any dog training, the trainer’s patience is just as important as the dog’s temperament. ‘Sit’, ‘stay’ and other behaviors can often be learned in a few days. ‘Potty’ training can take weeks – sometimes as short as two, often a month or more.
As with other learned behaviors, you should look for signs of the next action, then reinforce and direct them with a voice command followed by praise. In this case the technique works to the advantage of the trainer, since all dogs will naturally go to the bathroom. The trick is to do it when and where you want!
Look for signs like circling or crouching, then pick up the pup, say ‘out’ and rush out. The puppy may circle again, but will often squat immediately. As it begins, say “quickly” (or some other phrase) in a clear, firm (but not angry) voice. Wait until the puppy finishes and give plenty of praise.
You won’t always be able to keep the puppy on the start, but don’t get angry or impatient when the dog goes to the bathroom inside the house. It takes time for the dog to learn to tell you when it’s time to ‘go outside’. It also takes time for the muscles needed to control the bladder and bowels to develop.
Young dogs need to go to the bathroom every 2-3 hours, on average. If you have not seen evacuation behavior during this time, take the dog outside anyway. Give the command “quickly” and wait. At first, usually, the dog will have no clue what you want.
Again, even when outside, it helps to wait and watch for the desired behavior then give the command. This helps the dog associate the command with the behavior. If the dog hasn’t gone after a few minutes with a few ‘quick’ commands, take him back inside for an hour. Of course, if you see the behavior before the toilet in less time, go out again immediately.
Dogs have an amazing ability to quickly learn what their ‘alpha’ (pack leader) wants. This is almost always accomplished by associating a verbal command with behavior, followed by praise. Punishment is usually counter-productive, and nowhere more so than in toilet training. Never rub a dog’s nose in litter.
Some people prefer paper and/or crate training. A puppy can be trained to go on a newspaper, or on one of the chemically treated puppy pads made for the purpose. Some small breeds that stay indoors all day may not need to go outside at all.
The technique has a couple of downsides however. Unlike cats, dogs will rarely go to a scented litter box. Newspaper (even with the top layer removed after the dog leaves) will eventually create an unpleasant smell in the house.
Also, long before the smell becomes unattractive to humans, dogs can smell their own distinct aroma. They do not find it unpleasant – quite the opposite. And that’s the problem.
Paper trained dogs will often prefer to eliminate indoors. Sometimes they will miss the paper by just an inch, creating a mess to clean up.
Once the smell of the carpet, the dog will often look for this place as his ‘place to go’. This makes training the dog to go to the toilet outside even more difficult. Better to suffer a few accidents than to create a hard-to-overcome habit.
Patience, praise and consistency are the keys to any dog training. Elimination training is the first test for you and your dog.
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