First thing is to get the human very clear about what they’re after from their dog, not puppy, dog.
My dog is house trained when my house does not suffer from having him in it. So, he doesn’t chew my stuff, pee on my stuff, yell so loud the Council comes round.
In order to get him there I need to work first on my own mind. I need to get my big brain around the fact his has a much smaller brain. I need to take responsibility for making sure he has all the chances I can give him to learn what I’m after. He doesn’t care about my nice house, I do, my responsibility.
Let’s just look at the toileting end, not literally, people might talk.
What I want is that he toilets outside, on grass and on concrete. And quickly, I don’t want to be standing waiting in the rain if I can avoid it. I want him to do it on and off the leash. I want him to get into a nice routine, say four times a day, maybe more, depends on the dog. My adults go when they wake up, on their walks, before I leave them alone in the house, before bedtime. Or at least they did before I got the cat flap, I don’t like the cat flap, it’s bad dog training. (I love the cat flap, I am a bad mammy).
I might not always have a cat flap so my puppies don’t get to use it. They need to learn routine and to be able to hold themselves, cat flap not good for that. I’m sure that mouse I trapped the other week came in the cat flap. Baaad cat flap.
Top tip 1: start straight away. 8 weeks – younger. If you’ve been lucky enough to get puppy from a good breeder, they’ll have started already.
Home from the breeder, I bring him in from the car, I put his collar and lead on. I take him on the grass, I wait, 2 minutes. I set a timer. If he performs, I have a little happy party. “What a good boy! I don’t regret getting you, really, truly.” I take the lead off, we sniff and go boing, yes, both of us. But you’ll never see that on youtube unless the neighbours are filming.
If he hasn’t performed in 2 minutes, we go back in, back into his playpen. I have a cup of tea, 15 minutes, my timer is running. Then we repeat. I don’t wait for as long as it takes, I want quick, I don’t want many minutes of sniff and dream before the job is done.
The younger you start the better, little puppies are leaky buckets, which means you have more opportunity to practise good habits at 8 weeks than 13.
What I want him to learn is that nothing happens till you’ve performed so you might as well get it done sharpish. Doesn’t take long for pup to learn to get it over with quickly to get mammy off his case. THEN we sniff and run and dig and have fun. If we do it the other way around, we get the opposite effect, puppy learning to hold on as long as possible in order to have the fun for as long as possible.
I give him another hour and next time we go on concrete. This doesn’t work if you only have grass or only have concrete, but if you do, make use. A lot of dogs refuse to toilet on concrete and that is bad, you might have no choice but to toilet him on a hard surface one day so you might as well teach him to use both.
I use a word, mine is “toilet”. I wait till I’m pretty sure he’s about to perform, then out comes my word. Just the once, I don’t want to dilute my command by repeating it. Avoid repeating commands as much as possible, good training is clarity and saying things over and over is not clarity. I might get it wrong, say it then he doesn’t do it, but I’m doing my best, more often than not he’ll perform just after I’ve said the word.
Me and my adult dog are going on a long journey in the car, I can pop him on the verge, say “toilet” and he’s sorted in a matter of seconds. How lovely is that? I’ve trained him to concrete so we can even go on train journeys, take him to the end of the platform and do the same. I am happy.
Puppy does have training pads in his pen. They’re not ideal, but I do have to leave him on occasion longer than he can hold himself. Yes, he does shred them. Next puppy (an Australian trainer’s idea) will have a bit of astroturf over the pad, I’m looking forward to trying that out.
I am the nightmare mother from hell with my puppies. They’re managed to within an inch of their lives. They do not wander the house, no, not ever. They live in their playpen and crate for a long time, a year, yes 12 months. I start to use a baby gate and let them have part access to the house at about 8 months, but go back in the cage if anything gets shredded or otherwise harmed. I’m in no hurry. I like them safe, I like them good, I don’t give a hoot about whether they can run the house or not. If they’re not doing lovely things with mammy all I want is for them to sleep, maybe chew quietly, but I want all the excitement in life to come from me. Yes, they do spend time with me, a lot of time, yes they get to play in every room in the house, but it’s for a purpose. Training, cuddles, to make me laugh, play, grooming, socialising, all those good things. I do not believe “accidents will happen”. Accidents only happen if we’re not paying sufficent attention. Accidents NEVER get cleaned out of the carpet, no matter how hard you try with biological washing powder or proper-puppy-cleaning-up-stuff-from-the-pet-shop. No, doggy will always smell it and be tempted to use that spot again. And humans will smell it too, not as well, but it’s there, just at the edge of your awareness…
The more he does it on your floor, the more he’ll do it on your floor. The more he does it on grass/concrete, the more he’ll do it on grass/concrete. He’s wired that way. Doing it away from his bed and where he did it last time is what makes him house trainable and a pony not house trainable. Ponies live in fields not dens, they just walk and poop. Dogs find a spot and poop.
And what about teaching him to ask to go to the toilet? I hate that.
It means I’m giving him the responsibility and the responsibility is mine. I have the big brain, I care about the carpet, my job. I’ve also seen so many adult dogs who attention-seek horribly by constantly rushing to the back door and asking to be out. Even those with clever owners who’ve taught them to ring a bell to ask to be out. Ring ring, ring ring, ring ring. Fun for a week or so, but not for a lifetime.
I decide when he goes.
But what if he circles and makes it clear he needs out? What if he rushes to the back door? Okay, take him out, I forgive you. But make a note, if he’s doing this it means you’re not catching him well enough in advance. On the hour every hour for under 13 weeks. One and a half hours 13-18 weeks. 18 weeks – 6 months every couple of hours. About every four hours from then on. If he’s failing on this routine, take him more, they’re all individuals.
And how many accidents should you expect on the carpet? None if you’re really vigilant. My three most recent dogs (I didn’t keep notes for before that, and I think my house training wasn’t as good before that), had about 2 pees in the house during their first year. I counted. And all my fault, I was a bit slow, not paying attention. All my fault.
But what do I do if he does mess on the carpet?
– Clean it up as best you can.
– Make a note to be quicker next time.
– Don’t blame the dog, your responsibility. And blame includes yelling, showing him what he’s done, rubbing his nose in it. Please, please, just don’t.
And what if he doesn’t seem to be holding himself at all? Not for an hour, not for two? Get him checked out by your vet. A dog with an infection or other problem just can’t hold himself. You want proper tests, take a sample to the vet’s.
And the chewing, barking, all that other stuff is also dealt with very nicely by using your crate, your playpen, all of that. Straight away. Closing the door, not letting him run the house. Directing his attention towards all the good things, his ball, his chews. Then when he’s grown up he’ll be just lovely for you and for everyone else and your house will also be happy.
See also http://specsthepuppy.co.uk/buzz-buzz-buzz/