Raising a well behaved and loving Puppy is not as difficult as many folks think. If you begin with a well bred puppy and an involved Breeder half the battle is already won. This is one of the areas where you will see huge differences between a puppy from a BYB ( or heaven forbid puppy mill) and one who's breeder spent the time they were with them training, building confidence and learning how this pup will best learn the lessons ahead of them. Like children, each puppy learns life's lessons a bit differently. It needn't be a show dog or even a purebred dog for the advice in this section to work. However it is easier and often more responsive when it has the proper start in life.
Just as the Doctor , Mechanic or Gardener can rarely go anywhere without someone asking their advice once people learn you have a Kennel the questions begin. While at a wine tasting recently my husband had to fight hard to hide his amusement as the talk at our table shifted from the lovely Pinot Grigio being poured to why the couple across from us believed they had a mentaly defective dog ... apparently they were unable to house break it. As much as I would have preferred to focus on the wine list, the momment the wife assured us "they had done absolutely everything to train the dog and were now facing surrendering it to a shelter" I knew how the rest of my evening would be spent. First I tried to suggest they call me the next day, but it became apparent they were miserable over the problem with the dog and his time was limited.
I looked at my wonderful Husband apologetically knowing our evening out was about to be shot, and was grateful when he winked letting me know he understood. Then I began to ask the couple about what qualified as "absolutely everything" .
They showed me early photos on their I phones of the pup, he is now about 9 months old. A Designer dog, ( sigh) it is a Labradoodle. The tilt of the dog's head and the shine in it's eyes spoke volumes for it's intelligence. They had paid a small fortune for their "mixed breed" dog having located it on the internet and having it shipped to them. I will be candid I am not a fan of designer dogs. Take the labradoodle as an example. When you go on line the puppies shown are all curly coated rolly poly bundles of joy. The word Hypo-allergenic is like every 4th word yet they don't tell the hopeful new owners that there is no such thing as a Hypo-allergenic dog. The dander that people are allergic to does not come from the coat it comes from the skin. Some dogs may release less dander but ALL dogs release it. Add to that the hidden fact that a labradoodle can come in that adorable curly coat, a gift from it's poodle parent OR it may have the Lab's coat longer and straight and will shed just like the lab parent. ( We were still sweeping up lab hair 10 months after our beloved 15 year old Frisco passed away!) When you blend breeds there is just no guarantee what traits will be the strongest in the first dozen or so generations. Apparently the Breeder had been very friendly during the buying stage but had grown increasingly colder as the puppy grew and exhibited more and more behavioral issues. The last call had ended with the Breeder telling them to hire a trainer.
In a Nut Shell the conversation went as follows with my private insights in blue: We will change the names to protect the Ignorant.
Mr Doodlehead, "I can't take it any more. We can't leave the house with out coming home to messes and torn up belongings. I did not really want a dog to start with but she did..... so I gave in"
Mrs Doodlehead, " I don't get it, he was so smart when he first arrived and really friendly. I did my research on the breeds and the breeder promised their dogs were all so easy to train but his messes are unreal and he doesn't really like my husband."
Me, " How old was he when you got him?"
Mrs Doodlehead, " He was 8 weeks old. He was flown to us on his 8 week birthday" << the flight was to Alabama from Washington state with 2 lay overs This is a terribly long and frightening journey for even an older dog I can not begin to imagine how traumatized the poor little guy must have been >> " The crate was a filthy mess and he was so scared all he did was shake and whine"
Mr Doodlehead, " I had to pay a guy in the cargo area $20.00 to hose him off before I could put him in the car it was pretty foul and I paid the guy another $20.00 to throw away his crate ".
<<<<<<So after a horribly long day with out comfort, a walk and most likely not fed or watered once the small cup sized food and water containers had spilled , this pup was pulled from his fouled crate and hosed off with cold water by someone who wanted to earn an easy $20.00. Welcome to your new home, sweet puppy. >>>>>>>>
Me, "How was he the next day when he had a chance to settle in a bit?"
Mrs Doodlehead, "It took weeks before he was better. He just hid behind the recliner or under the table"
Me, " Tell me how you began his housebreaking and how he responded?"
Mrs Doodlehead, "Every time he asked, we put him outside. He really did not ask often. It was as if it was a lucky mistake that he went outside"
Me, "Is he on a feeding and potty schedule?"
Mrs Doodlehead, totally perplexed by this question went on " No, we have his food and water bowls on the kitchen floor next to the cat's bowl and we just keep them filled. So he can eat when ever he feels like it. As I said when he goes to the back door we let him out.
<<<<<Trying to decide if I should keep trying or if I should just smack them on the back of the head like my favoriteTV character would...... sigh.....>>>>
Me, "How early is his first trip outside and how late is his last one?"
Mr Doodlehead, also confused by the question, answered " We are both retired so we get up around 8:30 -9:00 AM and he goes out shortly after that , then he goes out when we are ready for bed around 9:30- 10:30."
<<<<Meaning his little puppy body is expected to hold it for over 12 hours ?>>>>
Me, "When and where does he normally make a mess? How often each day does he leave you an unpleasant surprise?"
Mr Doodlehead, leans forward on this question and his annoyance shows "He normally piddles in the bathroom or bedroom by our patio door every morning. He usually does not "pooh" ( my word not his) until some time around 11:00 am then again around mid afternoon. He tends to "pooh" in the guest rooms or the den. Oh he also piddles in the kitchen and entry hall, just whenever he feels like it."
Me , "How do you correct him?"
Mrs Doodlehead , obviously concerned I thought they were slackers jumped in.... " When we find "it" he is swatted with a newspaper and scolded. We tell him he is such a bad dog and that what he is doing is nasty and awful ! Some times Mr Doodlehead grabs him by the scruff of his neck and rubs his nose in it. That is why we are thinking he may have mental issues since it doesn't teach him a thing!"
Me: "Really? He hasn't learned anything?"
<<<<That, admittedly is said with heavy sarcasm>>>>
Our conversation lasted the better part of 2 hours and several phone calls over the next weeks. To spare all of you we will skip to HOW to HOUSEBREAK and what the Doodleheads did Wrong and Really Wrong. Housebreaking a puppy is truly not difficult. It takes understanding a dog's toilet habits, creating a schedule and sticking to it.
I mentioned a Good Breeder begins the puppy's development early. The whelping box is initially kept clean by the Dam, however a good breeder makes sure the box is set up for easy and complete cleaning. We use a plastic lined whelping box, which is then layered with End Roll paper from the local small newspaper printers. It is ink free and un bleached. (The end rolls are what is left over when the print run is finished.) On top of the paper we use inexpensive white towels. They provide wonderful footing for pups while they learn to stand and walk. ( Bob buys 4 to 5 dozen each litter, and they keep our washer and dryer going non stop!)
Before the pups begin to walk they are dependent on their mom for all meals. She also cleans up after them. At this point the breeder is keeping the box cleaned from Mom's post partum discharges.
As soon as the pups begin to walk well and are being supplemented by a puppy gruel it is time for the breeder to begin the outside potty training. At our home this is done by establishing a schedule and being faithful to it.
Pups wake up and are fed around 6:00 AM They go outside for 15 minutes in an area that is created with ex pens to allow the entire litter whether 1 or 12+ to go out at the same time. It takes co operation from the family as everyone grabs handsful of pups and takes them out to the potty zone. As soon as any pup begins to squat the watching helpers use the kennel command. Ours is " Pick A Spot" As the pup eliminates the command is repeated in a cheerful , positive voice. ( Only 2 or 3 times it is not intended to create a feeling of pressure, only to make the pup associate the need to potty with the phrase.)
A Breeder learns to "grade" the quality of the pooh. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Before the puppy goes home with you, you will have a discussion about this subject. If grading on a 1-10 , 1 is watery and a trip to the vet. ( Pups can fail quickly from diarrhea) 10 is the dry , hard and difficut to pass constipated feces. Again a stage that requires watching carefully as a puppy can strain hard enough to injure themselves. A 5 is the picture perfect little "Tootsie Rolls" Passed easily, little to no odor.!
ALL solid waste is cleaned up immediately.
Puppies go back to the indoor puppy pen where they are handled, worked with and allowed to nap.
The rule of thumb is simple Puppy goes outside after Eating, Drinking , Napping or Rough Housing. This is the rule that will keep both you and the pup happy for his entire life.
Puppies are not put outside unsupervised. Between teaching your potty command and keeping things cleaned up there are a million thing that can happen because an adult does not stay with the llitter or the single puppy. Simple examples? Unsupervised puppies can step , roll in and even learn to eat fecal matter. They can also try munching on weeds, grasses and ornamental plants. They may try their baby hunting skills on bees or wasps. They may become a target of a Jay or Mocking Bird both famous for injuring young pups and kittens. We don't want to talk about Hawks, Owls and other predatory fowl. So we all are in agreement No unsupervised puppies right?
When Puppies go out we tap the door and call " Puppies, Puppies, Puppies OUTside!!!", some kennels hang bells. Either method becomes your puppy's tool in making sure you know they want to go outside. When Puppy touches the door or Bell you praise them and put them out right away.
When Puppies are inside should one potty, I can bet the house... every one else will very quickly after ! ( Especially if you just changed out the paper and towels) SO when one puppy potties stop everything and take the litter out, As you will be dealing with only one pup this really does not apply to you. It is a small footnote in the housebreaking process. However paying attention is critical. Do not forget when puppy is playing happily and stops ... chances are better than good he will need to potty.
Keep puppy on a schedule. By 10 weeks the puppy is most likely eating three times a day. 6AM, Noon, and 5 PM. They go outside after each meal. As a group until they leave with you and then On a leash is best until you have their body language down pat. Walking your puppy encourages elimination. By having them on a leash you are able to use your command and praise. We send puppies home with a leash and a potty bag holder, get used to picking up as he messes and life is cleaner and easier. Do not let him explore waste left by other animals. They may have illnesses or parasites that can lead to expensive medical treatments. You needn't freak out a simple " ATT ATT" is corrective enough.
Should puppy begin to potty in the house use that same " ATT ATT" noise to interrupt the intention. Since you are not giving puppy the "Pick a Spot" command and praising him the correction noise can often stop them in their tracks. Pick them up and take them out side. STAY there until they potty outside and you can give them the command and praise them for using the correct place.
And the worst of the mistakes ANY owner can make is the old school rubbing their nose in their mess. It is simply a brutal ineffective handling of the problem. You WILL make worse. By swatting or jerking the pup around you teach them to fear both your hand and you. They forget within seconds of toiletting that they did it. It is a natural function so they do not associate normal wetting or messing with antisocial behavior. For you to grab them and shove their little face in it is terrifying. The message is not " Don't mess in the House" It is "Don't Mess where I can see you" So this pup will not learn to confidently potty on a lead or around you, It will not learn to go outside relaxed and happy with your suprvising them. It will learn that if you see them mess you are going to get physical ! So instead they learn sneak off to a lesser used room or wait until you are not paying attention.
Crate training speeds up housebreaking immensely. There is a seperate page on Crate Training.