A TIME FOR PAWS
House Training Your Puppy
Let’s continue our discussion about new puppies. We talked about crate training and how it is important to protect the puppy from harm and to protect your house and favorite shoes. Well, another very important aspect to crate training is how it can be used to help with house training to prevent soiling in the house. Urine and stools attract predators, so a puppy learns early on from its mother that it does not want to sleep in an area where it has used the bathroom. The crate allows you to build on this early training. If the crate is not too large, a puppy will hold its body fluids as long as possible to keep its crate clean. (If a crate is too large, the puppy will just go to the far side of the crate and use the bathroom away from where it sleeps.)
Once a puppy is used to a crate, we can use the four times rule. From my perspective, there are four times a puppy will need to use the bathroom: 1) after eating, 2) after drinking, 3) after waking up (especially if it has been in the crate for some time), and 4) after it has been playing. Once a puppy has lost interest in playing and starts to wonder off, you had better get it outside because it is looking for a spot to use the bathroom. You should take the puppy out after all four of the above events. The rule of thumb is to take your pets out regularly on a very frequent basis – such as every two hours during waking hours. And if you cannot keep a close eye on them, you should put them in the crate to prevent “accidents.” Overnight, a puppy under 12 weeks cannot make it all night, so you should plan on getting up about four hours into your sleep time. After 12 weeks, the puppy should be able to hold it through the night (about 8 hours).
I like to suggest that you always use the same door to go outside and take the puppy to the same spot to use the bathroom. The consistency helps it realize why it is outside and the smell of always going to the same area reminds it why it is there. Some people like to train to pee pads (disposable pads with plastic on the bottom). I think if you live in a third-floor apartment with a lot of steps, this might be a good idea. Otherwise, I feel like you are training the puppy that it is acceptable to use the bathroom in the house. So, I usually recommend not using them.
Puppies catch on pretty quickly and will give you a signal that they need to go out, such as a whine or a scratch at the door. A small bell hanging from a piece of string from the handle of the door that you use is often helpful, as well. Ring it when you take the puppy out for a potty break and often it will figure it out and start ringing it on his own when he needs to go out.
Dr. Dick Hay is a veterinarian at TotalBond Veterinary Hospital at Davidson and has lived in Davidson since 1989 with his wife Pam, a retired Davidson College biology professor. They raised two wonderful children in Davidson, Sarah and Ben. Dr. Hay is a Davidson College graduate from the Class of 1977 and received his MS and DVM degrees from the University of Georgia. He is active in the community, having served on several nonprofits boards, including many years with the Davidson Housing Coalition.