House Training Your Puppy - Bedford Highway Veterinary Hospital - Bedford, NS

Bedford Highway Veterinary Hospital

936 Bedford Highway
Bedford, NS B4A 3P1


How do I house train my new puppy?

There are four important rules when house breaking a dog:

1. Take the puppy out as often as possible, and always always always give a BIG reward when he or she urinates or defecates outside. Any treats, running, ball-playing, or walks should happen AFTER the act. That way, the puppy will soon learn to urinate and defecate quickly so that the fun can begin! Many owners make the mistake of taking the puppy inside as soon as he/she has "done his/her business". If your puppy wants to stay outside and play, this actually constitutes a punishment!

2. Always watch the puppy inside and try to catch the puppy whenever he or she begins to make a mistake. If you cannot watch the puppy, put him or her in their crate.

3. If you catch the puppy in the middle of a mistake, startle it by making a loud noise. If the puppy stops what he or she was doing, pick him or her up and go outside. Reward the puppy for finishing up outside.

4. Never punish a mistake after it has been made. Dogs associate punishment/reward with their current behaviour. So if the puppy urinates, takes three steps, and sneezes before you punish him/her, he/she will think the punishment is for sneezing! If you discover a puddle on the floor, and your puppy is prancing around innocently, get a rolled up newspaper and hit yourself over the head with it, repeating: "I will watch the puppy more closely!"

What is crate training?

Crate training is generally considered to be the most effective way to house train your new puppy. Dogs have a natural inhibition against urinating or defecating in their beds, so confining your puppy to its bed when you cannot watch it is a good way of preventing accidents. By providing a crate, you not only provide a place where your puppy can be kept out of trouble, but also a comfortable den where he/she can go for comfort and privacy.

Isn't it cruel to lock the puppy up?

Not at all. If the crate is made to be a comfortable, happy place, your puppy will learn to tolerate it. Your puppy's crate should never be a place of punishment. It should be associated with good things, like nap time and meals. Feed your puppy his or her meals in the crate, and lock him or her there over night so he/she gets used to sleeping there. Putting your puppy in a crate when you cannot watch him/her is like putting a toddler in a playpen. It not only keeps your puppy from urinating on your rug or chewing your good shoes, but it will also keep him/her out of danger when you are not there to supervise. Like babies, puppies can get into a lot of trouble when left on their own. They can swallow small objects and choke, chew on electrical cords, or knock things over. Finally, by keeping your puppy out of trouble when you are not there to catch him/her in the act, you can prevent a lot of bad habits like chewing on the rug or stealing food off of the coffee table. This way, when your puppy does try these things (and they all do!) you will be watching and able to scold him/her.

Start your puppy off with the crate gradually. Try tossing treats into it, and keep your puppy's toys and bones in there. Feed meals inside it. Provide lots of comfortable bedding. Say "go to bed" it whenever the puppy goes in the crate, and praise the puppy for going in. If your puppy goes in on his/her own you should make a big happy fuss.

My puppy cries when I lock him in his crate. What should I do?

Your puppy will always prefer to be out with you than locked up alone. Just as a small child will throw a tantrum, puppies will also throw tantrums when put in their crate. This does not mean that the puppy is being traumatised in any way. The way to deal with it is very similar to the way one deals with a toddler who is throwing a tantrum - ignore it. When the puppy quiets down (even if it's only for a few moments!) praise him or her. If he/she goes back to crying, go back to ignoring it. Only ever let the puppy out of the crate when he/she is being good. Your puppy will soon learn that making noise is useless, and that being quiet leads to him/her being released sooner.

Lock your puppy in his/her bed every night. If you are worried about him/her being lonely, you can keep the crate by your bed so he/she can hear you nearby. He will adjust very quickly to sleeping there at night, especially if you ignore the initial fussing. If he/she starts fussing early in the morning, it is probably because your puppy needs to go outside!

How often should I take my puppy out?

At first, you should take your puppy outside as often as possible. When you are able, try to take your puppy out after he/she wakes up from a nap, after he/she finishes a meal, or after a good play session. Take your puppy to the same place each time, and give a big reward every time he/she urinates or defecates in that spot.

Generally, the rule is that a puppy can hold his/her bladder for a number of hours equal to his/her age in months plus one. Therefore a two month old puppy should not be expected to last more than three hours, while a four month old puppy can usually hold it for five hours. Expect to get up in the middle of the night sometimes for the first few weeks you have your puppy! Most adult dogs can last for 8-12 hours once properly house broken.

If you work and must leave your puppy home alone for long periods during the day, try to get someone to stop in a couple of times a day to take the puppy out of his/her crate and take him/her outside. There are many pet sitting service available who will perform this duty for a fee. If you have a friendly neighbour or friend who is home during the day, ask them if they would mind letting your puppy out a couple of times during the day. If your puppy is left alone for 8 hours at a time, mistakes are inevitable and house training will become much more difficult.