Front Range Animal Hospital
418 Third Street, P.O. Box 326
Monument, Colo. 80132-0326
The basic principles behind successful dog training, regardless of the goal, are consistency and positive reinforcement. If you consistently reward the desired behavior, your puppy will quickly learn what is expected of him. If you are inconsistent, or you unwittingly reward the wrong, undesireable behavior, you are in for a long haul. At all times, you want to reward the desired behavior with lavish praise. We do not recommend "corporal punishment" as a tool in puppy training. Hitting your dog will only teach him to fear you or to become aggressive.
It is important, when teaching your new puppy appropriate elimination habits, that you give him a lot of opportunity to display the proper behavior so that you can reward it with praise. This means that you should take your puppy outside every 1-2 hours during the day, and as needed at night. Times that your puppy are most likely to eliminate are after sleeping, playing and eating. That is one of the many reasons to offer "meals" to your new puppy as opposed to "free-feeding". It is best to always go to the same spot in the yard and to use a phrase consistently such as "hurry up". When your puppy eliminates where you want him to, be sure to praise him---tell him he is just the smartest puppyhe'll know what you mean! It is also very important that you watch your puppy closely during this housebreaking period. Watch for subtle clues that he needs to potty such as sniffing, circling, whining, or seeking a corner. Soon you will recognize the particular behavior your puppy displays as clues. If you see these clues, quickly scoop him up and take him out to his "potty place" and of course, praise him if he is successful. If you are not ever vigilant and your puppy can sneak off and potty in another room with no one noticing, it may take you a long time to housebreak him. With no one there to tell him that is not appropriate, he thinks it is OK. If you should catch your puppy "in the act" of eliminating in the house, you can scold him with a stern "no", scoop him up and outside, then praise him lavishly. Never hit your dog and don't rub his nose in it, and don't even bother scolding him if it is "after the fact"puppies cannot understand the connection if it is even a few minutes later. Just clean up the mess and try to watch your puppy closer next time! It is best to use an odor neutralizer such as FON when cleaning the accident so there is no residual odor to confuse the puppy. Don't use any cleaners with ammonia.
If you are having trouble keeping an eye on your puppy, you can try the "umbilical cord" method. Attach your puppy to a long leash that is tied around your wrist or waist. This allows him a certain amount of freedom while ensuring your constant supervision. He cannot wander away undetected and have an "accident" and you are more likely to notice he needs to "go".
Using an airline kennel (crate-training) can really speed up the housebreaking process. Puppies have a natural tendancy to avoid eliminating where they sleep, so if you place the pup in a crate when you need to be away from the house, or at night, you will be encouraging the pup to "hold it". You should be able to crate a pup for 8 hours successfully. Pups raised in crates tend to enjoy the feeling of security they get from themit is their "den". Initially, though, they may whine for your attention when placed in them and it is important not to "give in". Just as you wouldn't reward a "tantrum" with a child, don't let your pup out of the crate while he is whining or barkingwait until he is quiet, then open the door and praise him. If the crate you purchase is for the pup when he is full grown, you may need to block off part of it with a box during the training period. Otherwise, he may be able to eliminate on one side and sleep on the other and it won't encourage him to "hold it". Crates are also helpful for protecting the puppy when you are out of the house. Puppies are like toddlerseverything goes into their mouths and crating them when you are gone will keep them from chewing and possibly swallowing objects that could hurt them.
A word about paper trainingwhile some people may be successful training puppies to use newspapers, we feel this send a mixed message. It is difficult for the pups to distinguish just where they are allowed to go in the house and they are likely to miss the paper or generalize acceptable places from the papers to the whole house.
Puppies need to be taught appropriate manners to be successful members of our society. This again takes consistent reinforcement of the desired behavior. For example, if your puppy is chewing something inappropriate, say "no", give him an appropriate chew toy (you should have plenty of these around) and then praise him when he chews on his chew toy.
Also puppies go through a real "mouthy" stage where they try to do a lot of "play-biting". This is how they played with their litter mates and you need to teach them that is not acceptable in your family. Do not reward them when they are play-biting by continuing to play or give them attention. Tell them "no" sternly, then give them something appropriate to chew, with praise if they do so. You can also try standing still with your arms crossed and your eyes closed to tell your pup you are not interested in playing rough. We also do not recommended teaching your dog to play tug-o-war or to wrestle roughlythis will send your pup a mixed message and you may end up with a pup that bites when you play with him.
Another annoying habit you need to avoid in puppies is jumping up. While this may be cute when they are little guys, it is not much fun when they are 60 lbs. and have muddy paws! Never pet or talk sweetly to a dog who has only two feet on the ground. Turn around and ignore him! When he has all four feet on the ground, kneel down and praise him. He just wants to see your face better!
All puppies, from teacup poodles to Great Danes, make better pets if they understand basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, heel and come. We recommend all puppies at 4-6 months of age and their owners take a basic obedience class. There are many good trainers available in the Pikes Peak region. Two that we have personal experience with are the Pikes Peak Obedience Club (phone 596-3829) and Peg Muldoon at the Woodmoor Barn (phone 488-2694) during the warmer months.