I am not a pet behaviorist or a vet, so I am sharing my experience of owning dogs and what worked for me and them as far as food and training is concerned. As a nutritional therapist for the last 23 years I firmly believe that we are what we eat… and that applies to our pets too.
I had two other collies before we got Sam as a puppy and I already knew that this breed had some interesting characteristics one of which is that they were quick to learn and were easy to house-train.
House training reward not punishment for you and your dog.
There is nothing more endearing than a young puppy gambolling around the house and garden and bringing a great deal of fun and laughter into our lives.
When I first brought Sam home, when he was just 8 weeks old, it ended 18 years without a pet in the house. I had made the decision that I had to be working part-time before I got a dog, as I feel that it is not kind to leave them on their own for hours at a time.
This is especially the case with puppies – they not only have a very short attention span and get bored very easily but also have very small bladders.
I can remember some advice that I received when I had my first puppy in my twenties and I had not followed it then and I didn’t with Sam. The method of rubbing your dog’s face in any accident they might have had in the house is both cruel and unnecessary. Particularly if it is several minutes or even hours after the event. Puppies are like babies and do not necessarily have all the social graces at first, but unlike babies they learn very quickly and can be house trained simply and kindly.
We were very lucky in as much as we had a very useful utility room, next to the back door which was the right size to accommodate both bedroom and prepared toilet areas for the new arrival.
Dogs do not foul their own beds so a clear definition needs to be made. Place some waterproof material under lots of newspaper by the door as far as possible away from its bed and drinking water, and leave the puppy in this small play area at night or when you are either out of the house or cannot watch over them.
These days there are puppy pads that you can buy which are more expensive but you can buy in various sizes dependent on your puppy breed. They do save on washing and cleaning up and placed by the door away from the puppy’s bed will usually encourage them to use rather than just anywhere.
I put a gate up across the door between the utility room and the kitchen and Sam could watch us when we were cooking dinner, which is not a good time to have a puppy under foot. The first night we walked him in the garden late and got up early the next morning and discovered that he had just had a pee on the paper by the door. We took him out immediately and began a routine, which I will explain in a moment.
The next morning at the same time, we found Sam with both legs and eyes crossed hanging on for dear life. He made it outside to the garden and stood for about 40 seconds with a glazed look on his face.
He was a bright puppy and no one had house trained him in the previous 8 weeks, because he lived outside in a shed on straw. He instinctively knew that he should not soil his living area and that extended to the rest of the house as he gained more access. To this day the only accidents he has had in the house have been if he was unwell and it was unavoidable. He always asks to go out and you have to learn to understand the difference between pestering for attention and food and the absolute necessity your dog has to go out and relieve himself.
Here are some tips for house training your new dog.
I am not a keen advocate of cages and crates that seem to be the modern approach to house training, as I believe them to be too confining. Yes a dog needs a safe place to retire to when they feel they wish that, but you can provide that in a quiet and safe room away from the main living areas. To be honest, the dogs I have owned, have always wanted to be where we were, and it was usually a sign that they might be unwell that prompted them to remove themselves.
What is very useful is a playpen with a solid washable floor that you can put newspaper down on, and small wheels – you can safely leave your puppy with suitable chew toys for entertainment and also where you can limit access to other areas of the house. With the wheels it means you can take the pen to the various rooms you are in easily and without accidents. It is much bigger than a crate and despite having no top will serve to give the dog a sense of security..
Tips for house-training your pet.
- As with humans there are certain functions that stimulate the need to go to the loo and although it is an excellent idea to take a new puppy out every one or two hours there are certain times that you should try and stick to.
- Immediately your puppy wakes up in the morning or from one of their frequent naps.
- Last thing at night.
- Shortly after their meals.
- Before greeting sessions with visitors (otherwise they will go during in excitement)
- After a session of playing.
- Every hour for a few minutes.
- When training your puppy you need to establish both routine and also purpose. Keep toilet and play times separate so that when you go out on the hour or every two hours you are not distracting the dog from going to the toilet, going back inside and then pestering you five minutes later because they have a full bladder.
- Take the puppy out on a lead to a specific area of the garden, this will encourage the dog to know that when on the lead they are working and will help when you begin to walk them off your property and on the street.
- Make sure that you keep the designated area clean, from a hygiene perspective but also because dogs do not like soiling over previous poops and will look for somewhere else.
- Develop a word for the puppy for the process that you will continue to use as they get older.
- Stay with the puppy as it will prevent him getting distracted from the task in hand.
- Reward them when they have either peed or pooped with your chosen word and tell them they are a good boy or girl etc. You can also give them a small puppy treat so that he begins to associate the action with the reward.
- Then spend a few minutes with the puppy off the lead having a game or taking them for a walk around the garden. If they have had all their vaccinations then you can take them out, which in itself will be a reward.
Learn to interpret your puppy’s body language and vocal patterns so that you know when they need to go out. If your puppy suddenly starts sniffing the ground and running around it usually means that they are looking for a place to go to the toilet.
If you are not quick enough to get to them then distract him with clapping hands or a word loudly in a non-aggressive manner (no point in scaring them into an accident). Pick them up swiftly and take to the designated place in the garden (not right at the bottom, as you may not get there unscathed). Place them on the ground and praise them thoroughly when they have finished doing what they need to.
When they are a little older you can get inventive and some owners successfully train their dogs to ring bells to come in and out.. and also find that pet doors into safe areas of the garden save a lot of getting up and down every time their dog wants to go outside for any reason.
Personally the size door we would have needed for Sam would have allowed for humans to use as well so it was not an option we felt was secure.
What happens if the puppy has accidents in the house?
You will be very lucky indeed to get away without any accidents during the lifetime of a dog but certainly make allowances for puppies at night. If you have given them more access to the house they will not always be in reach of their usual paper in their sleeping area so be prepared to clean up after them.
Do not use ammonia-based products as this will smell like pee to your puppy and they may decide to use this spot as a designated toilet area. Clean thoroughly with hot soapy water and there are some pet safe disinfectants that you should buy at the same time as you buy all your new puppies accessories.
It is likely at first that your puppy will have accidents at night and of course if they are in the utility room he is unable to attract your attention. Some owners keep the puppies in a box in their bedrooms at night so that they can hear them if they cry and if you are prepared for a few sleepless nights then this is one option.
I personally prefer a utility room or bathroom with a specific area for accidents and make sure that the puppy is walked as late as possible at night and as early as possible in the morning, even if it means going back to bed for a couple of hours.
We all know the discomfort caused by the need to desperately go to the loo without a toilet nearby and dogs are no exception, they will let you know and you will need to learn to understand their language and be patient with them and yourself.
©2021 Sally Cronin
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020
Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.