There are two main rules to toilet training success;
1. Prevent Accidents: Supervise your puppy in the house. Use a crate when you are not sure if your puppy is “empty”.
2. Reward your puppy for going outside: Praise at the right moment, i.e. the second he starts “going.” Reward with a treat after he is finished.
Sounds simple! So how to go about this? Keep on reading to find out.
So lets start with number one, preventing accidents. This is were long-term and short-term confinement comes into the picture.
Long -term confinement is a place for your puppy to stay when you can’t provide 100% supervision. In other words, when you are out, or busy around the house, and can’t keep your eyes on him the entire time. It prevents chewing accidents, toilet accidents, and teaches your puppy to be alone.
“Confinement? Surely that’s too strict?” Not at all. It is the best possible start for your puppy in your household. People often give a new puppy complete freedom right away. Then, when he has an accident on the carpet or chews on the legs of the coffee table, they confine him, and confinement becomes a punishment.
Instead, give your puppy a safe place from the beginning, and let him make a gradual and successful transition to his new home. He will be much happier and your furniture will be intact.
“When do I use it? And how would I set it up?” Use a long-term confinement area if you will be gone longer than your puppy can hold it. The ideal confinement area is easy to clean and easy to close off with a door or baby gate. It should be mostly free of furniture and non-puppy related objects. The best places for a confinement area are the kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, or an empty spare room. Furnish with:
• A puppy pad or litter box
• Your puppy’s crate (with the door open)
• Water and food bowls
• A chew toy or Kong
So you have now everything set up, and next step is getting your puppy used to his confinement area:
Step 1. Take your puppy out for a walk or bathroom break.
Step 2. Give him a chew bone or a stuffed Kong. Leave him alone in the confinement area while you go about your business in the house.
Step 3. After 5 minutes or before he finishes his chew, let him out but don’t make a big deal about it or make a fuss over him.
Repeat steps 1-3, gradually increasing the time you leave your puppy in his confinement area without leaving the house. Vary the length of your absences, from 30 seconds to 20 minutes, and repeat them throughout the day.
Leave your puppy in his confinement area (or crate) at night. It is normal for him to try a little crying as a strategy to get out, so brace yourself for that. He has to get used to alone-time.
Step 4. Within the first day or two, start leaving the house for really short intervals like just stepping outside or taking out the trash. Gradually work up to longer absences, like running errands.
Next we get to short-term confinement and that means crating your puppy. A crate is a terrific training and management tool. It is useful for house-training, brief alone-time, settling, and any form of travel. Most importantly, a crate teaches your puppy to hold it when he has to go to the bathroom. A crate helps your puppy in many ways—and saves your carpets.
“Is using a crate cruel?” Absolutely not. A crate can be your puppy’s favourite place in the world. Think of it as his crib. Use treats, praise, and toys to make your puppy love his crate. Just remember never to use the crate for more than 3-4 hours at a time, except for bedtime.
General guidelines for crating puppies:
8-10 weeks up to 1 hour
11-12 weeks up to 2 hours
13-16 weeks up to 3 hours
Over 4 months up to 4 hours
As getting puppy used to the long-term confinement, getting your puppy used to the crate also goes in steps.
Step 1. Begin crate training right away—preferably the first day your puppy is in your home.
Step 2. Throw small tasty treats into the crate one at a time. Praise your puppy when he goes in to get the treat.
Step 3. When your puppy is comfortable going into the crate, practice closing the door for 1-2 seconds, then treat him through the door. Let him back out. Repeat this step many times, gradually building to 10 seconds.
Step 4. Stuff a Kong with something very yummy or use a special bone that will take a lot of time to chew. Put the chewies in the crate. Shut the door. Move about the house normally. Let your puppy back out after 5 minutes or when he finishes his treat. Don’t make a fuss over him. Repeat this step several times, varying the length of your absences from 1 to 20 minutes.
Step 5. Next, leave your puppy in the crate with something delicious while you leave the house for short errands, like getting the mail or watering the garden. Gradually build your absences.
Now we get to the next part, how to house-train;
Step 1. Take your puppy outside on leash. Take him to the same place every time.
Step 2. When he goes, praise. Offer him a treat when he is finished.
Step 3. If you are in a puppy-safe place, let him off the leash for a little playtime.
If he doesn’t go within 5 minutes, put him in his crate for 10-20 minutes, then try again.
A house-training checklist
• Take your puppy to his toilet place first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, shortly after meals, naps, or play sessions, when he comes out of his crate, and generally every hour or so.
• Until your puppy is perfectly house-trained, always go outside with him so you can cheer and reward at the right moment.
• Supervise whenever your puppy is not crated, especially if he is full. If you must take your eyes off him, even for a minute, crate him or put him in his confinement area.
• If you see your puppy sniffing and circling in the house, take him out immediately.
“What about if my puppy has an accident?” Interrupt mistakes as they are happening. Don’t be too harsh or your puppy will be afraid to go in front of you. After interrupting your puppy, hustle him outside to the toilet area. Praise if he finishes there. Clean up the indoor mess with an enzymatic cleaner to remove protein residue that might attract him to the same place again.
Remember: Never punish. If your puppy made the mistake one hour or five seconds ago, you are too late. Don’t rub his nose in his own mess or smack him, this will simply make him afraid of you, and he won’t understand why you do it. You must catch him in the act for the interruption to work, and again, you can’t do it too harshly or your puppy will be afraid to go in front of you.
Wishing you happy training with your puppy!
Feel free to contact Make Your Dog Smile if you need help with any aspects of your puppy training !