How much is that doggie in the window? Not nearly as much as the replacement costs of your couch, furniture, and bed if you don’t house-train your puppy! Housebreaking can be a struggle for many new pet parents, but if you follow a simple routine you may get through puppyhood without a single accident.
The key to successful house training of any dog is setting the dog up for success instead of waiting to punish failure. Follow the tips below and you’ll be well on your way to house training your dog.
Know When Your Puppy Needs to Go
One of the best ways to house-train your puppy is to take him outside every time he needs to potty. If he never gets a chance to go in the house, he’ll never consider it as an option and will quickly learn that his toilet is outside. Puppies cannot hold their bladder very long and a dog who has gone more than two or three hours without peeing needs to go outside. Puppies also usually use the bathroom after each meal, after a play session, and waking up from a nap. When your dog has done one of these things, quickly carry her outside and encourage her to go to the bath room.
Give your puppy a treat and lavish her with praise every time she goes to the bathroom outside. Dogs learn by association, so if your dog begins to associate treats with pottying outside, she’ll eventually start to think of going outside as a good thing. Eventually you won’t have to give her a treat. She’ll naturally gravitate toward going outside.
Cover Up Failure
Dogs’ noses are much more powerful than ours and they are creatures of habit. What does this mean for you? It means if your puppy pees in one place, she’s likely to want to use that same place again and again. This is great if she’s going outside, but if she has an accident on your sofa, it’s another thing entirely. Make sure to thoroughly clean the area and use a cleaner that is designed to eliminate pet odors. You may not be able to smell the urine there, but if you don’t thoroughly clean it, your dog will and she will pee there again.
It can be frustrating to catch your dog in the act of having an accident. But punishment doesn’t work with dogs, and here’s why: dogs associate a response with whatever the last thing that happened was, and they’re not capable of linking two complex behaviors together. This means that if you yell at her for peeing in the house, she’ll think she’s getting yelled at for peeing, not for doing it in the house. Thus punishment simply makes your dog more likely to hold it in till you’re not looking and then go all over your shoes.
A much better response to catching her in the act is to swiftly pick her up and carry her outside. If she uses the bathroom out there, lavish her with praise and give her a treat. Moving her outside helps her to associate outside with her bathroom area, so catching her in the act can actually be a good thing for training her.
Use a Crate
Many first time dog owners are resistant to using a crate because it looks like a cage and feels unfair. However, a crate is a valuable tool for setting up your dog for success when you are not home. Remember: the more times your dog goes in the house, the more likely she is to continue going in the house because of the associative nature of dog learning. You should aim to prevent her from going in the house as much as possible. A crate is an excellent way to keep her from doing this when you are not home. Dogs are unlikely to use the bathroom in their crates for a variety of reasons. Moreover, crates keep unruly puppies from destroying your house and harming themselves. A crate is an invaluable tool, and I highly recommend you use one when you are not home, at least until you are able to trust your pup to not get into trouble on his own.
Keep in mind, of course, that a puppy left in a crate for 12 hours is still going to have an accident. Don’t use the crate as a substitute for good pet parenting and make sure your young puppy is never alone for more than a few hours.