House-training is a defining moment in your relationship with your dog. Since elimination is a way to mark territory, teaching your dog where to eliminate confirms that you are the one in control.
There are three types of house-training. Which you choose depends on your living situation. You can outdoor-train, paper-train-then-outdoor train, or litter-train (small dogs only).
It is easier to train a puppy to eliminate outdoors without the detour of paper-training. However, some apartment dwellers or others in special circumstances may not be able to get outside as often as necessary for outdoor-training a young puppy. In this event, paper-training can be an important intermediate step to full house-training. Litter-training is a viable option for someone with a small dog who has limited access to the outdoors. Look in pet supply stores for dog litter systems for dogs less than 35 pounds.
Whatever type of house-training is right for you and your dog, you will need patience, persistence, and a good training plan. Stick with it. Your puppy wants to please you; as soon as she understands what you want from her, she will try to do it.
Here are the most important elements of successfully training your dog to eliminate outdoors:
- The designated spot. When taking your dog out to eliminate, take him to the same place each time, and say the same thing (pick a command, like "Go potty" or "Do your business").
- Frequency. Take your puppy out to eliminate often. Puppies do not yet have the bladder control older dogs have. As soon as she has eliminated, go back inside and reward your puppy by playing with her (remember, attention from you is the best reward).
- Regular schedule. A regular feeding, drinking, and elimination schedule is crucial to efficient house-training. Feeding times should be consistent and will set the agenda for your schedule. About 15 to 20 minutes after a meal, take your dog outside to his elimination spot. Remove water a couple of hours before your dog's bedtime to reduce the need for late-night walks.
- Confinement. Restrict your puppy to a fenced-off area of your home, like the kitchen, where you can watch him closely. Keeping your puppy confined to a relatively small area also discourages soiling; being den animals, dogs do not like to soil their playing and sleeping areas. (See the next page, "Crate Training.")
- Observation. The more time you spend with your puppy, the easier it will be to recognize the signs of a need to eliminate. Your puppy may head for a certain corner or go toward the door, for example. Once you know the signs, you can react quickly and take your dog out immediately.
- Leashing. Always put a leash on your puppy when going outside to eliminate. A leash allows you to direct your dog to her elimination spot and to see that your dog has eliminated.
- Praise. Make praise your dog's favorite reward. Lavish praise on your puppy every time he relieves himself outdoors, particularly in the designated elimination spot.
- Accidents. Accidents are inevitable and part of the learning process. When your puppy has a lapse in judgment, hold her collar, say "No!" firmly and immediately take her to the elimination spot. Do not yell at, hit, or punish your puppy for her mistakes.
If you need to take the interim step of paper-training your puppy, follow these easy guidelines. Keep in mind that the less opportunity a puppy is given to eliminate indoors, the quicker he will be trained to eliminate outdoors.
- Confine your dog to a fenced-off area, like the kitchen, and cover the entire floor with several layers of newspaper.
- As your puppy soils the paper, remove and replace the soiled paper.
- In a few days, leave a corner of the room uncovered. If you observe your puppy eliminating in the uncovered area, hold onto his collar, say "No!" firmly and place him in the covered area.
- When you are ready to house-train outdoors, start at the beginning of that training process. Some people will bring a newspaper outside for a time or two, to help the puppy grasp what you want her to do.
- As soon as your puppy appears to understand what is expected of her outdoors, remove all the papers. While making the transition from paper to outdoor-training, watch your dog carefully and respond promptly at the first indication of need. And never, ever leave newspapers on the floor of your house again.
Continued on page 3: Crate Training