Ten Steps to Housetraining Your Puppy

Are you having some difficulty getting your new (or not so new) puppy housetrained?  Here are some helpful hints to a clean and peaceful co-existence.

1)  Prevent opportunities for failure by not allowing your puppy to wander all over the house without supervision and by keeping your puppy confined to a small area (preferably a crate/kennel) when you can’t observe him constantly.  A good rule of thumb for puppies is, “If you can’t see ’em….they’re probably peein’!”.

2)  When your puppy sniffs the ground or circles around, quickly but calmly distract her and take her to the desired elimination area.  Ideally, don’t always wait for these behavioral “cues”.  Rather, take your puppy outside regularly.  For most puppies, about once an hour is adequate (but may be as short as every 30 minutes).  As each week passes you should be able to add on about 10-15 minutes.

3)  Feed your puppy a measured amount of food at about the same time every day. When your puppy walks away, or after about 10-15 minutes, pick up the bowl.

4)  Be aware that puppies instinctively desire to eliminate after eating, drinking, playing, resting, sleeping or being confined. So…shortly after any of the above activities, take your dog to the selected place for elimination.  Remember that consistency is key, so always use the same door and go into the same area of the yard for elimination.

5)  Consider using a specific verbal cue that you want your dog to associate with desirable elimination, such as “Go potty” or “Let’s go outside”.

6)  When your puppy begins to eliminate, quietly and calmly praise him:  “Good potty!”.  Praise the behavior and after several consistent times, the behavior can become the command.

7)  When your puppy is done, praise him enthusiastically, pet him and reward him with a small treat immediately.  Don’t wait until he heads for the house.  If he doesn’t eliminate, return him to his confinement area and take him outside again in about 15 minutes.

8)  Reward each time with praise and treats, but as your dog learns (no accidents for a minimum of 2 weeks), give the food rewards intermittently.  This utilizes the “slot machine mentality”–you know that there may be a jackpot coming, you just don’t know when–so you keep pulling the handle hoping that next time…next time….next time!!!   Just the same, if your puppy cannot guess when the reward will come, he will continue to respond eagerly each time in hope that this is the time for “jackpot”.

9)  Some puppies may be so excited to be outdoors (with all of the sights, sounds and smells) that they “forget” what they are supposed to be doing.  In these cases it may be helpful to initially take your puppy outside on a leash until she eliminates, then let her off the leash for “play time”.  Remember to re-attach the leash and encourage elimination again before returning to the house.

10) Remember, it is your responsibility to prevent accidents!!!  Prevention is the key to success, but if someone fails to prevent your dog from having an accident, don’t scold the puppy….quietly clean up and deodorize the soiled area, repeat out loud 50 times the mantra “I must supervise my puppy better” and make a mental note of what went wrong.  Preventing accidents requires that you become aware of how often your puppy needs to eliminate and picking up on his/her cues that it is “time to go”.

With time, effort, patience and consistency….almost all puppies are capable of learning how to fit within our crazy, busy lives and schedules to become a loving addition to our homes.

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