Frequently, a puppy becomes a member of a family that is unaccustomed to the behavior of a canine youngster. A pup might be the first pet in a home, the companion for a geriatric dog, or a replacement to fill the spot vacated by a deceased pet. The introduction of a puppy into a home can create chaos or, with proper training of the animal, result in a loving human-animal bond.
Of a puppy’s myriad lessons, acquisition of acceptable toilet habits is a priority. The number one rule to remember during a dog’s adolescence is that accidents will happen despite the most conscientious efforts of the owner. These incidents are not purposeful attempts by the pet to get even with the owner. Instead, they represent a skill not mastered or, often, unreasonable expectations from the owner. Areas such as carpeting must, from the beginning, be delineated as off limits.
Patience and consistency are essential! It is a common mistake to take the puppy out for a few minutes, returning to the house when the puppy is ready to defecate. This happens most often during inclement weather, when neither the owner nor puppy wants to stay outside.
Housetraining should begin when the puppy is between 8 and 16 weeks old and capable of learning short lessons. Normally, the older the puppy, the easier to housetrain. At this time, the young dog also learns to use a canine group elimination area. Simplified housetraining involves adherence to a schedule, a confined bedding area, and lavish amounts of verbal reward and love.
There are four times a puppy typically eliminates:
Strict schedules and a regular routine of resting, eating and playing regulate the elimination process. When family members pursue random activities, the puppy’s schedule, including the need to eliminate, varies also. In households where the puppy is left alone for eight to ten hours at a time, the pet tends to sleep most of the day and will be very active in the evening. Occasionally accidents will happen because, at this age, the puppy’s bladder simply does not have the required capacity.
When alone, the young dog should be confined in a small area about the size of a bathroom or utility room. A space this size is large enough for a food and water bowl and a clearly defined bedding area, yet limits the amount of space in which accidents can happen. Dogs prefer NOT to soil their bedding area. They tend to retain urine and feces until they have access to an acceptable location for elimination.
Puppies confined in small areas, such as crates, can learn to disregard cleanliness standards of the bedding area if they are not allowed to go outside at appropriate times. Crates are only useful for short periods of time and overnight. On the other hand, puppies given the run of the house have a hard time associating the entire area as off limits.
Dogs learn to prefer one surface for elimination, to the exclusion of all others. Newspapers, grass, concrete, or asphalt commonly becomes the chosen surface, at the prompting of the owner. This preference can create a problem for dogs adjusting to new environments, i.e., during hospitalization, boarding or traveling. When dogs raised outside are allowed into the house, shag carpeting often serves as the surface most closely resembling grass.
Praise is a strong motivator to reinforce the learning process in a dog. Remember the effectiveness memory span for a puppy is no longer than 30 seconds, so praise is best given while the puppy is eliminating. The word no serves as sufficient negative response to accidents and should be followed by praise when the puppy completes the elimination process in the designated area.
Under NO circumstances spank the puppy for an accident, or rub the puppy’s nose in the elimination. This will NOT help in the housetraining process, it will only cause the puppy to become afraid of you. If the puppy is not caught in the act of an elimination, do NOT discipline the puppy for it , i.e., upon entering the kitchen an elimination is seen across the room, but the puppy is at your feet – remember the puppy’s memory span of 30 seconds.
Despite tenacious efforts by the owner, certain dogs do not seem to learn housetraining. Housebreaking becomes a simple procedure when the owner is properly informed about the importance of maintaining a schedule, confining the puppy properly, and praising the animal for appropriate behavior.