Training Tips

House Training - "P is for Puppy".  Do you remember how long it took you before you were potty trained? I’ll bet you don’t. As a mom, I can tell you it does not happen overnight. It takes vigilance, encouragement, patience, praise and bribery. Just when it seems like diapers would be part of the cost of a college education, the light seems to come on in a toddler’s head, and all that work pays off. He or she is potty trained!

Training your puppy to use a special “toilet area” is a lot like that. It can take months before he can be trusted not to make mistakes. The more diligent and supportive you are, the faster he will learn. Your goal should be to avoid letting your puppy make a mistake. It’s a lot easier to teach a puppy what he should do than to teach him what he should not do. Although I assume you are going to train your puppy to go outdoors, this method works for any kind of housetraining;paper, litter box or outdoors; and will work for adult dogs, too.

It is important to put your puppy on a feeding schedule. Write down the time he eats and the time he poops. When you have a daily record of times, then you will know what time you need to take him to his toilet area. You will also need to take him out about 10 minutes after he has a drink of water. Take your puppy out after a nap. After he has been playing, he will need to potty, too. Just like little kids, puppies get so excited about playing they do not want to stop and go to the bathroom. That is when accidents happen.

Puppies are easily distracted, so leaving him outside by himself just will not work. You need to stay with him so he can learn what it is you want him to do. You might want him to hurry up and go potty, but your puppy would rather play. Be patient, but help your puppy focus on the task at hand by telling him something like, “(Puppy), go potty.” (use his name and whatever word you want to use to make him go.)When he goes, tell him, “good, Puppy!” and give him a treat. If you are consistent and patient, your puppy will learn to go potty when you tell him! Some day when it is raining or cold outside, or you are in a hurry, you will be glad you taught him that command.

Remember, if your puppy has an accident, it’s not the puppy’s fault. It is your fault. You were not paying close enough attention. If your puppy makes a mistake, ignore it. Never rub his nose in it or spank him. That will only make him lose his trust in you, and hide his mistakes from you. It is a lot better to find a mistake out in the open than behind the couch! If you catch him in the act, interrupt him by saying something like, “Aaa Aaa” or "Oh no!” Pick him up and carry him to his potty area and tell him to go there. Only correct your puppy if you catch him in the act. Otherwise, say nothing. Clean up the mess when your puppy is not looking. Make sure you clean the spot with an enzyme cleaning product that neutralizes the odor. Soap is not enough. If you do not remove the odor, the puppy will want to go there again.

All puppies are different.  How long it will take before your puppy is completely house trained depends on how attentive you are, how smart he is and how willing he is to learn.  It is not appropriate to as an eight-week-old puppy to control his bladder for more than an hour.  Expecting him to learn bladder control in a few days is unrealistic.  Do not be disappointed if your puppy is eight or nine months old before you can trust him.  This is especially true for small breed dogs.   And, do not get mad at him if he has a setback after you think he should be trained. Just be patient. Your puppy will be telling you when he needs to go out before you know it!

Crate Training  A portable kennel, also called a crate, is a great place for your dog to call his own in your house. They are also convenient for traveling. Dogs like to hang their heads out of car windows, but your dog is safer in his crate. On long trips or stays at a boarding kennel, it can be comforting for your dog to have his familiar “house” with him. A crate should be just large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around comfortably. Crates make housetraining easier, unless the crate is too large. Dogs naturally do not soil their sleeping area, but if the crate is too large, the dog will use a portion of the crate to relieve himself and never learn bowel and bladder control.

To train your dog to go into his crate, put a few treats in the back of it. When he goes in for the treats, praise him. Don’t shut the door. If he won’t go all the way in for the treats, put them just inside the door. After a few times of going in and coming out, shut the door with the dog inside for just a few seconds. Open the door and praise him. Let the dog get used to being confined by slowly increasing the time he is inside with the door closed. When he is comfortable going in and out of the crate, add a command like, “crate” or “go to bed” when he goes inside. Don’t use the crate to punish the dog. He should associate it only with comfortable things.

Crates are useful, but unfortunately, they are sometimes used as long-term confinement. Too often a dog is crated for his entire life as a substitute for training. Crating any dog in a portable kennel, but especially a puppy, for eight hours per day and expecting him to be happy is unrealistic not to mention cruel! If you must crate your dog, arrange for him to have out-of-crate-breaks with exercise and play, provide stimulating toys in the crate, and give him something to chew away any frustration. Crating should be temporary until your dog has learned enough manners to be trusted alone in the house. Then, unless you install a doggie door or train your dog to paper or to a litter box, you still should arrange for your dog to relieve himself outdoors and have a brief playtime.

Why is confinement for eight hours too long?Simply put, eight hours in a crate is too long for a puppy for the same reason that eight hours in a crate would be too long for you. It is tedious, boring and lonely. A puppy will need to potty during those eight hours and cannot hold it. Social isolation and sensory deprivation contribute to behavior problems. To a curious and active puppy, eight hours of being locked up can be frustrating and distressing. A common problem described by owners when a puppy is finally released from the crate is that "he goes nuts.”The puppy is so excited and hyperactive that the owner resorts to punishment (verbal or physical) to make the puppy settle down. It can become a vicious cycle of confinement, isolation, frustration, hyper-excitability, punishment, confinement, isolation. Both the dog and the owner are frustrated.

Adult dogs with nothing to do will usually sleep for hours during the day, but a puppy crated for eight hours is bored, no matter how many toys you put in the crate. Puppies need attention and a variety of stimuli. Dogs are social animals and need contact with other dogs or humans to be well-balanced, happy, good canine citizens. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the needs of puppies before they acquire them. If you are unable to come home during the day to let the puppy out, or do not have a trusted person who can do it for you, and cannot afford a puppy day care, then it is important that the remainder of the day be spent training, exercising and playing with the puppy. If the puppy is crated at night in addition to during the day, the total number of hours of confinement is well over eight hours. 

Many dogs are left alone and crated for eight hours or more every day. That doesn’t mean it the best choice or in the best interest of the dogs. Locking your dog in a crate should be a temporary measure to keep your dog and your belongings safe in the house until he is trained and can be trusted alone.

Barking  Barking is part of the “language” of dogs. Dogs bark during play, to greet us, to get our attention, to warn us of intruders, out of boredom or frustration, to keep others away from them and because they are afraid. 

Attention Seeking or “Hey, You!”:  Barking at you or other people to get your attention. Your dog might want you to feed him or, pet or play with because he is bored.  Attention barking can be reinforced whenever you give your dog the attention he seeks, even if that attention is telling him to SHUT UP! 

Excitement or “Glad to See You!”:  Barking as a greeting to familiar people at the door.  Some dogs bark a greeting because they are happy and excited.  This type of barking is usually accompanied by panting sounds, a relaxed, open mouth ”happy face”, and low, wagging tail.

Territorial or “Intruder Alert”:  Barking at people or other animals when they walk near what your dog considers to be his territory. You might see this type of barking when someone walks by your house or yard, or when a delivery person or even an invited guest, comes your the door.  This is normal dog behavior and some dogs are just naturally better watch dogs than others.  Preventing a dog from barking to let you know when someone or something has invaded their space can be challenge because the barking is reinforced every time an “intruder” goes away. 

Distance Increasing or “Stay Away!”:  Barking at people, animals, objects or noises in an effort to keep them at a distance from the dog.  Dogs who are barking out of fear bark standing still or leaning back slightly.  They tuck their tails and usually back away from what they are barking at.  When the dog no longer feels threatened, he stops barking.  Dogs who are not afraid, bark while leaning forward slightly. Their tails are up and may or may not be wagging. They will move toward what they are barking at.  

Anxiety or “Maybe Something Terrible is About To Happen”:  Barking and whining usually accompanied by signs of stress such as panting and pacing, often by dogs who are home alone and have separation anxiety.   It sounds differently than attention barking and can usually be distinguished from attention seeking if signs of stress begins prior to your departure, destructive chewing occurs at doors and windows and your housetrained dog eliminates in the house when you are gone. 

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