A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about raising two young puppies at the same time. Many people have been asking me how I manage to house train both puppies at once. My answer: management, vigilance, consistency, commitment, and patience. It’s not easy, but it’s doable.
There are so many approaches to house training. I have house trained five dogs withing the past three years, and each dog was different. The last dog I house trained, Athena, was impossible, and I thought she would never learn. In fact, I thought Athena was a real ditz, well, she just won Novice obedience with “High in Trial” and is completely and reliably house trained. So, go figure!
Anyway, back to the business at hand. I am relying on the puppies’ instinct to relieve themselves in places far away from where they sleep and eat. I manage them by kenneling them in an outdoor kennel with a run while I’m at work. The kennel is roomy and made from concrete, and the run has pavement and grass. The puppies potty in the grass and very rarely mess in the kennel itself (they did that once when my gardner accidentally locked them in the kennel). At night the puppies sleep in separate crates that are just large enough for them to stand up, turn around in, and stretch out to sleep. Anything larger will allow them to pee/poop in one section of the crate and sleep in another. That defeats the whole process.
House training is all about getting the puppy to understand that the human’s house is a place for eating and sleeping, and all pottying must be done in the yard. It’s just like life in the outdoor kennel and the crate, only difference is that the human has a bigger kennel.
The puppies NEVER have the full run of the house, and are never in the house unless they are closely supervised. One has to be vigilant during the house training months. When I come home, the puppies come into the house, but not before I take them into the yard and watch to see that they potty. Once in the house, I have to watch them like a hawk. Although they have just been to the bathroom, there’s nothing like an exciting game of “catch-me-if-you-can” around the dinning table to make a puppy need to go quickly.
I let the puppies out frequently, like every half-hour for now, because they are only 11 weeks old. Many times, though, they do not need to go, so I will probably let them out every hour instead. I ALWAYS go into the yard with the pups, and watch to see who has gone to the bathroom. Initially I took the pups out on leash until they quickly learned that they must go potty first, then play. At 11 weeks they no longer go out on leash, but I still go with them.
At night the puppies sleep in the house in separate crates. Gretchen sleeps in my bedroom, and Tuvok sleeps in the larger crate in the living room. If I limit the puppies’ food and water intake after 8:00pm, and let them out for the last time between 9:30-10:00pm, they will sleep through the night until 6:00am.
Neither Tuvok nor Gretchen have had an accident in the house since they were six weeks old. I do not allow accidents to happen. I anticipate when they might need to go, and take them out before they start frantically sniffing the floor for a suitable spot.
The puppies have a schedule and routine that is consistent. They go outside right after they’ve eaten, and after they’ve napped. They go outside first thing in the morning.
In the mornings when I let them out, before all the other dogs, we don’t stop to play or greet, there’s no time. We head straight out the door where they immediately pee. They are accustomed to this routine, and know that everytime they go into the yard, they must go potty.
House training takes commitment. Once you make the decision to house train your dog, you must stick with the process until the dog is reliable, and do not give the dog the opportunity to “fail” at it. House training comes with practice for the humans; you get better at training the more times you have to do it. Once you are clear of what you want from the dog, and the dog understands what to do, the path will be relatively smooth.
If accidents happen, don’t beat yourself up (or the dog), just be more vigilant in future. Before long your dog will be able to be in the house without making a mess.
I will be posting 10 tips for house training on this blog very soon, so stay tuned.