Monday, March 18, 2019

How to Housetrain Your Puppy

Golden retriever puppy sitting by bed, side view

Housetraining is one of the first things you will teach your new puppy. This should be started as soon as you take your dog home, but it takes patience. In general, puppies are unable to control their bladders and bowels until 12 weeks of age. If your puppy is younger than that, extra patience is required.
A few key things to remember when housetraining a puppy.
  • Praise the dog when it behaves.
  • Keep a solid routine.
  • Never punish the dog physically for an accident.
  • Do not correct the dog unless you catch it in the act.

Set a Schedule

Consistency is the best way to teach your puppy housetraining. Try to get up at the same time each morning, and take your puppy outside right away. Feed your puppy at the same times each day and take it outside immediately after eating. As your dog gets older you may even be able to anticipate when it will need to go based on when it was last fed, provided you stick to the feeding schedule.

Watch for Signs

If you see your puppy sniffing, circling, and pacing, it is probably time to go, so take it outside immediately. If you catch it in the middle of an accident, say “no” firmly and take the dog outside to finish, praising when it does.
Never punish a dog by hitting or pushing its nose in the mess. This will only teach the animal to fear you.
If you find an accident in the house, but do not catch the puppy in the act, do not bother punishing it. The dog will not associate the punishment with the action and will only become confused.

Choose a Keyword

Using a phrase like "outside" or "do your business" consistently will help your dog learn it as a command. Always bring your puppy to the same area outside while housetraining. The odors in this area will encourage it to urinate and defecate here again. When the dog does its business, be sure to offer praise.

Use a Crate

When you are away from home, your puppy should stay in a crate or kennel. You may buy a larger crate for your puppy to grow into, but place a divider in it so that it is only large enough for your puppy to turn around and lie down.
Instinctively, your puppy will not want to soil its own area. Be careful not to let your puppy stay in the cage for more than four to six hours, or it may have no choice but to relieve itself. If you are away from the house regularly, as many of us are for work, return home in the middle of each day to let your puppy outside.
Arrange for someone else to let your puppy out if you will be unable to come home.
If you choose not to crate your dog when you are away from the house, set up a room with a non-absorbent floor. Place training pads at one end of the room and the dog's bed and toys at the other. Generally, dogs prefer to urinate on absorbent materials, but they tend to avoid doing so in their own beds. Ideally, the puppy will gravitate toward the training pads. This may take longer than using a crate.

Have Patience

Housetraining may take several months, so don’t give up. Remember that your puppy wants to please you, it just needs to learn how. Be clear with the puppy when you praise or correct its actions. Eventually, you will see results.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

If your puppy does have an "accident" in the house, be sure to use a cleaner that will eliminate the odor entirely. If your dog picks up the scent, it may think the area is OK to use again.
If your dog is going through a stressful time or is ill, it may backtrack on its housetraining and have an occasional accident. This is frustrating, but if you can identify the source of the problem, you should be able to stop the behavior. Dogs whose routines have been disrupted, such as with a new baby in the house, or a move to a new place, often regress slightly.
Accidents in a previously housetrained dog often signal an underlying health problem, such as a urinary tract infection. Take your dog to the vet if this begins happening without an apparent reason.

Socializing Your Puppy for Good Behavior

Owner bringing dog to vet's surgery

Socialization is the first step in raising a well-behaved dog. During the first weeks of their lives, puppies go through a critical period of development. When a puppy is exposed to new people, places, and situations in a positive way during this period, there's a good chance he'll be calm and accepting when he experiences them again later in life.

What Is Socialization?

Socialization is just what it sounds like; it's socializing. Your puppy should meet and interact with as many types of people, animals, and environments as possible. He should experience many sights and sounds and learn that there is nothing to fear. By the time he reaches about 4 months old, your puppy should learn to accept being petted by strangers, meeting other dogs, being handled by a veterinarian or groomer, and meeting a wide variety of people.

When Should Socialization Take Place?

Puppy socialization should take place when your dog is between 8 and 16 weeks old. Because they have not received all of their puppy vaccinations, you should talk to your veterinarian about when it's safe to expose your puppy to new people and places. It's important that your dog does not interact with unknown animals or walk in areas where unknown animals might have been. There are many diseases a puppy can pick up before vaccines are complete.

Why Is Socialization So Important?

Socializing your puppy helps him to become a happy, healthy, and well-behaved member of your family. Properly socialized puppies are less likely to develop behavior problems as they grow into adults. Dogs who don't get early socialization may react with fear or aggression when they are exposed to new things. It is much easier to teach your puppy to accept new things now than it is to retrain him after bad habits develop.

How Should a Puppy Be Socialized?

Socialization should involve as many people and situations as possible. Introduce your puppy to a wide variety of people, including men, women, children of all ages, people in wheelchairs, men with beards, and people wearing all kinds of clothing (e.g., uniforms, sunglasses, raincoats and umbrellas, hats and gloves, etc.). Before your puppy has gotten all of his vaccinations, you can begin to socialize him by inviting people to your home to meet him.
Let your puppy see large objects fall or move. Expose him to noises like trucks and crowds of people. Remain calm and reward him for remaining calm. (However, don't go to extremes and expose him to fear-inducing situations like fireworks.)
Handling exercises are another important part of socializing. Think of the ways your dog may be handled in his lifetime. A child could pull his tail; a veterinarian might need to restrain him, you may need to hold his feet to clip his nails. If you get your puppy used to being handled gently now, you will be less likely to have trouble handling him when he has reached adulthood.
Once your veterinarian approves taking your puppy to new places, you can begin socializing him outside your home. This is a good time to get him used to riding in the car, meeting other dogs, visiting the groomer and pet supply store, and taking walks in your neighborhood.
Socialization should always be kept positive. Allow your puppy to approach new things in his own time. You can use treats and praise to encourage your puppy to approach unfamiliar people and objects. Remember, never push your puppy past his comfort level, or he may become fearful of the things you are trying to get him to accept.

Can a Dog Trainer Help With Socialization?

Puppy training classes are a great way to enhance your puppy's socialization. Dog trainers usually refer to these classes as "Puppy Kindergarten." They should touch on the usual concerns of the new puppy parent, like housetraining and curbing destructive behavior. A good puppy kindergarten will also help your puppy to get comfortable with new people and being handled. Your veterinarian or local animal shelter should be able to help you find a good puppy kindergarten class.

How to Crate Train Your Dog or Puppy

Puppy in crate at a Kennel

Crate training is a method of house training your puppy or dog. The crate is used to keep your dog confined when you are not able to supervise. Since most dogs will not urinate or defecate in the same place they sleep, your dog will most likely try to hold the urge when it is confined to its crate.
When used correctly, a crate prevents the dog from getting in the bad habit of having accidents in your home and gives it a safe space that is akin to a doggie sanctuary.

Choose a Crate

There are several different types of crates to choose from, including a wire cage, a plastic pet carrier, and a soft-sided canvas or nylon crate.
The wire crate is the most commonly used. It allows your dog to see what is going on around it, and many have an extra panel which allows you to make the crate bigger or smaller depending on the size of your dog. This type of crate is collapsible, and it has a sliding tray in the floor which makes it easy to clean.
A plastic pet carrier is also a good option for crate training. This is the kind you most often see used for airline travel. The drawback to this kind of crate is that it is enclosed on three sides, so it does not let in as much light as a wire crate. It is also a little harder to clean.
The soft-sided crates are lightweight, so they are great to carry along when you are traveling with your dog. The problem with the soft-sided crates is that a dog who likes to chew or scratch at the sides will be able to break out. It is not a good choice for young puppies.
Whichever type of crate you choose to use, size is important. The crate should not be too large. You want your dog to have enough room to lie down comfortably and turn around. If the crate is too big, your dog may use one area of the crate to sleep and another spot to eliminate.
Many of the wire crates are sold with a divider. This is perfect if you are crate training a growing puppy. The divider allows you to confine your puppy to a small area of the crate and then make the crate larger as your puppy grows.

Introduce the Crate

Crate training should be kept very positive. Introduce your puppy or adult dog to the crate slowly. Put something soft in the bottom of the crate, along with some of your dog's toys. Throw some treats inside. Let your dog explore the crate at its own pace without forcing it to go inside.
Praise the dog and give it a treat when it goes in on its own. Until it seems comfortable with the crate, keep the door open and let your dog wander in and out as it wishes.

Confine Your Dog in the Crate

Dogs are den animals, and they like having a safe and secure place to call their own. If crate training is done correctly, crates can provide this safe haven, in addition to giving you peace of mind while you are not at home.
Dog owners often report that their dogs continue to seek out their crates long after housetraining has been accomplished. For others, once the dog is able to be left alone for several hours without having an accident or becoming destructive, they stop using the crate and allow their dogs free run of their homes while they are out.
  1. Once your dog is comfortable going in and out of the crate, it is time to start getting it used to confinement.
  2. Throw some treats in the crate, and once your dog is inside, close the door.
  3. Wait a minute or so, and as long as your dog is quiet, let it out of the crate.
  4. Slowly extend the amount of time you leave your dog in the crate while you are at home until it is comfortable being confined in the crate for up to an hour or more.
  5. Once your dog is comfortable with being confined, start getting it used to being left alone while in the crate.
  6. When your dog is calm in the crate, step out of the room for a few minutes and then step back in.
  7. Gradually build up the amount of time you are out of the room until your dog or puppy is comfortable being left alone in the crate for an hour or more.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

Never use your dog's crate to punish it. Your dog should consider its crate a happy, comfortable, and safe place. If you use the crate to punish your dog, chances are it will be fearful and anxious when left in it.
It is also important that you never let your dog out of the crate while it is whining or barking; it should be completely calm before you release it. Opening the crate while it is barking or whining teaches that if the dog makes enough noise, it will be let out. Making this mistake can lead to many sleepless nights as you wait for your puppy to settle down.
Finally, never leave your dog crated for longer than it is physically able to hold its bladder or bowels. Puppies can usually hold it for no more than three to four hours. An adult dog who has never been housetrained should also not be left for longer than three to four hours. Older dogs may be able to hold it a little longer.
Dogs should not be left crated for more than this length of time without being taken out for exercise, playtime, and time to cuddle with you.