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Housetraining Puppies

I often tell my clients that housetraining a puppy is not much different than potty training an infant. As a father of 4 and a pet owner of over 60 pets, I am very qualified to speak on both subjects. I am a very ardent proponent of positive reinforcement and reward motivation. My dear wife Carolynn, got our kids out of diapers with MM’s as a positive reinforcement tool. If the kids went potty in the little potty, they received 2 MM’s, if they went potty in the big potty, they received 4 MM’s because Mommy and Daddy didn’t have to clean up the little potty. This technique worked like a charm. I can remember with a touch of nostalgia, having to excuse myself from a client in a room to field a phone call from an excited child telling me of their accomplishment. We all like to receive “Atta boys or girls” even as adults, puppies are no different.

The first step in potty training a puppy is to establish a set feeding pattern. Puppies poop after naps, meals, and bedtime, so a puppy that is allowed to free feed throughout the day will have to potty all day long. It will be next to impossible to train. I recommend that puppies be fed twice a day, and be allowed to free feed for a half hour. Do not limit the amount being fed, but do limit the time they have to consume it. If the puppy eats it all in 5 minutes and wants more, give it more. If they look at the food and make a face and walk away, the clock is ticking. The food will be picked up after a half hour. They will quickly learn that the food will be there for a limited amount of time and potty schedules can be established. My father raised us kids with the saying “This is not a restaurant. You will what’s put in front of you when it’s put in front of you.” The same can be applied to our dogs.

When a puppy has an accident, DO NOT stick their noses in it or spank them. No one would argue the fact that you do not haul off and smack an infant for soiling their diaper, the same principle with puppies. Take them to the spot and say No in a firm voice. Pick up the feces or urine-soaked paper towel, take the puppy and the mess outside and place it on the ground and act as if the puppy had just relieved itself on the grass. Make a big deal and give them a favorite treat (not MM’s, LOL) I am a big proponent of food rewards as most animals are food motivated, like yours truly.

I do not recommend crate training until a puppy has reached at least 12 weeks of age, because their sphincter muscles are not strong enough to hold urine or feces for more than 2 hours. The point of crate training is most dogs will not soil an area that they have to sleep in. If they cannot hold it and soil their cage, it will ruin that concept and make potty training that much more difficult.
The most important tenet of housetraining a puppy is patience. Remember to take a deep breath and follow the above suggestions when confronted with a puppy “accident”. Good luck!

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