Effective house training comes down to two basic things. First Scheduling, and second supervision.
It is not advised that you free feed your dog. for the propose of this article think of it like this when you put something in your dog you can gauge when it should be ready to come out. Free feeding can also lead to other minor and major behavioral issues but we will talk about those in a later post. If you know when and how much your dog eats you can then know when they will need to go out. A good feeding schedule should look something like this.
7 am dog goes outside to potty
7:15 breakfast. (Feed in the crate if you are not able to directly supervise your puppy)
7:30 outside to potty. Give them 10 to 15 min to do this if they go then they can be free if they do not back in the crate for 20 min. Repeat this until you see your dog both urinate and defecate before allowing him/her to run loose in the house for a bit.
I suggest taking the dog outside on a leash until they go potty. This will help them stay focused and start to get the job done faster if they learn to poop and pee before they play. After they go, reward them with lots of praise and let them run free.
Repeat a similar schedule around each feeding.
Your dog should never be left to explore on his/her own with out direct supervisions. If you do not constantly watch your dog, sooner or later they will wander off to a quiet place and to leave you a gift on the floor, which you will probably find in the dark with either your best shoes or your bare feet. Pick a room where your dog has easy access to the outside. Your dog should stay in this room until he is consistently going to the bathroom outside, then you can start to expand his world, do this slowly one room at a time. If you are not able to supervise your little furbaby, they should be left in the kennel.
Crates are your one of your best and most effective tools in having a well behaved dog. They not only make house training much easier but the address a whole host of other issues that I will discuss in other posts. Do not think of a crate as a prison for your dog. The crate should never be used a tool for punishment. Instead think of it as giving your dog their own room. It gives them a place where they can go to be safe and get away from the day to day stresses of life. It also keeps them safe by keeping them out of trouble when you are not around.
Getting a crate the right size is important. You should get a crate that will fit your dog when they are an adult. This means that they can stand upright in the kennel and be able to fit length wise from their nose to their rump (not the tip of their tail). If you have a small puppy you can cut down the size of the kennel by adding some barrier such as a milk crate or a wire barrier so as to only allow them the space they need. A proper size for potty training will allow you dog to enter, turn around and lay down. Nothing more until the potty training is completed. If your dog is consistently having accidents in their kennel chances are that it is too big, reduce the size of the kennel and stay on schedule.
Often people are worried about keeping their dog comfortable in the crate. This is more of our emotions speaking us than the needs of the dog. If your dog will keep a bed, mat, or something soft to lay on in the crate without destroying it, this is fine. If your dog destroys and shreds everything you put in there, there is not need to worry about him being comfortable. If he/she destroys everything you put in there you may find yourself in the vet ER for a blocked bowel or some other emergency procedure. To much soft bedding can also lead to more accidents. Like a baby’s diaper, the more the bedding absorbs the less irritated your dogs is with it and will carry on with out realizing what they have done.
How long is to long to leave the dog in the crate? As a general rule of thumb, your dog should be able to stay in their kennel 1 hour for every month of age. So if you get your puppy at 8 weeks he/she should be able to hold it in the crate for 2 hours between potty breaks. 12 weeks 3 hours and so on and so forth.
How much do I feed them? I like to feed my puppy like and adult dog the same. Give them all of the food they want or need, but do not leave the food dish full so they can eat whenever they want. As a general rule, I will give a dog 10-15 minutes to eat. Then pick it up and offer it to them a little later. This is to not limit the amount of calories or nutrients the dog takes in, it is hard to feed a young dog (less than 9 months) to much. If you are anticipating your puppy growing to be a 100 lb dog them feed them like one. If they do not eat it all in one sitting that is fine, don’t waist it just hold it until the next feeding.
When will I know when I can stop using the crate? That depends, part having a good relationship with your dog is having your relationship centered on trust.
When can your let your dog run free? When you can trust him to do so with out getting into trouble. This trust takes time to build, and it is nothing that you need to rush.
Should I use Pee Pads? NO…NO…NO!!! Pee pads are generally a bad idea as they ultimately teach the dog that it is OK to go potty in the house. There are many other uses for pee pads but ironically they do not help dogs learn to go potty outside.