(Above: Our editor’s puppy, Emma)
Welcome to part three of our beginners guide to having a puppy! In this article we are going to discuss training & discipline.
Training and Discipline
One of the most common reasons so many puppies and dogs end up in shelters or pounds is behavior problems. Now that you have a puppy, you also have a responsibility to train your puppy to behave. Teaching him to act appropriately in all situations will ensure safe and enjoyable times for you, your puppy and other people with whom he may come into contact.
There are many philosophies on disciplining and training puppies and dogs. Read about several before making your decision, especially if you decide to take discipline or training classes. Some methods are based on punitive principles, but the preferred methods these days are reward and praise-based methods. The goal should be to communicate with your pet about the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior so that you can get along at home and when out socializing. Repetition and consistency are the keys to achieving this.
You should start disciplining your puppy right away. Use a firm “NO!” and lots of praise to differentiate between things you want him to do and things you don’t. Two things that puppies do by nature are bite when they play and chew. Bite and chew, bite and chew! When these occur, tell puppy “no” emphatically and give him something he is allowed to chew, like a toy. Reward the behavior you like by praising him for chewing the toy.
Potty Training Puppy
You should start potty training right away. You may want to seek out the help of a trainer to assist in potty training, but with consistency and repetition you can do it yourself. Start by committing to take puppy outside as soon as he wakes up, before and after every meal, after a round of play, and at least once during the night. Always take him to the same spot so he starts to associate “going potty” with this spot.
While inside, if you see puppy looking distracted, walking in circles, sniffing the ground, or squatting, get him – he is about to go potty!
Pick him up, take him to THE POTTY SPOT and tell him to “go potty” or “get busy,” using the same phrase every time. Always praise puppy each time he goes potty outside. Again, reward the behavior you like by praising puppy. A low calorie treat will also help your puppy know that he has been “good.”
If puppy goes potty inside and you catch him in the act, tell him “no” emphatically, then take him outside to THE POTTY SPOT and tell him to “go potty.” You may have heard or been advised to rub puppy’s nose in the potty when he goes inside, but this is bad advice. It is unsanitary and there are better praise-based methods for training your puppy. If you don’t catch him in the act of going inside, do not scold him. Too much time has passed for puppy to understand what he has done wrong. Just clean up the mess and wait for the next opportunity to teach.
As you can see, repetition and consistency are the keys to successful potty training. If you are persistent, within a few weeks, puppy will ask to go outside when he has to potty.
If you leave your puppy for long periods of time (while you’re at work, for example), confine him to an area of the house that you don’t mind cleaning up. It’s best to check on puppy every four hours or so and give him a chance to go potty outside.
Many people believe that their dogs view crates as cages, and as a result will not consider crating their beloved buddy. Veterinarians say that cages actually satisfy a dog’s denning instinct.
Not only can a crate prevent a puppy from potential injury running free in the house, it also helps to housebreak the puppy. Crates, whether made of plastic or metal, should be tall and wide enough for the dog to stand up and turn around comfortably. They can contain water, one or two toys, and a terry towel for warmth. Newspapers should not be used in the crate because the dog may confuse the area with one that is acceptable for urination.
Training begins in the morning as it is important to integrate the training schedule into one that is followed in the household. Once the dog is taken out of the crate and has been given food and water, it should be placed outside to urinate or defecate. It is important for the dog to associate being taken out of the crate with being put outside. This will help housebreak your pet and soon it will associate a sense of freedom when taken out of the crate. At first, puppies six to eight-weeks-old will need to be taken out every three or four hours to initiate the housebreaking pattern. Older dogs can be left in for longer periods of time and will then need to be placed outside and receive plenty of exercise.
The crate should be wiped out daily with a mild disinfectant or soap and water. If the dog has urinated or defecated in the crate, it will need to be cleaned more frequently.
Placement of the crate is also important. The dog should not feel isolated. An area that the pet can hear and see people is recommended.
When the owner can visually supervise the dog, it can be let out for short periods of time. While some dogs may adjust to the crate training more rapidly than others, be patient.
After the pet becomes accustomed to the crate and times of day it is expected to be in the crate, it will seek the area on his own without the prompting of the owner. Not only will the pet go in the crate during appropriate times of the day, but he may also seek out the crate when he needs a sense of security. Feeling poorly and the onset of bad weather are two occasions when a dog may go to the crate on his own.
Once the dog has become familiar with crate training, the owner can allow the dog to roam freely in the house when away for short periods of time. The length of free time in the house can gradually increase as the dog’s destructive behavior is curbed by the crate training.
Dogs of any age can benefit from crate training. While some owners consider crate training a lifetime commitment, others merely want to instill trust in the dog when the house will be unoccupied.
Dos and Don’ts for Crate Training:
- Introduce the crate gradually
- Praise the dog for being calm
- Give him a treat to go in
- Keep the crate clean
- Keep the crate near the family
- Give him something to chew
- Use the crate for punishment
- Put your dog in a crate with a leash or collar on
- Keep your puppy or dog in the crate all day
The trick is to take as much time as the dog needs and keep linking the crate to the good things in life: snacks, snoozes and security!