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How to potty train a puppy

Three tips for less stress and more success

To many, the thought of housetraining a puppy causes stress and anxiety. Images of cleaning up mess cloud the mind.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. As Cesar Milan says, most pups pick up on the concept of housebreaking quite easy as it’s part of their natural programming.

Photo courtesy of Sheila Sund

Above all, Milan is adamant about maintaining a positive environment for you and your dog. Housebreaking should be a productive and relatively relaxed time for you and your new family member.

To help support your efforts, the team at Nose to Tail would like to share our “3 C’s” in how to housetrain a puppy, which includes how to house train a puppy with a crate.

1) Keep ‘calm’

House training begins quite early on. It is recommended that you begin toilet training your puppy when he/she is between 12 weeks and 16 weeks old.

At that point, your pup will have enough control of his or her bladder and bowels to physically be able “to hold it”.

During this potentially trying period, it is important to exhibit the right behaviour towards your dog. If you are feeling impatient or anxious and rushing your pup through potty training, it can add unnecessary stress to the process.

Likewise, if you are calm and “pawsitive”, they will pick up on it.

Avoid using a loud, high-pitched squeaky voice to encourage your puppy to “go potty” as this can be distracting for your pup.

Also, avoid punishing your furry friend for having an accident as it will only teach your puppy to fear you.

Rather, if you catch your dog in the act, clap loudly. This will indicate to your dog that something he or she has done is unacceptable. Upon clapping, take your dog outside (you can either call them or gently take them by the collar). Wait for your pup to relieve him/herself; and when they do, make sure to give praise and/or a small treat.

Keep calm and cheerful. Reinforce potty training with positivity. You will find that not only is the experience more enjoyable for your dog, but yourself as well.

2) Be ‘consistent’

Milan suggests a regular routine so it becomes second nature to your puppy. And we second that approach!

As most of us start the day by going to the bathroom, so do our pups. Take your puppy outside to the same general spot in the morning should become a natural part of your routine.

Repetition will establish a defined habit for your puppy as he or she will expect to go potty in the morning.

Once your puppy has successfully gone outside, it is important to reward their good behaviour. A small treat goes a long way and gets the message across, providing the right amount of positive reinforcement.

3) Try ‘crate’ training

A crate is another effective method in streamlining potty training with your dog as a defined space creates a foundation in helping your dog associate going outside as an opportunity to relieve themselves.

Keeping your puppy in a crate during the housebreaking period will allow you to watch for signs he or she needs to go. It can also teach your puppy to hold it until you open the crate and let them outside.

Whining, circling, sniffing, barking, or scratching are all signs your dog needs to go. Take your dog outside right away when you notice these behaviours.

Here are some suggested guidelines around crate training from the SPCA:

  • Make sure the crate is large enough for the puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down.
  • Make sure the crate is not big enough for your puppy to use a corner as a bathroom.
  • Make sure your puppy has fresh water, preferably in a dispenser you can attach to the crate.
  • Do not use a crate if your puppy is having accidents in it. Urinating or defecating in the crate could mean your puppy is either too young to hold it in or may not be getting outside enough.

Looking for information on crate training? Get more details from the SPCA.

Are you thinking about purchasing a crate or would you like further assistance with your dog’s potty training? Just pop into our store or give us a bell on 09 448 2227.


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