If you have a puppy or dog selected, or are thinking about getting a canine companion, this show will help you prepare for your new dog.
This episode of The Woof Meow Show from March 11th, 2017, and part 1 of this show, which aired on March 4th, are companion shows to our January 14th and 21st shows entitled Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family. Kate and Don discuss what you need to be thinking about before you bring your new friend home.
In this episode we focus on the most critical puppy behaviors; housetraining, jumping up, play biting, and chewing. These four issues, plus socialization and habituation, which we covered in last weeks, show, are far more important than teaching your puppy to sit or shake. Start working on all of these issues with a qualified professional dog trainer from day one. <How to choose a dog trainer>.
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.
Dogs are den animals and often find security and comfort in a den-like space such as a crate, under a table, or in some other small, confining area. In order for a crate to offer your dog security, it must be “den like.” Crates often work best when they are not a wire cage, but are one of the airline style crates that are plastic or fiberglass, and are enclosed on all sides except for a door at the front. In the wild, a den would typically be enclosed on all sides except for an entrance.
If you have a wire crate, you can convert it into a den by placing a board on top of it to make it more den-like. Make sure the board extends a couple of inches beyond both sides of the crate so you can hang a blanket over the board to close in the sides. You do not want the dog to be able to pull the blanket into the crate. Many wire crates have a pan at the bottom which can make noise and move around unexpectedly, which some dogs may find unsettling. You may wish to remove the pan or place an old towel or blanket over the tray, but make sure that your dog will not rip it apart and ingest it.
A crate should be large enough for your dog to sit up, lie down and turn around comfortably. However, if still housetraining, the dog should NOT have enough room to sleep in one corner and eliminate in another part of the crate.
Some beds are specifically made for dog crates, but I do not recommend them for dogs with anxiety issues, as they will often chew and possibly ingest items like this when left in the crate. Until you know your dog will do well in the crate, and is housetrained, I would recommend you do NOT use any bedding material.
Place the crate in an area that is quiet, but where your dog can still see and hear you. Remember, dogs are social animals and want to be with the rest of the family. They do not like feeling isolated. Putting the crate in your bedroom at night will help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog by allowing him to sleep near you.
Do not to abuse the use of the crate. We want the dog to like the crate so NEVER use it for punishment. If your dog spends a significant amount of time in a crate, it will also need a significant amount of time to exercise and play.
If Your Dog Is Already Acting Negatively Towards the Crate
Some dogs have already had a bad experience in a crate and will panic if you try to put them in a crate. In this case, we need to go slower and start with something crate-like, but different. What I am going to suggest will NOT confine the dog, thus, active management is mandatory, but will hopefully allow them to acclimate gradually to a crate-like environment.
Find a small table, a card table can work nicely for most size dogs, and start practicing the following exercises:
Toss a treat or a favorite toy under the table, so your dog goes underneath to investigate. Do this a couple of times a day for several days.
Start feeding your dog his meals under the table. Place the dish right up near the front of the table so the dog barely has to put his head in, to eat. Over several meals, as the dog becomes more comfortable, start putting the dish further back under the table.
Once the dog is happily eating and spending time under the table, get an old blanket or some pieces of cardboard and cover two sides of the table so that it is now semi-enclosed. The front and back should still be open. Continue the exercises above with this newly configured table, recognizing that you may need to start slowly to get your dog comfortable.
When the dog is happily spending time under the table with two sides enclosed, enclose the back of the table and continue the exercises you started above. After the dog is comfortable in this setting, try introducing a crate as noted below.
Introducing the dog to the crate
Remove the door to the crate and let your dog explore it. Toss in a treat or a favorite toy so he goes in to investigate. Do this a couple of times a day for several days.
Start feeding your dog his meals in the crate. Place the dish right up near the front of the crate so the dog barely has to put his head in, in order to eat. Over several meals, as the dog becomes more comfortable, start putting the dish further back in the crate.
At the same time, you start feeding your dog his meals in the crate, you can also begin some other crate exercises to practice during the day. Have your dog go into the crate and feed him a high-value reward (cheese, a piece of chicken, something really good) through the door of the crate. While doing this, he is learning he gets the best rewards while in his crate. To keep these rewards high value, he should only get this treat for this particular exercise.
When your dog is comfortable going all the way into the crate to eat his meal, put the door back on and quietly close the door behind them, but do NOT latch it. Let him come out when he wishes.
Pick a word such as “kennel” and use it immediately before you put the dog in its crate for eating. When the dog is comfortable with the door closed, start latching it, but stay close.
When the dog is comfortable staying in the crate eating with the door latched, start leaving them in the crate for longer periods after they finish eating.
When you can keep the door latched for 5 minutes after the dog has stopped eating, start leaving the room. Be out of site but close by so you can hear your dog if they become anxious. Return after 5 minutes as long as the dog has not become anxious, and let the dog out of the crate. Do not make a big deal out of letting him out. Continue this until you can stay out of site, with the dog in the crate for at least 15 minutes. What we hope will happen is that the dog will eventually lie down and settle in the crate.
Start using the word “kennel” to put your dog in the crate for short periods other than at mealtime. Give them a sturdy toy like a stuffed Kong or Nylabone to interact with while in their crate. The first time you do this, just step out of site for 5 minutes or less. If the dog does not panic or become anxious, continue to gradually, in baby steps, increase their amount of time in the crate with you out of site.
When you can leave the dog in the crate for at least 30 minutes, with you just out of site, try leaving the dog in the crate, and leaving the house. Come back in the house after a couple of minutes, listen, and see if the dog is still calm. If so, just stay out of site and continue to work on increasing the amount of time left in the crate. Gradually, increase the time you are outside until you can leave the dog for 30 minutes with you outside.
When you can leave the dog in the crate for at least 30 minutes, with you outside, leave the dog in the crate, leave the house, get in the car, start it and drive at least 100 feet away. Turn off the car, walk back to the house and see if the dog is still relaxed. Gradually, increase the time you can leave the dog for in the crate with you driving away until the dog can be left for 3 to 4 hours. Remember, if you want to be successful, you need to go in baby steps. For some dogs, this might mean increasing the amount of time you leave them by just 1 or 2 minutes per session.
(If reading is not your thing – checkout our podcast on housetraining below)
Training your puppy or dog not to urinate or defecate in your house should begin as soon as you bring them into your home.
The same process used to housetrain a puppy can also be used with an older dog that is not housetrained or that develops housetraining issues. If you have an older dog that you thought was previously housetrained but is now having issues, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your veterinarian. It is highly likely that your dog’s housetraining problem is not behavioral, but medical in nature.
With young puppies, a major factor in housetraining will be the size of their growing bladder and their control over it. A puppy that is under 10 weeks of age may need to go out every hour during the day and possibly once or twice every night. This is not necessarily a matter of training, but one of bladder control. By 12 weeks a puppy should be able to go up to 2 to 3 hours during the day without urinating and can usually make it through the night. When a puppy is 16 to 20 weeks of age, it should only need to go out every 4 to 6 hours during the day. Many adult dogs can eventually go up to 8 hours during the day before they require a potty break.
The first step in housetraining your puppy will be to get a crate. We recommend a fiberglass/plastic “airline” type crate. These crates are enclosed on all sides and provide a den-like atmosphere for your dog. If you prefer a wire crate, drape a cloth over the sides to make it more like a den, but be sure that the puppy cannot pull the cloth into the crate through the wires. You can achieve this by placing a board that extends out on all sides over the top of the crate, and then draping the cloth over the board so that it hangs at least a few inches away from the wires.
A crate should be large enough for your dog to sit up, lie down and turn around comfortably. However, the dog should not have enough room to sleep in one corner and urinate or defecate in the other. Usually it is most economical to purchase the size crate that will fit your puppy as an adult. For the time being you can place an old milk crate or some other non-edible object in the back of the crate to take up some space or else you can invest in a crate divider sold specifically for this purpose
There are beds specially made for dog crates, but we do not recommend them for young puppies. An old blanket or some towels will do just fine, providing the puppy does not tear and consume them. A couple of good chew toys will occupy a young dog’s time in the crate. While you are housetraining your dog, you should not offer water in the crate, but do make sure it is available at all other times.
Generally the crate should be placed in an area that is quiet, but where your dog can still see and hear you. Remember, dogs are social animals and want to be with the rest of the family; they do not like feeling isolated. Putting the crate in your bedroom at night will help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog by allowing him to sleep near you. You may have a couple of sleepless nights initially, but it is worth it in the end. Having the dog near you while you sleep will also aid you in hearing the puppy when he needs to eliminate during the night.
It is very important not to abuse the crate. We want the dog to like the crate so it should never be used for punishment. If your dog spends a significant amount of time in a crate it will also need a significant amount of time to exercise and play.
Introducing the dog to the crate
Open the door to the crate and let your dog explore it. Toss in a treat or a favorite toy so he goes in to investigate. Feed your dog meals in the crate to further create a positive association.
Pick a word such as “kennel,” toss a treat in and shut the door after the puppy enters. Now pass a treat through the gate and then let your puppy out. Repeat this several times, increasing the length of time your puppy is in the crate.
Say “kennel,” wait for your puppy to enter and then shut the door and pass them a treat. Leave the room for one minute and then return to let the puppy out. Never make a big deal of crating your dog or letting him out. If you act as though it is nothing your dog will accept the idea much more quickly. Also, remember to not reward your dog as you let him or her out of the crate. Exiting the crate should be a non-event.
Allow your dog to become used to the crate. Start with a couple of minutes and then increase the time from there.
If your dog is barking, ignore him. Otherwise he will learn that barking results in your attention, which is what he wants. However, if he whines in the middle of the night, he may have to go outside. In this case take him out immediately and then put him back in the crate for the remainder of the night.
The happier you are with the crate, the happier your dog will be. You will be amazed at how rapidly dogs come to like their new home.
If you are having difficulty teaching your dog or puppy to accept its crate, please talk to us. There are many little tips and tricks that can help.
Diet and Housetraining
Your puppy’s diet will have a large impact on housetraining. The quality of what goes in will greatly determine the quantity of what comes out. The frequency of feeding will also have an effect on how often your dog needs to eliminate. By feeding at set intervals you will make bowel movements much more predictable. I recommend you feed a puppy 3 times a day. Set the food down for 15 minutes and if the puppy walks away from anything that is left, pick it up and put it away until the next meal.
The Housetraining Process
Until such time that your dog has been housetrained (roughly 6 weeks without an accident), they should always be in a crate, on a leash attached to you, or under constant supervision. You must not take your eye off the puppy if you want to prevent accidents. This means that if a responsible adult is not devoting all of their attention to the puppy, then the puppy should be in its crate.
It is essential that you minimize the number of accidents an animal has inside; your goal should be none. Every accident the puppy has provides positive reinforcement, in the form of relief, for eliminating inside. Positive reinforcement causes behaviors to be repeated, something we do not want in this circumstance.
You should take your puppy out to eliminate whenever:
They finish a meal or snack.
They awake from sleeping.
They come out of the crate, whether they have been sleeping or not.
Immediately before and after play sessions.
Any time the dog’s behavior suggests they may need to go out (circling, sniffing, walking away and sitting by a door).
When taking your puppy or dog out to eliminate, follow these steps:
Put your dog on a leash, 6ft in length or less, so you have control over them outside. You need to stay out with them, so dress appropriately.
Always go out the same door. This will help them to identify why they are going out.
Go directly to the area in your yard you have selected as the bathroom area. This area should be fairly close to the door so you can get there in a hurry when necessary. Dogs tend to favor porous surfaces so they will generally prefer to eliminate on a grassy area. After your puppy defecates here the first time, leave some stool for the first few days to serve as a marker that this is the place to go.
Remain standing in one place. When the dog starts to eliminate quietly say “good,” remain silent and allow them to finish. Give them a treat and lots of praise immediately after they have finished. This treat needs to be delivered within 1-2 seconds of the dog completing the behavior if it is to be associated with the behavior. If you wait to give the puppy the treat until after you get back inside, you are NOT rewarding for the bathroom behavior but for coming inside. This may create a puppy that is in a hurry to get inside and thus does not finish going to the bathroom outside but does so inside. After your puppy is finished eliminating, then it is time for play or a walk.
After your dog is eliminating in the same spot you can start to add a verbal cue. When your dog starts to eliminate, repeat the word you want to use for elimination (“Do your business,” “Go potty,” etc.). Always use the same phrase as we eventually will use this to get our dog to eliminate on cue.
Give your dog up to 10 minutes to eliminate. If a puppy, wait an additional 2 minutes after they have eliminated just in case they have not finished. If they eliminate again, reward them with another treat.
If your dog does not eliminate after 10 minutes go directly back inside with no play, walk or treat. Remembering that you have a “loaded” puppy, either put them in their crate or keep them attached to you by a leash. If your puppy starts to whine in the crate or shows any pre-elimination behaviors immediately take him outside.
Once your puppy is going reliably in his special place you should start training them to go on cue in other places. If you stay at Grandma’s be prepared for the possibility of an accident. You need to watch your puppy closely in new situations and may need to do some remedial training.
When Accidents Happen
No matter how good you and your puppy are, the odds are there will be some accidents in the house. If the puppy starts to eliminate inside, say “Out!” sharply. This should get their attention and cause them to momentarily stop. Quickly scoop them up or leash them and take them outside, following the steps above.
If an accident occurs in the house and you did not actually catch the puppy at the instant it was eliminating, just quietly put him in the crate while you clean up the mess. If you punish the dog after the fact it will not understand why it is being punished. If you think your dog “looks guilty” and knows it has done something wrong, your dog is picking up on your negative body language. He senses you are upset but does not understand why.
Be careful about reprimanding your puppy even if you catch them in the act. Rather than associating your punishment with going inside they may associate it with eliminating in front of you which can make housetraining even more difficult.
When your dog has an accident inside it is imperative you clean it thoroughly. Any residual feces or urine may trigger the puppy to eliminate in that specific location again. We recommend that you use an enzymatic based cleaning product such as such as Urine Off or Nature’s Miracle. These products contain enzymes which break down the urine that “mark” a spot as an appropriate bathroom area. Many household cleaners only cover the smell left behind and do not breakdown the urine. Do NOT use ammonia-based cleaners, as to many dogs these may actually smell like urine.
Things You Do Not Want to Do
Walking to Eliminate
Taking your dog for a walk to eliminate may actually make housetraining more difficult. Most dogs enjoy walks and if they learn that the walk ends when they go to the bathroom (essentially punishing them), they may delay eliminating in order to extend the walk. It is easier to teach that eliminating quickly at home results in a fun walk.
Paper or Pee Pad Training
Training your dog to go inside on newspapers or pee pads will make the entire housetraining process more difficult and lengthy. Every time a dog goes inside on a newspaper or pee pad, he is learning and being positively reinforced for going inside. Training him to only go outside after this has been allowed is extremely challenging so avoid this if possible.
That being said, at times you may find this necessary, particularly with the cold Maine winters and some smaller dog breeds that struggle to maintain warmth outdoors. If you do have to resort to inside toileting, just remember that you have added an extra step and will have to be patient when trying to retrain the puppy to urinate and defecate outside.
submissive urination – don’t punish, ignore until excitement diminishes
Housetraining Issues with Adult Dogs
Upon reaching sexual maturity, many male dogs and some female dogs exhibit marking behavior. They urinate on objects to leave their scent, thus staking out their territory. Remedial housetraining may be necessary in these cases. Early neutering of males, before this behavior develops, may help prevent this behavior from developing. Many veterinarians can neuter and spay puppies as young as 8 weeks of age.
If an adult dog with a good record of housetraining suddenly starts having accidents, take them to your veterinarian. Urinary infections or cystitis can cause a dog to urinate inside. Internal parasites or other illnesses can cause diarrhea or increase the frequency of defecation.