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How To Successfully Housetrain Your Dog


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Housetraining your new puppy can seem impossible at first, but there is a trick that makes it an easy feat. The key is prevention, and the best method is following your puppy’s lead. As with all types of training, there are certain steps that you can take to ensure success.

Outside Factors

Take your new pet to the veterinarian for a urine and fecal check, suggests Robin Kovary, helpline director and canine behavioral consultant of the American Dog Trainers Network. The examination will determine if there are physical issues – such as cystitis, bladder infections, or worms – which may interfere with your housetraining efforts.

What goes in, must come out; and it may seem that your pup only eats, sleeps, and eliminates. Be sure to feed your pet quality dog food. Read our article on dog food for tips on the best foods. When switching from one brand to another, be sure to do it slowly over 4 to 7 days, mixing both kinds until the old kind is gradually faded out.

Paper Training Your Dog

Once you have removed any outside factors, it is time to concentrate on the actual training of your dog. There are two major methods for preventing accidents when you are away from your pet: paper training or crate training. Paper training, a passive form of training, involves confining your puppy to a small room that is lined with newspaper. Don’t forget his food, water, and chew toys. The point is to teach him to go only on the paper. Initially, the whole room will be covered in newspaper, and Fido will eliminate everywhere. Additionally, he’ll play with the papers, get into anything within reach, and often miss the papers altogether. Do not punish your pup – he’s still learning! Eventually, he’ll begin to only go in one particularly place. You’ll be able to remove most of the papers, and leave only those in his “bathroom place.” If he misses the papers, you’ve reduced the area too soon, warns Gwen Bohnenkamp of PuppyPaws.com. Once your pup is regularly using the papers, you can begin to move them to the location of your choice. This process takes time and patience. Only move the papers an inch or two a day. Expect setbacks.

Crate Training Your Dog

Crate training is often preferred to paper training. It is cleaner, can be used as a travel kennel, and may satisfy your dog’s “need for a den-like enclosure,” according to Kovary. Crate training is a viable option for when you will only be leaving your dog for a short amount of time. Never crate your puppy for longer than a few hours.

The reason that crate training is so effective is that animals have an aversion to soiling in their sleeping area. Crating reduces the chances that your pet will eliminate until you have the opportunity to take him outside. Also, because you will be outside with your pet as he “does his business,” you’ll be able to reinforce this desired behavior with praise.

Remember that housetraining is just like any other type of training. It is essential that you reward the correct behavior – with praise, attention, treats, or games. Punishment – be it physical or verbal – is counterproductive. Don’t ever punish submissive urination, which is involuntary. Any type of training takes patience, and you should always expect setbacks. The more time you spend with your dog, the easier it will be to train him.

Crate Training Step By Step

Kovary recommends that you should begin by allowing your pup to get used to the crate. Leave the door open or even take the top off to allow Fido the chance to explore. Place his toys in the back of the crate. Be sure that the toys are not a choking hazard. Attach a small “hamster-type water dispenser” to the side. Include soft bedding – a blanket or towel; but remove it if your pet chews on it, urinates on it, or seems to prefer sleeping on the floor of the crate. It is better to keep the crate in a central location in the home to help the dog feel more at ease with it.

When first introducing your pet to the crate, do not just shove him into it. He will never feel safe and comfortable if he is forced inside the enclosure. If left to his own whims, curiosity will cause him to enter the crate; and if you leave a treat hidden inside, he’ll be more apt to return again. Praise your dog every time he enters the crate. Once he is comfortable with it, then you can begin closing the door behind him. At first, do not leave him alone while he’s in the crate and only put him in for very short periods to start. Kovary points out that this will prevent the association of crating meaning being left alone.

At bedtime, you will need to crate your pup. If you’ve done it right, Fido will happily sleep in his crate without whining, so long as you place it nearby, preferably beside the bed. If he barks or cries in the crate, then you have moved too quickly. Kovary recommends the following age guidelines for crating:

9 – 10 Weeks Approximately 30 – 60 minutes 11 – 14 Weeks Approximately 1 – 3 hours 15 – 16 Weeks Approximately 3 – 4 hours 17+ Weeks Approximately 4 – 6 hours

Except for overnight, neither puppies nor dogs should be crated for more than six hours at a time.

Crating does not work with some dogs. Pet store puppies and other dogs that have been forced to urinate and defecate in their sleeping area during early developmental phases will not benefit from crate training. For young puppies and pet store animals, Kovary recommends an alternative method of confinement. Use the passive newspaper technique in a small room or hallway. Block off entrances using child’s safety gates rather than a solid barricade which prevents your pup from seeing into the rest of the house and creates a “locked in” feel. Don’t forget to leave food and water available.

Additional Crating Tips by Kovary

  1. Always remove your puppy’s collar prior to crating as it could get caught on the cage.
  2. Be sure that the crate is the right size. If it’s too big, he may eliminate in it. If it is too small, he will be cramped and uncomfortable.
  3. Do not crate your pet if he has not relieved himself immediately before it is time to be crated.
  4. Do not use the crate as punishment or as a convenient place to “keep” your pet for long periods of time.
  5. Do not allow children inside the crate or even to bother the dog while he is inside. The crate is his room, where he can go to get away.

The quickest, easiest method of housetraining your puppy is to continually interact with him throughout the day. Be with him as much as possible. Learn his schedule – even write it down. If you know how much water he’s had, you’ll be able to guess when he needs to go. If you anticipate his needs, you can help him to learn by cutting off any chance of failure. By taking him outside before he has a chance to have an accident, you’ve reinforced the correct behavior rather than punished the mistake. Don’t forget that a puppy does not have adequate control until at least six months of age, so don’t push him.

If Fido does have an accident, just be more vigilant next time. Clean up the area and use a pet odor neutralizer; there are many different brands on the market. Don’t use ammonia-based products; they break down to urea and smell like urine to your pet. This may foster the urge to urinate in the same place again.

Whether it’s housetraining, obedience training, or even training for the show ring, remember to make it fun. Be patient, and expect mistakes. You will have to be flexible and learn from your dog before he can begin to learn from you.

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