Awwwwwww....what a cute puppy! But this is not just a gratuitous puppy picture. According to Dr. Karen Becker, "looking at cute animals at work can fine-tune your focus and improve your attention to detail." You're welcome!
Our last post before Christmas was a New Puppy Checklist, in case someone may have been planning for a little ball of fur under the tree this year. Hopefully, you are well-prepared and ready to teach him the rules of your home. In particular, where to go to relieve himself.
Let’s start with some important facts.
During the third week of life, puppies start moving away from the nest to eliminate, and by 5 weeks old they begin taking care of their business in a regular place. From this point, up until 8 and a half weeks old, they will start developing surface preferences for elimination. You know...grass, carpet, pine needles, piddle pads. During this period, puppies start to get control of their bladders and bowels. Your efforts to potty-train will be most rewarding from 7 weeks on! And remember patience, because your puppy does not physically have complete control over his bladder until at least 4 months old so little “accidents” may happen.
Here are some steps for you to follow:
1. Take the puppy outdoors to the same spot to eliminate. Most important times are upon awakening, 15 minutes after meals, and after play sessions; take him out 6-8 times a day. Be vigilant and soon you will recognize the signs that he is ready to go--sniffing, circling, looking for a remote area. You may have to pick him up and carry him out to keep him from letting ‘er rip before you get him outside. It is best to have your puppy on a leash and take him to the same location so that he can sniff previous odors. It may take 15-20 minutes of sniffing; avoid playing so the puppy concentrates. This can be excruciating.
2. Choose a simple phrase, like “go potty,” or “be a good boy,” and repeat it to exhaustion, before and especially while he is going. Don’t be too enthusiastic or you will distract him. Just praise quietly until he’s done, then HAVE A PARTY.
3. Reward your puppy immediately after getting the job done (within 15 seconds). You can offer praise, food treats or playtime. (This means you must be with your puppy while she eliminates, so you can praise before she engages in another activity.)
4. Supervise your puppy indoors (like a hawk!), or use a leash or bells on the collar. Whenever you can’t watch the puppy, he should be placed in a puppy-proof area, like a crate, a large box, a small bathroom (without rugs). See below.
5. Provide appropriate indoor elimination areas if you’ll be away for a long time. An 8-12 week old puppy usually can go 2-4 hours without needing to eliminate. For longer periods, use paper or housetraining pads, place them inside a crate or a confinement area. Make sure the puppy has space for a rest/dining area away from the wastes. Upon getting home, immediately take the puppy outdoors. You may wish to take a sheet of soiled paper to the outdoor bathroom to reinforce the message. By 7-9 months old, usually puppies can go 8-10 hours without soiling.
6. Teach your puppy to signal when she has to go. You can hang a bell onto the doorknob and teach the puppy to nudge it, then you open the door. You can also cue the dog with a key phrase, like “need to go out?” The puppy’s reaction will indicate whether he needs to eliminate. Many will learn to bark as a signal. Rico still rings the bell and the jingling never stops since he taught the cats to ring, too.
7. Properly feed and water your puppy. A full stomach stimulates the colon to contract within 10-30 minutes--a good time to take your puppy out! Not to mention another good reason not to free feed and leave food out constantly. But pets need access to water at all times. If you’re concerned that thirst and/or urination is excessive, please bring that up with your veterinarian.
8. Punishment for mistakes. Like the name says, mistakes are mistakes and are best prevented by constant vigilance. If you see your puppy is sniffing and assuming position, quickly grab the puppy and run outside! If you find a puddle or a pile in the house, clean it up really well with a product specific for that use, which will degrade the odor (don’t use bleach). Scolding your puppy after the fact will only confuse and intimidate her, and possibly damage your relationship.
9. Develop versatility. Once the puppy reaches 4-6 months of age (most are house trained by this age), you can introduce him to different surfaces and locations. For example, dogs who usually eliminate in the yard should now learn to do it during a walk; or off leash; or on soil rather than grass. Use your key phrase and then praise to tell the puppy it’s okay.
10. Discuss problems with your veterinarian. If you’re having problems that are not responding to these techniques, there may be physical or emotional causes that together you can identify.
There is really no one answer to the question, “How long will it take?” All dogs are different and some catch on more quickly than others. As with so many things related to teaching your new puppy how to live harmoniously in your household, it all boils down to the trainer--your consistency and patience are directly proportional to how successfully and quickly you and your puppy get through this stage.
Did I mIss anything? Please post a comment if you have any other tips that readers might find useful. Or share a puppy picture so that we all can get more done at work!
Best of luck and have fun with your new puppy!