Training your puppy
If you are reading our final installment on house training, that means that you either have or you are considering making an adorable addition to your family—a brand-new puppy. First off, congratulations! Puppies are lovable, playful, and a joy to have, but the can also be frustrating at times and definitely very messy! Probably the most frustrating part about having a puppy is housebreaking- if you are lucky, you might wind up with a puppy that is a quick learner and picks up on house training rather quickly, but it is best to be prepared for it to take a few months.Most puppies can be reasonably house trained by four to six months of age; however, some puppies are not 100% trained until they are almost a year old.
Keep in mind that it may take a while for your puppy to “hold it” for longer periods of time. Your puppy might fully understand the concept of going outside, but his body may not be physically able to. The rule of thumb is that a puppy can only hold their bladder or bowls for the same number of hours as his age in months. For example, a 2 month old puppy should not go more than 2 hours without a potty break. Your puppy should also always, ALWAYS be taken outside as soon as they wake up in the morning or after a nap, before bed, and within 30 minutes of a meal. Make sure you pay close attention to your puppy throughout the day, and if you see them sniffing very intently and circling, get them outside right away as these are signs that your pup is about to go! If you are not able to pay close attention to your puppy, make sure to put them in a crate or confined to a room like the kitchen (interested in crate training? See our previous house training article on crate training for more in depth information).
If you catch your pup in the act, stay calm. Firmly say NO, pick your puppy up immediately, and carry him outside to an area he’s used before. As you set him on the ground tell him that this is where he is to relieve himself (use whatever phrase you like, “go potty” and “time to pee” are fairly common), and praise him as he finishes the job. Stay outside with him for a few minutes longer to make sure he’s done before bringing him back in.
ANY other corrections such as rubbing his nose in it, smacking with newspapers, yelling, beating or slapping only confuse and scare the dog. If you come across an “old” accident, it really doesn’t pay to get too excited about it. Dogs aren’t smart enough to connect a past act with your present anger and he won’t understand why you are mad. He’ll act guilty but it’s only because he knows you’re mad at him. He has no real idea why.
Cleaning up accidents
Before cleaning up the mess, put your puppy away out of sight. Although your puppies mom would clean up after her babies, you don’t want your puppy to think that YOU do, too! Clean up on tile, linoleum or hard wood floor is easy- soak up the urine with a rag or paper towels and pick up feces, and spray with a cleaner to disinfect. On carpeting, get lots of paper towel and continue blotting with fresh paper until you’ve lifted as much liquid as possible.
There are several home-made and store bought “odor killers” that are helpful. In a pinch, plain white vinegar will work to help neutralize the odor and the ammonia in the urine. (Don’t use a cleaner with ammonia – it’ll make it worse!) Sprinkle baking soda on the spot to soak up moisture and to help neutralize odor, vacuum when dry. At your local pet store, you can find a good selection of products that may be more effective.
Puppies are attracted to urine odors and their noses are much better than ours! Even when using a commercial odor killer, a teeny residue will be left behind that our dogs can smell. Keep an eye on that spot in the future! This remarkable scenting ability does have an advantage — if you must paper-train your dog and he doesn’t know what newspapers are for yet, “house-breaking pads” are available at your pet store. They are treated with a mild attractive odor (too weak for us to smell), so your puppy will gladly use them!
Newspapers and Training Pads: Should you bother?
It seems harmless to leave papers or puppy training pads out for your puppy “just in case”. If you work a job where you are gone for more than 6 hours a day then it may be a necessity. However, using papers or pads will make the overall job of house training that much harder and take longer. If you must use papers or pads, use them only when you are gone. When you get home pick them up and keep to the regular house training schedule. Or alternatively, have a trusted friend, neighbor, or hire a pet sitter/dog walker to come once or twice during the day to let your puppy outside.