Adopting a puppy or untrained adult dog? Victoria Stilwell, a renowned dog trainer, shares her advice on how to start house training.
Before starting the house training process, it is important to realize that from the perspective of new puppies or untrained dogs, there is no good reason why they should not toilet inside the home. It is up to people to give their dogs the tools they need to succeed in a domestic world, that that starts with helping them learn where it is appropriate to toilet.
There are a number of ways to approach house training a dog successfully; your choice really depends upon the type of environment you live in. People in urban living situations with no yard tend to paper train their puppies until the pups have had all their vaccinations at approximately sixteen weeks old. When it is safe for the puppy to be outside, they make the transition between paper training inside and toileting outside.
In contrast, those in suburban or rural environments with yards or a safe outside area might use a combination of house training pads and outside toileting; still others will skip pads altogether and take their pups straight outside.
House training guidelines
• Create a “safe zone” area where the puppy can be confined when unsupervised. This can be either a pen or a small puppy-proofed room with the pup’s bed or crate, food, and water bowl.
• Line the entire area with training pads. At first the puppy will toilet all over the place, but this way it will always be on a pad.
• Remove soiled pads frequently.
• Reduce the number of pads by taking away one pad every few days, leaving a small area without a pad. Because the puppy has built up a habit of toileting on the pads, he should naturally gravitate to the area where the pads are still covering the floor, leaving the unpadded area clean.
• Puppies instinctively do not like to toilet too near where they eat or sleep, so ensure that the first pads you remove are the ones closest to the pup’s bed and bowls.
• Over the next few weeks, gradually reduce the toileting area by removing each pad until there is only a single pad left. Ensure that the remaining pad is the farthest from the pup’s bed and bowl, and change any soiled pads regularly.
• Use a cue word (“go potty”, for example) that the puppy will associate with toileting, and quietly say that word while he is in the act of toileting. When he has finished, gently praise him and/or give him a favorite treat or toy as a reward. Repeating this process consistently will build up an association between the word and the act of toileting, so that you then can use the word to encourage the puppy to toilet.
• If the puppy is making the transition from toileting on pads inside to going outside, take a partially soiled pad to an appropriate outside area and place it on the ground. This will encourage the puppy to toilet outside while still having the comforting feel of the pad underneath his paws.
• Once the puppy is confident about going outside, remove the use of indoor pads completely.
• If you want to designate a permanent toileting area in your home, make sure you choose a quiet area. As you give your puppy more freedom, encourage him to use the pad by leading him to this area at hourly intervals and then less frequently as he learns to hold himself for longer periods.
• The puppy should now be at the stage where he is taking himself to his pad to toilet.
Reprinted with permission from Train Your Dog Positively: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Dog and Solving Common Behavior Problems Including Separation Anxiety, Excessive Barking, Aggression, Housetraining, Leash Pulling, and More! by Victoria Stilwell, copyright© 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.