Thursday, February 05, 2009

housetraining a puppy

Lynne sent me a message asking for information about training a puppy. She's having problems with her six month old Yorkie puppy. I sent her an email but I thought I'd post it here too in case anyone else might be interested.

For some reason, it seems like the smaller the dog the more housetraining issues exist. I would definitely recommend confining the puppy when you can't keep an eye on him, either in a crate or in a small area like a bathroom. Dogs don't like to mess in their sleeping areas so most will try to avoid an accident in their crate. My dogs love their crates and will often crawl into them during the day for a nap or a quiet time. I crate them in my bedroom at night so that I can hear if they need to go outside in the night. I don't usually need to take them out in the night when they're adults but puppies and geriatrics sometimes need to go.
I really believe that it's best to train a puppy by going with him outside whether it's snowing or the middle of the night. It's worth doing in the long run. Praise him like crazy. The neighbors will think you're nuts but it works. Some people use food rewards but I just make a big fuss over successes and it works fine. You can also use a word to label the action. That way you can put the action on cue. This comes in very handy when away from home. My dogs will eliminate on cue when we travel to dog shows. I astounded some people at one show - it was pouring rain and I had my sheltie groomed for the ring when I realized that he needed to go out before being shown. There were people smoking under an umbrella just outside the door of the building when I carried my dog outside. I set him down beside a weed in a tiny dry area of gravel under the building's eaves and told him to piddle. The people started laughing and said that he wasn't going to pee just because I told him to - then he did and they were amazed. I picked up my dog and carried him back into the building and he didn't get muddy at all.
I don't recommend using piddle pads or other means of teaching a dog to eliminate in the house. I did it once and will never do it again. That dog was never fully housetrained because she made the connection that it was okay to pee in the house. If you go outside with the puppy, it only takes a few minutes so the cold weather isn't a problem. Dog coats can be used in extreme weather if necessary.
If you have to leave the puppy for longer than it's reasonable to expect them to hold it, a small room or x-pen (like a metal playpen) can be used with bedding or a crate (without the door) on one side and newspapers at the other. At six months, your puppy should be fine for 4-5 hours as long as he has voided before you go out. If that doesn't seem possible, I would recommend a visit with the vet to rule out physical problems that could be interfering with the training. Females have more urinary tract problems than males, just like in humans.
Be aware of the times when the puppy needs to pee. These include just after waking up, after eating, and after a good play. If you notice the dog sniffing, scoop him up and take him outside. I also recommend set meal times for the dog. I feed my dogs twice a day. With a puppy, I feed three times a day. Free feeding makes housetraining really difficult. If your dog is used to having food down all the time, you can retrain him. Set the food down for ten minutes and pick up what wasn't eaten in that time. He'll figure it out before he starves to death.
I don't wait for the dog to ask to go out but just take them all out regularly. Some will develop ways to ask to go out and that's fine but I don't rely on it. I once tried to use a bell attached to a rope near the door to teach the dog to ask by bumping it with his nose. The dog figured it out really fast. I thought it was working really well until the third or fourth time he did it. I came running to take him out and he thought it was a great game as he walked away. Apparently he was delighted that he could get my attention any time he wanted and was doing it just for kicks. He was smarter than me, obviously. I put the bell away.
If your male puppy is lifting his leg in the house, you might not have a housetraining issue. He could be marking his territory. This isn't usually a problem if the puppy is neutered before 7 or 8 months of age. It is an issue with a couple of my dogs. Show dogs must be intact so my dogs don't get neutered until their show career is over. That can go on for a few years so hormones are involved and marking happens. This issue is breed-specific to some extent. My shelties are rarely a problem but the Bichon and Dachshund are spritzers and they can be sneaky about it. So they wear belly bands in the house. It just makes my life easier and keeps the carpets cleaner. You can see examples of belly bands on this Etsy site. I have ordered several from Patrice and they are beautifully sewn and affordable. I could sew them myself but haven't bothered. I put a sanitary pad in them so it's like having a kid in diapers but much easier than being stressed out about accidents in the house all the time.
That's all that comes to mind at the moment. If I think of anything else I'll let you know.
Hope that helps!

1 comment:

Aunt Kathy said...

Well if we ever got another puppy I will be back to read this again.