Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How To Housebreak A Puppy

Bringing home a new puppy, is a very exciting and very challenging time for most folks and families. The average breeder has weaned and begun to let puppies leave for their new homes at about 8 weeks of age. This is very much like tending a baby, as dogs this young not only have very small bladders; they are for the most part unable to have much control over bladder and bowel functions. They require much care, and almost constant supervision at this age. Many folks do not understand how immature a puppy is at this age, and assume when house breaking problems arise, the puppy is stupid, or difficult to train.

During the first weeks with the mother, she teaches her pups that the "bedroom" is off limits, and shows them the appropriate place for elimination. One of the quickest and easiest ways to begin housetraining is to take advantage of these early lessons, and the pup’s instinct for cleanliness, and keep him in a crate when you are not able to supervise. These come in all different shapes and sizes, and should be big enough for him when he is grown. The full grown dog should be able to stand, and turn around. Although many come with a divider panel, to use for the young pup, if yours doesn't you can use plastic to divide his crate. The theory on this is if he has "too much" room, he will assume on his own, that half is for sleeping, and the other half is for elimination. So make sure the crate is small enough inside, that he can't make that assumption.

How much and how often?

A puppy between the ages of 8 weeks until about 4 months, has very little self control. They will be having about 4 bowel movements a day, and will need to urinate approximately every 45 minutes, also after napping, playing, and eating. During this period, housetraining is more of avoiding accidents, by constant supervision, and no puppy under the age of 4 months should be scolded for accidents. It would be like expecting an 8 month old baby to use the toilet, it is completely unrealistic. So, take your puppy to the designated "area" outside, every 45 minutes, and each time they are successful praise and you can also reward with a dog treat.

If you decide to use a reward system, break dog or puppy biscuits into very small pieces, so that you are not over feeding, or jeopardizing her weight. This is the hardest, and the most time consuming part of owning an inside pet. I have on an average, 4 -7 dogs living in my home at any given moment, and most of them came here as young puppies around 8 weeks of age. I rarely have any accidents, not because my dogs are smarter, or I have some magic trick I use, it's because this is the ONLY way to train, you MUST take her out about 15 times during the day, and then say about 10 pm, then around 2am, and then again when she wakes somewhere between 5-7am.

At around 4 months of age, your dog should begin to understand what you are asking. I begin to taper off about this age. Most puppies if they are taken outside late enough can go through the night, meaning last out at 10pm, sleep till around 5 or 6 am. I am now taking them out about every hour and a half, after they wake from a nap, after eating, and after any play or training session. If my dog has an accident, before the age of 4 months, I do not react, I ignore the fact and clean it up.

Once the puppy is 4 months, if I catch them in the "act" I clap my hands loudly run and grab them and head outside immediately. If they are able to finish outside they are praised Rubbing his face in it, smacking with newspaper or hand, any type of physical punishment does not work, in fact, I have worked with many clients who use this approach and it only backfires, the puppy associates the punishment with the act of elimination, not the WHERE of it.

At around 6 -8 months of age, your dog should begin to understand, that there are specific places for elimination. You should begin to observe your dog attempting to notify you when they need to go outside. Sniffing around, circling, looking behind, crying, barking, whining, scratching at the door, these are all clues that he needs to relieve himself.

All animals are going to make mistakes, if you have been consistent, and your dog has reached a point where HE is consistent, ignore the occasional accident; most times this is caused by our busy schedule, and not taking note of his need. Never, ever punish an animal that is sick. Just like us, they have digestive upsets that cause sometimes a temporary loss of control.

So good luck and congratulations on your new friend. Remember to keep your expectations realistic. If you have problems, and you have followed this guide, make sure to consult a vet first to rule out any physical problems or disease. I am available for consultations, and would be happy to work with you and your pet until we achieve the desired goal. And although it can be done, it is much more difficult to re-train an who is consistently having accidents, than to take the time and patience to do it correctly from the beginning.

So.... Confine the puppy when he can't be supervised Take him out at least every 45 minutes, after naps, after play, and after meals Don't scold or punish for accidents Watch for his "signals" and respond quickly if he needs to go Take advantage of his mothers first teachings, and his den instinct, and crate him Be willing to get up every night those first several months Reward him with praise or bits of puppy biscuits when he is successful.

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