Puppy 101.1

Crate & House Training

In this entry we will be discussing two very important factors that can help with house training and that is to fulfill the mantra “supervise or confine”.

First, what does this mantra mean when it comes to puppies?

Supervise or confine means exactly what you would expect. When you have a puppy you need to either be supervising the puppy, or confine the puppy in a safe place when you cannot directly supervise. Why? Simple. The less opportunities that are available to the puppy to practice bad habits, the faster the puppy will learn the good habits we want them to participate in. This mantra can be used for virtually any habit your puppy could develop such as chewing on undesirable objects such as furniture, shoes, cords, etc or going to the bathroom in the house or other inappropriate areas. If you do not supervise or confine your are unintentionally allowing your puppy to potentially practice bad habits when they are out of sight, and reduces the chance to properly correct and/or redirect as necessary to give an acceptable habit in place of a potentially bad one.

Below we discuss the basics of the Umbilical Cord Method and Crate Training:

  • Umbilical cord method
    • Tether the puppy to you when the puppy is not in a crate. This helps you keep an eye on the puppy, promotes positive bonding time by staying in close proximity, and allows you to stop unwanted behavior (such as accidents and chewing) before they become habits and before the puppy can complete an act.
    • Correcting a puppy in the act is the ideal way to correct something if you cannot prevent it; however prevention is the ideal way to keep unwanted behaviors from developing.
    • Tethering the puppy to you when the puppy is not in the crate helps increase bond building, stop unwanted behaviors before they start, allows you to learn your puppy’s signs of needing to go out to the bathroom, etc
  • Crate Training
    • It is important to note that crate training is a very important thing to do, even if you do not use it for house breaking. Dogs who get routine grooming may be crates, if a dog needs to spend any time at the vet without you (ie for spay/neuter, emergencies, dental cleanings, etc) they will be crated, for certain traveling accommodations, boarding, and so much more. Even if you opt to never use a crate in your own home, there are many situations that your dog may need to be in a crate or confined space and taking the time to make sure they are comfortable in a crate and mean the difference between an experience where they are relaxed and one where they are stressed and potentially could cause injury to themselves in their panic.
    • The crate should be just big enough to stand up, turn around and lay down. Too much room can allow the puppy a place to use the bathroom in the crate and lay on the other side of the crate away from the mess. Too large of a crate can often lead to a puppy who routinely uses the bathroom in the crate.
Puppy in a size appropriate crate with door open; from google.

Remember that puppies can only hold their bladders for a short amount of time, so it is very important that we keep our expectations firmly in reality when it comes to the time frame of house breaking and learning our rules.

The general key to how long a puppy can “hold it” is 1 hour for every month they are in age, plus 1 after the first 2 months. This means that a 2 month old (8 week old) puppy can only “hold it” for 2 hours, while a 3 month old puppy can “hold it” for 4 hours and so forth.

Also keep in mind that a puppy is not usually fully house trained until 6-18 months old, the average generally being 12 months. Obviously, some puppies take less time depending on the living situations and some puppies may take more time if they need to relearn bad habits.

Keep your expectations firmly in reality.

Basic Rules To Live By

  • Do not leave puppy unattended
    • If you cannot supervise, tether; see umbilical cord method
    • If you cannot tether, confine; generally in a crate or puppy-proof room
    • If the puppy gets into something it shouldn’t it is not the puppy’s fault, puppies do not understand house rules and it is our job to teach them.
  • Prevention is better than correction
    • If there are behaviors that you do not want your puppy to have ie going potty outside, chewing on things in the house, going into a certain room, jumping on people etc prevent the behavior before it ever begins. Do not allow the puppy to have opportunities to do the undesired behavior, correction an established behavior takes more time than preventing them. Examples:
      • If you want your puppy to only go to the bathroom outside, do your best to never allow your puppy to go to the bathroom inside. Keep to the “supervise or confine” mantra and monitor your puppy.
        • Accidents happen, don’t beat yourself up about them but also do your best to keep them as close to none as possible.
      • If you do not want your puppy to chew on inappropriate things do not leave the puppy unattended and only allow your puppy to chew on appropriate chews
      • If you do not want a puppy in a particular area, never allow your puppy in that area by either blocking off the area or proper supervising/tethering
      • If you do not want your puppy to jump on people, make your puppy sit for any and all attention so that your puppy will develop a habit of coming up and sitting for attention; this means not allowing the puppy to jump on you or your family either, not just guests.
  • Crate Training
    • Crate training can give the puppy a comfortable, safe spot to be when you need to leave the house and a safe place when you cannot directly supervise to help prevent the development of bad and potentially dangerous habits.
    • Proper crate training also helps decrease the chances of separation anxiety developing.
    • A great way to build positive association with the crate is to feed meals inside the crate.
      • Place food bowl, with food, in back of crate and allow puppy to go in to eat.
      • You can either shut the door or leave it open during meals, eventually you do want to get to a point where you are shutting the door.
      • Do not let puppy out when crying, ever. You want the puppy to be calm when you open the door to the crate. This helps crate a calm mind rather than an anxious one and teaches the puppy that whining/barking is not acceptable behavior.
      • If you let puppy out when crying/whining/barking puppy will learn that noise=out of the crate. Which can lead to anxiety and destructive behavior.

The fastest way to house breaking is to limit the number of accidents in the house, catch accidents made at the time they are being made and correct them in the moment and to heavily reward/praise the behaviors that we want.

In order to limit the number of accidents in the house keep to the mantra “supervise or confine”. Supervision will allow you to not only catch accidents as they happen so that an appropriate correction can be made and a redirection possible, but also makes it easier for you both to communicate and for you to learn your puppy’s bathroom signs. Does your puppy sniff the ground in a certain way? Paw the ground before going potty? Circle a few times? Whine a certain way? These are behaviors we may miss without direct supervision, which is also what makes the umbilical cord method so beneficial. It gives you a direct line of sight and movement when supervising.

Corrections are best when done in the moment, if the behavior has already been done and is over with the correction holds little to no meaning and just builds negative associations of varying degrees to varying things that are in the moment. For example, if you leave your puppy unsupervised and the puppy pees on the living room floor but you don’t see it until later, the best thing to do it to clean it up with enzymic cleaner and continue about your day with a note to better supervise your puppy.

Two things have happened in this situation:

1) your puppy has laid a brick of foundation toward going potty in the house and

2) your puppy has already moved away from the moment and will not fully understand what you are punishing for, if you decide to apply a correction in this moment-after the fact.

The more bricks that are laid the more stronger foundation of their understanding of our rules, boundaries and expectations are built. We want most of these bricks in their foundation to be what we want and expect from our adult dogs, so we want the majority of these house breaking foundational bricks to be outside.

Stay Tuned for a more detailed break down on how to fast track positive associations with the crate and to make the crate a very positive place for your pup to be, especially within the first week of coming home.

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