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Luckily it is natural instinct that a dog will not soil its bed area, unless it has been raised in appalling circumstances. However, puppies are not aware that the rest of the house should also be treated as a huge bed which is the ultimate aim of housetraining. The optimal way to achieve successful housetraining is by simple clear instructions to minimise the risk of mistakes. Once a mistake has been made a habit may quickly develop and is harder to extinguish. So prevention is definitely better than cure!
As a rough guideline an eight week old puppy will need to urinate every 75 mins, a 12 week old every 90 mins and an 18 week old every 2 hours. Puppies also tend to need to pass urine within about 30 seconds from waking and pass faeces a couple of minutes later. The puppy’s behaviour will also provide some vital cues such as sniffing, circling, whining, disinterest in play or food just beforehand. So using these guidelines and studying the puppy’s behaviour we should be able to gauge when the puppy needs to be taken outside. There are three main methods of housetraining:
1. One-to-one training.
To prevent mistakes you will need to watch your puppy constantly! Never leave unsupervised when awake and try not punish mistakes. As soon as he wakes, or exhibits any of the aforementioned behaviours, take him straight outside. Stay with him outside. When he goes reward him with an extra special treat then go for a walk or play time. The action of going to the toilet is actually self-rewarding so it is the fact that he has gone in the right place that you are rewarding. The reward must be immediate to establish the association.
If your puppy does have an accident in the house ensure it is cleaned thoroughly. Dogs have much more sensitive noses than we do and use of an enzymatic cleaner will remove any residual traces of the smell; significantly reducing the chance that the puppy will think this is a toilet!
This method is only usually successful if you have nothing else to do all day except watch and play with the puppy or if you have a particularly well-adjusted pup! If you have children getting them involved is a great idea, especially if you can set a timer to ensure the pup is taken out regularly.
2. Training Pads.
Confine the pup to a room and cover the floor with training pads or newspaper. Gradually decrease the area covered by the pads until left with just one. When the pup is reliably soiling on the pad take a soiled pad to the area you eventually want the pup to use e.g. grass or concrete. The smell will soak into the new surface and act as an odour cue for the pup. Remember to reward the pup every time it uses the new area. When he is going to the toilet reliably in the correct place the pads can be removed. This method involves training the puppy twice. There is also a danger that the smell will impregnate the underlying surfaces in the house e.g. lino, carpet, which will act as a future cue for the pup.
3. The Puppy Den.
This method involves organising a confined area (a corner of a room, an old playpen or a collapsible dog kennel). Inside your puppy will need a bed, bowls, toys and a ‘litter tray’. Whenever the pup cannot be watched vigilantly he needs to be placed in the den. The best way to ask the pup to go inside is to place his favourite toy or food inside the den with the puppy watching and shut the door with him on the outside. It will be the most desirable place in the world to the pup, so after about 30 secs let him go inside. Always make sure he has a bit of food, or a treat, water, and a toy to play with.
The idea behind the litter tray is to provide an area for the puppy to go to the toilet in case you are unavailable to let him out every hour. In the litter tray should be placed a sample of the surface you eventually wish him to use, e.g. concrete or grass. Ideally the pup should be taken outside every hour or when he wakes and stay with him as described before. If he does not go to the toilet outside it is a good idea to place him back in the den for 30 mins then run him back outside and wait until he goes. This will prevent him from coming in from the garden and peeing on your floor!
THE DEN IS NOT A PUNISHMENT! It should never be used if the puppy has been naughty as a form of isolation. The pup will probably only need to use the den for a couple of weeks until he has learnt the art of where to wee and poo. Often the puppies begin to regard it as a safe haven from noisy adults and relentless children, so it should be perceived as a positive area rather than a prison. It is also ideal for use at night to avoid the problem of each time the pup barks he gets your attention, even at 3am! You know he is safe and has everything he needs so the barking can be ignored. The pup should also not be left in the den for extensive periods of time.
House-training can be a stressful time at the start of your relationship with your new puppy. These months are great fun and should be enjoyed by all. Continually clearing up puddles and piles can so easily be avoided.