New puppies are definitely bundles of joy, but they can also feel like bundles of chaos at times! The key to raising a well rounded dog is management of the puppy and the puppy’s environment. Puppies don’t make mistakes, we allow them to make mistakes. It is our responsibility alone to set them up for success and encourage the behaviors that we want from them. Puppies and dogs absolutely thrive on clear and consistent structure and communication. The time you put in when your dog is a youngster will pay dividends down the road, turning your little fluff ball into a steady, mature companion that complements your life, rather than complicating it. This series of blog posts will explore how we apply these principles to house training, polite greetings, socialization, and more.
House training will be the first lesson in managing your puppy. The key to having a minimal amount of accidents during the housebreaking process is to make sure you’re not allowing the puppy to leave your sight. If you can’t supervise him, contain him somewhere safe that he is highly unlikely to soil, such as a crate or small exercise pen. If your puppy stays under your supervision, you will catch the “I have to go out” signals he is starting to give you, and you can interrupt him if he starts to use the bathroom in the house.
At first, the signals your puppy will give you when he has to go out will be subtle. Pay attention to things such as sniffing and circling more than usual, especially if he breaks off from playing with you or following you and walks away by himself. This is almost a sure sign that he is going to have an accident! As time passes, he may start to wander over to the door, but still might not actually whine to go out. Make sure you take him out religiously.
Even though it will help avoid accidents if you’re able to read your puppy, don’t necessarily wait for him to tell you. Be preemptive and take your puppy out immediately after he wakes up from a nap, shortly after he eats or drinks, or after he’s been playing for a few minutes. If you feel like you’re taking your puppy out all the time, good! You didn’t think you’d be getting so much exercise with an 8 week old puppy, did you?
Once you get your puppy outside, take him to a designated potty spot. Dogs are naturally clean animals that like to keep their excrement away from where they play, eat, and sleep. Your puppy will become conditioned to going in that specific spot, both encouraging him to potty quickly when you take him there, and giving you the bonus of keeping your yard a little cleaner.
Tell your puppy “go potty” as he sniffs around looking for a spot. Putting elimination on cue is definitely useful if you live in Wisconsin like I do, and you decided it was a good idea to take the dogs out quickly in your t-shirt in below freezing weather. Repetition will allow the puppy to pick up on the sequence.
Once your dog does his business, praise him and have a tasty treat ready. You can take him back inside to continue hanging out, being sure to take him out in another 15-30 minutes. If the puppy does not potty, take him back inside and put him in his crate, trying again in another few minutes.
As your puppy becomes more proficient and learns to control his bladder, you can extend the period of time between times outside. If your puppy ever starts to struggle again, just back off of the expectation a little and take him out more frequently. With some vigilance and discipline, you’ll have a trustworthy clean puppy in no time!