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One of the biggest challenges in having any pet is in the house training. Even the cutest little puppy will quickly drop out of your affections if they begin ruining your rugs, furniture, and ability to walk around in your house barefoot with indiscriminate eliminations. One of the top reasons for frustration with a new pet, or the decision to return or give away an adopted puppy is the damage and stress caused by inappropriate elimination. The key here is to go into the experience knowing that you will have to toilet train your puppy, and exactly what this can entail.
The most important fact for you to keep in mind is that your puppy is not born with an inherent knowledge of proper elimination protocol, or even the bowel and bladder control necessary for control over their elimination. Puppies in a litter environment will ‘go’ whenever and wherever the need hits them, and they must be trained not to do this any more. This is called acquiring a “Den Instinct,” meaning that they come to regard your home as their den and thus not suitable for going to the bathroom. Puppies are growing animals, and as such they eat a lot, process that food quickly, and must go to the bathroom much more frequently than adult dogs – but lack the ability to “hold it.” This often results in unintentional soiling.
It’s essential not to punish your puppy for incidents like that. While it might seem to make sense that punishment will deter certain behaviours, the fact is your puppy will not make the connection, and the only possible outcome is to link waste elimination with fear and anxiety. Absolutely no good can come of this. Also, keep in mind that toilet training can take up to six months or even longer – it’s not something your puppy should ‘get’ right away – be patient!
Your first step is to establish where your puppy should be going to the bathroom. This should be a consistent area that your puppy has easy access to. If you designate an area they can’t get to, it will obviously be confusing and upsetting to your puppy, and will result in your puppy going to the bathroom exactly where you don’t want them to go.
Set up a system of rewards for when your puppy goes in the right place. Where negative reinforcement such as punishment doesn’t work, positive reinforcement with treats and praise does work. When your Puppy behaves the way you want them to, reward them, and be consistent about it. This is the number one way you’ll train your puppy to always go to the bathroom where you want them to go.
Make sure your puppy is on a regular feeding and exercise schedule. A schedule is vital, as it will also make when they need the toilet predictable. For the first few months, keep track of their feedings and when they go to the toilet and make sure you can see a predictable pattern. A lack of consistency could indicate problems physical or emotional – keep track and you’ll have no surprises.
Once you have a schedule set up there should be no surprises, and instinct will quickly take over for you. The key is to be patient and kind with your pup – and never forget they’re an animal who doesn’t always understand what you need from them.
Want some more hints and tips for your new puppy? Check out our Puppy Care Section