The Puppy Life Series
Part 1: House Breaking
What’s cuter than a beagle puppy? The answer is nothing! They are adorable balls of energy and love. However, with all of that sweetness comes a lot of responsibility and necessary patience. Puppies are babies who are experiencing the world for the very first time. Everything is new and exciting. I will be doing a total of three articles on the different aspects of bringing a puppy home. These are all recommendations and suggestions to help things go a little more smoothly. Working with a trainer to help shape the puppy’s behavior and your own is always recommended.
Before I get down to it, I want to emphasize that punishment-based procedures should never be your first thought. You are not the dog’s “alpha” and your goal should not be to dominate your dog. Punishment can cause fear, anxiety, and an increase in other undesirable behaviors. So, take a deep breath and find your inner Zen. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has recently released an excellent article on this. If you would like to read it, let me know and I will pass it along.
House breaking is often the most difficult part of owning a puppy for many new puppy parents. Puppies are not eliminating in the house to be spiteful or disobedient, they are eliminating because, well, they have to go! Our job is to teach them the right place to go.
A few steps to get started:
· Bring the pup outside on a leash in the same spot every time and heavily reinforce when they go. Bring out the good treats and get excited with them. Reinforcement should happen immediately following the behavior so that the correct behavior is reinforced. He goes and as soon as it’s all out, the treat is there and paired with “Good pee pees outside!” (or a similar phrase). Then it’s play time.
· Since we are reinforcing that one spot outside with positive attention, try and hide your frustration and annoyance with the inside accident. Clean it up and move on. For some dogs, any attention you give is good attention. Differential reinforcement is what we are looking for. We want to reinforce the desired behavior and extinguish the undesired behavior. I often hear people say “But I’m ignoring the behavior and he just keeps looking at me and doing it” as they roll their eyes, sigh, and curse under their breath. That’s a response. Ignoring is NO outward response.
· Always use an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle when cleaning an area where an accident occurred so that the pup doesn’t smell the area and make that their spot to go.
· Keep a chart of when and where your pup is going. Typically, you will see repetition during certain times of day followed by a pattern of behaviors just before they are about to go. When you see the tell-tale signs of circling, sniffing, etc., scoop up your pup and get to the designated spot.
· Give the pup a few minutes after eating and drinking to let it digest and out they go. The more opportunities he has to go in the right spot and receive immediate reinforcement, the quicker he will learn what is expected and what it takes to get the good stuff!
· Take the puppy out immediately after they wake up. Do not give time to sniff around, stretch, cuddle, etc. Save all that for when the deed is done outside and reinforce like crazy after the fact.
· Some people like to train with bells on the door. If this is the case, ring the bell just before you open the door so that the door opening and the bell are paired.
· Use a cue phrase just before going out, such as “pee pees outside” and the door opens, and you go to your spot. Any word/phrase will do as long as it is consistent and again, paired with the door opening.
· Watch for cues that they are giving you. Are they pawing at the door? Are they circling? Are they whimpering? Did their activity level just suddenly increase? In the very beginning these signs might not be very noticeable but the more you get to know your pup, the more apparent they will become.
As always, I’m happy to help offer suggestions or discuss any behaviors of concern. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biting behaviors with humans, socialization, and body language.