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How to Housetrain a Puppy

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At two, three and even four months old, puppies are too young to control their bladder and bowel habits. Any age dog that has not been housetrained needs to time to physically be able to learn to “hold” going to the bathroom. Puppies will go to the bathroom in the right place sometimes. It is your job to create opportunities for your pup to go in the correct place, get praise and treats, and repeat this experience enough times for it to become a habit. Young puppies may take several months to become housebroken. You can help them by:

1. Always taking your puppy out FIRST thing in the morning, before you do anything.
2. Always taking your puppy out FIRST thing after eating a meal, and after she wakes up from naps.
3. Setting up a regular schedule of sleeping, eating, and going outside.
4. Setting up a puppy room or area where the puppy will stay when she is not supervised, until she is housebroken.

At first, use a timer or a clock, set it at 30 minutes, and take your puppy out each time the bell rings.
As she gets older, you can increase the time. You only need to stay outside with her for a few minutes. Learn to read her body language. Often puppies will start circling or sniffing around, or holding their tail a certain way – if you see your puppy doing what she does before she goes to the bathroom, get her outside FAST! When she finally goes where you want, give her lots of praise and special food treats!

Praise, not punishment

If she has an accident inside, don't make a big deal of it. Puppies will have accidents. She should be kept in an area where accidents are ok (like a kitchen or other room with a hard surface floor, to make clean ups easy and complete). Once she discovers that going inside gets nothing, but outside gets praise and treats, she'll try to hold out for the better option!

NEVER yell at your dog or push her nose in her messes, swat her with a newspaper, or make loud noises with cans/pennies if she has an accident. She is very young. Human babies don't learn to use the toilet until they are 2 or 3 years old, right? She also may just learn not to do it in front of you. To a puppy, if they do it and you're not around, they don't get yelled at, so they figure its ok. They may cower and appear to be “sorry” when you yell, but they are just reacting to your yelling, not to what they did ten minutes or an hour ago.

NEVER give your pup unattended full run of the house or non puppy-proofed room at a young age. When you can't watch her, put your puppy in a puppy-safe dog run with shade, water and toys, or crate train her (find out how from the Denver Dumb Friend's League Crate Training article).

Take up the puppy's water and food after 8 PM, and take her outside to relieve herself just before bedtime. DO NOT let her roam free during the night. She should be confined either in her room or crate. Keep her there as short a time as possible - really young puppies can usually go 6-7 hours through the night if they are sleeping.

Be sure to clean up the areas in the house where your dog has already messed. Dogs will mess again if they can smell the areas. Use an enzyme-based detergent (like those sold in pet stores to clean up pet messes), not one that contains ammonia or vinegar, which reacts with urine and will make it smell more.

Going on Command

"Get Busy" or “Go Potty” is a phrase that you can use to get your dog or puppy to go to the bathroom when and where you want him to. It's easy to teach him, but some dogs take longer than others to understand. Use it just like you use any verbal command – like “Sit,” you say it before you want the puppy to do it, and then if she does, give her lots of praise and treats. It won't work to say it too many times in a row (two or three), and should be said in a happy tone of voice, never as a punishment. Also, if you catch the puppy in the act of “getting busy” in the correct spot, you can say “get busy!! Good puppy! Get busy! Good good!!” so they associate that phrase with what they are doing.

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