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How To Potty Train A Puppy

Jun 17, 2008
Have you just bought a cuddly and cute young puppy? If you are like most families you are probably very worried how to house train your new puppy. The first thing you should know is that dogs do not naturally soil where they live. In their natural environment they will do their business outside and away from their den. Your puppy's mother will have taught these good housekeeping habits to your puppy during its first few months with her.

Dog owners sometimes interfere with their pet's good natural habits. If you chain up your dog for lengthy periods it will not have the freedom to leave its kennel and may soil it. This is why a dog should be given a run several times a day to help keep its home clean. To potty train a puppy kept inside, your first step is to restrict its home to a small area. It will see this area as its "den". Your pup will naturally wish to keep its living quarters clean. You can buy or make a crate, or set up a bed in a room you can close off, like a laundry or garage.

There are two ways to do your potty training from there. You can train your puppy to go outside to do its business, or you can train it to use a dirt box inside. Whichever suits your situation, your objective is to have the puppy relieve itself in the place you designate, and not to treat your home as if it is the park down the street. If you have a larger dog and a secure yard, you will probably want to train it to go outdoors. This may not be practical if you have a small dog, or you live in an apartment with no outdoors kennel. Also if you are very busy or often absent you may need to train your dog to use a dirt box inside.

If you have a yard, take your puppy outside onto grass as soon as it wakes and 15-20 minutes after it eats. This may happen several times throughout the day. Every 3-4 hours, much as with a baby, is a practical guideline for a young puppy. Leave it much longer and the risk of an accident increases. Reward your puppy with praise when it performs as you want. Your aim is for this to become a routine, and eventually your puppy will let you know when it needs to go outside, even outside the routine times.

It will take several weeks to reach this stage. Accidents will happen, but you must not punish your puppy. A much more effective training method is to reward positive behavior. It is a wise idea to have your puppy live in an area with a hard floor that is easy to clean, such as in your garage or utility room, at this time.

Keeping the puppy in a yard outdoors during the day, so that it will be asleep for most of its time indoors through the night, will reduce the demands on your time as its temporary "nanny" during this process. If you have a dog door giving the puppy access to the outside, train the puppy to use it when required. This is much less labor intensive for you, and speeds up the learning process.

Ideally the "den" area where it sleeps should initially be adjacent to this door. Of course, free access outside should not mean freedom to roam beyond a secure yard.

Access to the outdoors may not be practical for you, and the second more difficult approach is needed. Your alternative is a dirt box somewhere inside your house. You can buy absorbent materials to use in your dirt tray, which reduce any worries you may have about the smell. For a start the dirt tray should positioned close to where the puppy sleeps so that it is accessible but far enough away to be clearly separate from its "den".

Your job is to take the puppy to the dirt tray whenever it wakes and soon after it has been fed. You must reinforce the successful use of the dirt box with praise and affection, until the puppy catches on to how to use it. You need to show some patience. You can paper train your puppy as a lead in to using the dirt tray. For this you use a newspaper laid out on the floor as a first alternative to a dirt tray. Some scent on the paper from last time he went helps the pup to understand what he is expected to do.

The advantage of using newspaper is that it gives a bigger area, and paper is cheap and easy to clean up. You steadily narrow down the size of the paper and gradually introduce the dirt tray, over a few weeks. Once the habit of using the dirt tray has been achieved, you can move it in stages further away from the puppy's den or sleeping area, to somewhere more out of the way. Or you can move the pup's bed further into your own living areas.

Eventually the puppy can be allowed more access to your home, which amounts to giving it a bigger den. You would be wise not to permit access to any tempting dark and hidden corners too quickly. Disruptions to the routine visits outdoors or access to the dirt tray will be difficult for the puppy to cope with until it grows a little. You need to be tolerant during this time as your puppy learns to respect all of your house in the same way it would naturally keep its den clean.
About the Author
Shelby Wright learned how to train dogs working with sheep farm dogs, and later breeding and showing gun dogs. Get answers on how to train a dog, including tips and resources on caring for your dog and ways you can easily fix your dog's behavior problems.
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