Your home has just been blessed with a new puppy who arrived cuddly, warm, and ready to be loved. Unfortunately, she did not arrive housetrained.
Housetraining your new puppy can be easy and successful if you dedicate the necessary time and patience. A simple housetraining plan includes using rewards to teach your puppy where to eliminate, constant supervision, and preventive confinement when you are not able to supervise. With these elements, most pups can be trained in a relatively short period of time.
If you want your puppy to eliminate outside, it’s helpful to know what events might stimulate elimination. These include eating, drinking, playing, and waking from naps. If you watch your puppy carefully, especially after these activities, you will soon be able to notice signs that she needs to eliminate.
The first and most important step is to teach your puppy where you want her to eliminate. To accomplish this, you must accompany her every time she goes outdoors. Choose a specific location with easy access. The area will soon become a familiar spot as the pup recognizes the odor from previous excursions. Mildly praise any sniffing or other pre-elimination behaviors. When she eliminates, praise her heartily, offer a tasty food reward, or start playing. Rewards help the puppy quickly learn what is expected whenever she goes outside. Many dogs can learn to eliminate on command if you add a unique word or phrase such as “potty time” or “hurry up” just as they begin to eliminate.
As you begin housetraining, try to take your puppy outdoors every one to two hours. As she grows older and gets the hang of things, you can wait gradually longer between outings.
Controlling your puppy’s feeding schedule provides some control over her elimination schedule. Offer food a few times a day at the same times, and make it available for no longer than thirty minutes. Most will eliminate within a predictable time after eating, usually within the first hour. This way, you can plan your schedule so that your puppy eats, eliminates, and plays before you confine her or leave her alone. If your puppy tends to eliminate overnight, you may want to give her her last meal at least three to five hours prior to bedtime.
The most challenging part of the housetraining process is preventing your pup from eliminating indoors. Do not consider your puppy housetrained until she has gone for at least four to eight consecutive weeks without eliminating anywhere in the home. Until she accomplishes this, keep her within eyesight of a family member at all times. A leash is a handy tool to keep your puppy nearby.
When you are unable to provide supervision because you are busy, sleeping, or away from home, confine your pup to a relatively small, safe area. Always take her out to eliminate and make sure that she ahs sufficient play and exercise before confinement.
A wire or plastic crate provides an excellent area in which to confine your puppy when you cannot observe her. Most puppies will quickly adapt to the crate. Be sure to associate good things with the area, rather than using it for punishment. Feeding in the crate, tossing toys inside for the pup to chase, and hiding treats in there should all encourage your puppy to look forward to being in the crate. Do not use the crate for longer than your puppy can physically control elimination, or for more than four hours during the day on a daily basis.
If your puppy will be home for longer periods, you should arrange to have someone walk her every few hours. Alternatively, you will need to confine your puppy to a larger area, such as a small room or exercise pen, with enough space to rest and play and a spot to eliminate if necessary. For easier cleaning, place paper or puppy elimination pads at the sites where she eliminates.
To help prevent your puppy from returning to previously soiled areas, remove urine and fecal odor with an effective commercial product. Saturate the areas—spraying the surface is seldom sufficient. If your puppy begins eliminating in areas of the home, prevent access to these areas by closing doors to the rooms, using baby gates, or moving furniture over the soiled areas. Motion-activated sprays or alarms can teach your puppy to avoid an area. Since most dogs avoid eliminating in areas where they eat or play, placing food, water bowls, bedding or toys at the pots where the puppy soils may discourage elimination in these areas.
No puppy has ever been housetrained without making a mistake or two. Be prepared for the inevitable. It does not help to become frustrated and harshly discipline your puppy. Punishment is the least effective and most overused approach to housetraining. Your goal is to teach your puppy where to eliminate, since trying to punish a puppy for every place she might soil is a fruitless task. The only time that it makes any sense to try to stop undesirable soiling is when you see it occurring. A quick stomp of the foot, loud clap, tug on the leash, or abrupt “no” should be all that is necessary to stop the behavior. Immediately take your pup outdoors to finish. A correction that occurs after your puppy has finished eliminating is useless because she will not understand why she is being corrected. If the punishment is too harsh, she may learn not to eliminate in front of you, even outdoors, and you run the risk of ruining the bond with your puppy. Under no circumstance should you rub her nose in a mess. She will learn absolutely nothing from this, except to be afraid of you.
Some pets will squat and urinate as they greet family members. Never scold them. This problem is due to either nervousness or excitement, and scolding will make the problem worse. Avoid any type of greeting that triggers this behavior. The problem should eventually improve if you ignore your puppy during greeting until she is calm, or teach her to sit calmly for a treat.
With a little patience and a consistent approach, your puppy will be as housetrained as the rest of your family.
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