How do I train a puppy? Lots of routine, hard work, observation and luck! It is that simple. Seriously, training a puppy requires commitment because it will test your patience. Frankly, if you are going to share you house with a dog, you have no choice. But it is not just about you. Your pet will be much happier when it has understood and accepted your prescribed process for elimination.
Remember – your pet did not choose to live with you. Its instincts are to eliminate when necessary, everywhere except where it sleeps or eats. Imposing your rules for this is going to be a learning experience for your puppy. Be patient. They will figure it out.
Over the years, we have noticed that some things work better than others. The following is not intended to negate any training programs or established methods promoted by others. We simply want to share what has and continues to work for us, over and over again.
Your pet will truly understand a regular schedule. Ultimately, whatever you do, do it the same time, the same way each day. This means that food, drink, walk, play and elimination time should happen at the same time each day. This is so important because it is not natural for them to stop the urge to eliminate.
We like to use a crate from the moment we meet our new companion. Crates are great. They must be the proper size and be prepared to upgrade your crate to larger sizes as your dog grows. The reason size matters is that a dog will eliminate in the over sized space if it can do so and move to the opposite side of the crate, unaffected. Properly sized crates do not allow your puppy this luxury and therefore it will learn to hold on. Keep in mind that a puppy can not be expected to initially hold at all. This brings us back to timely routine. If you are in doubt about which crate/kennel to purchase, check with your store clerk for advice.
You must ensure that your pet’s crate/kennel is a very positive place. In order for it to be effective, they must want to be there in the first place. Please do not discipline your dog by harshly demanding that it go to or be put in their crate as a result of an accident. This will be counterproductive and simply should not be done at all, for any reason. If there is normal hesitancy, we use a treat to entice it in, usually by placing it inside the crate, far enough so that it must enter fully to retrieve the morsel. Making the crate a positive space will pay dividends during house training as well as later in the dog’s life as a place of comfort and protection.
Choose one area of your yard in which your puppy will regularly eliminate. They will come to identify it as the place to do their business and will be glad to do so. Animals will not defecate in a filthy area so clear it regularly. Also, exaggerated praise works wonderfully when your pet is successful in their designated area. Lay it on thick and watch them go back for more!
Feeding frequency and amounts vary with breed but typically, with a medium sized dog, feeding three times a day initially and later two times day works well. Some will tell you to feed in moderate amounts, food and water. This has not worked well in our experience. We place the dog bowls outside the crate with ample amounts of food and water. Watch closely as your pet devours the meal. When it is satisfied or after approximately 20-25 minutes, the bowl should be lifted from the floor. This way it will learn that there is a feeding time so it must take advantage of the period to satisfy itself. Also, at times, our pets may drink a significant amount of water at first, leaving less space for food. When this happens, we have provided it with less water at the beginning of the feeding. Once the food has been eaten, adding additional water at that time seems to work well.
After the feeding time, in our experience, approximately one hour, the puppy should be taken to its designated elimination area. You will find that it will usually be glad to comply.
Following a routine is how I train a puppy to co-exist with us in our home. Fun, play, practice, special positive places and expectations understood are all your pet will need to learn compliance. Once achieved it can explore other areas of your home, become more involved with you and your family and be quite happy.