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Housetraining Tips

The two most important things to remember when housetraining are PREVENTION and SUPERVISION.

A rolled up newspaper is a good tool to use when housetraining. Whenever the pup makes a mistake, take the newspaper and hit yourself on the head while you remind yourself: "I forgot to watch the dog!"

You need to teach the puppy what TO do (where to go potty), not just what not to do. Remember that repetition is necessary. Your puppy will not completely understand what you want if you show it something several times -- repetition means doing it many times.

When you cannot watch the puppy, use your crate. Think of the crate the same way you think of a playpen for a human child. Even if you are only leaving the room for a "minute," either take the puppy with you or use the crate. Crate training can be fun for the puppy if you don't use it negatively. I recommend using carrots, apples and stuffed kongs as crate treats. The only time the puppy receives the treats is in the crate; the goodies become associated with the crate.

Use the crate wisely. (See the article on crating.) Don't crate only when you are leaving the house. Place the puppy in the crate sometimes while you are home, too. By crating when you are home and when you leave, the puppy becomes comfortable in it and not anxious that you are leaving him/her alone. This helps eliminate separation anxiety later in life.

Most puppies will not soil their "den." The first couple of nights and days you might have some accidents, but don't be discouraged. If the den's room size is too large, though, the puppy can easily soil on one side and sleep on the other. The way to remedy this is to first buy a crate that will accommodate your pet when it is fully grown. Then get a piece of pegboard that will fit the inside of the crate. Using wire ties, secure the pegboard as a divider inside the crate, giving only enough room for the puppy to lay down inside. As the puppy grows, provide more room by moving the divider. When the puppy does not soil in its crate, remove the divider so the puppy can have use of the full crate. If the puppy soils, replace the divider at the point that the puppy was "good" in, and just give the dog a little more time to learn the lesson.

Instead of the crate, or in addition to the crate, you can use what I call the "umbilical cord". Tie the leash to your belt, so the pup is always with you. The point is - absolutely no unsupervised time. Puppy must be in your eyesight, or in the crate.

In conjunction with crate training, potty training will start immediately. When you remove the puppy from the crate or just want the puppy to "go potty," take the dog to the door that will always be used to "go outside." Use the same door throughout the training period. On this door, tie a bell to a string, dropping it even with the puppy's nose. When you bring the puppy to the door, make the puppy touch the bell with either it's nose or paw, causing the bell to ring.

After the puppy rings the bell, give it a treat, (tiny, tiny treat, almost a lick of something) and command "OUTSIDE". Take the puppy outside on leash. At this point the puppy should NEVER be taken OUTSIDE to potty without a leash. Yes, that means in the rain, snow, whatever: YOU GO OUTSIDE ALSO. Give the puppy plenty of time. Don't rush; you will be sorry. When the puppy piddles, praise the puppy with "Good Outside" and again, give the puppy a tiny, tiny treat. Continue to wait. When the puppy poops, again praise the puppy with "Good Outside" and give a treat.

Go back inside, stop at the door again, and treat once again. If the puppy does not "potty" even after staying outside 15 minutes, return back inside, place the puppy back into the crate, wait 15 minutes and start again from the beginning.

Puppy can have 20 minutes of playtime after going potty. Supervised playtime with you.

If you see puppy circling or squatting, pick puppy up while saying "Outside", and take puppy to the potty place. If you find a spot on the carpet, do not scold the puppy after the fact, just clean it up and resolve to be more vigilant.

If done religiously, this training process should take only about 2 weeks for the puppy to understand.

This method will work with any dog, regardless of age. If you adopt a dog from a shelter or a rescue program, do the same routine. Remember, even though the animal is older, they still do not know the rules of your house.

If you must leave a puppy alone for more than four hours, you need to have someone come in and take pup out for play and potty time. Or make a safe pen with papers at one end and crate (with door fastened open) at the other end.

Copyright Pat Scott