Potty Training your Puppy
My Approach – Mylad Havanese
So you have a new puppy and he/she is sooo cute, well until your puppy decides to go potty on your carpet, or couch.. Havanese need to be trained with positive re-enforcement, they, like many breeds, do not respond well with disciplinary training, so you have to reward the good and ignore the bad.
Personality and Training:
Your puppy may be dominate or submissive, you will be able to tell by how your puppy reacts with you, your family and other animals in the house. A dominate puppy (alpha) will require a little firmer tone and absolute consistency on your part. (Not yelling just a training voice, which is generally a tone or two lower than your normal tone) This is why it is hard for children to train their puppies, their sweet little voices sometime just don’t reach the brains of those alpha puppies. Teach your child to use a training voice and practice it, and everyone teach yourself to only say your training command ONCE. This is harder to do than you think, watch yourself you will constantly be calling Spot come 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, times and that teaches Spot that you are not really very serious at all.
Alpha puppies don’t give you “head of household status”, you must show and earn it, so you must not let the Alpha puppy be the boss of your household. Certain behaviors in an Alpha puppy need to be re-directed in order to make training easier. For example hand biting, biting the lead – (looks cute but it is actually “you are not the boss of me behavior” ) dumping food bowl, not eating until there is something he/she likes in the bowl, barking, whining and just generally not listening at all. The most effective training tool you have is teaching your puppy that you, and the people in your household are the alphas, that and being consistent. This is not the same as teaching a dog who is boss – you can’t force this relationship – you will earn it or you will not, but forcing it through dominant aggressive behavior will guarantee you either an aggressive dog or a very shy submissive puppy. Neither are desirable outcomes. Clarity, consistency and reward are the things that make you alpha to your dog.
Submissive behavior looks more like a gentle puppy, generally at your feet, may crouch down when you approach her/him, may roll over on back when you go to pet her/him. Will absolutely look crushed if harshly corrected, this puppy needs a much gentler approach than the alpha puppy and will lap up praise and repeat that good behavior again but will be very distressed by aggressive reprimands and this could lead to anxiety peeing, cowering, and fear biting – so be patient and gentle. The overly submissive dog needs re-enforcement and confidence; training is an excellent way to give confidence, as the dog becomes confident and happy when it pleases its owners it gets a big hug and a treat for it. Don’t underestimate the “reward” whether you give treats for rewards, or just lots of love and affection the reward is critical. Make a HUGE fuss over good behavior. I use the same word over and over when the good behaviors are demonstrated – I say YES in a very excited tone. This is very similar to clicker training – when the behaviors are demonstrated, something recognizable and consistent and happy happens, then I treat and pet and cuddle. The reward word is important. More about clicker training and rewards word later.
On to Potty Training:
Consistency consistency consistency – pick a method and stick with it for at least a week – don’t go back and forth, it will confuse your puppy.
Here is a guideline for a young puppy. Whether you crate, outdoor, litter box or dog door train your puppy there are some common practices;
You always pick the spot!
Be consistent where you want the puppy to potty at first – if you take your puppy for a walk potty him/her in their spot first and then have a walk, stops it from being a long sniff sniff sniff stroll and gives your puppy a nice fund walk as more reward for performing potty exactly when and where you wanted it.
Use a command!!!
Use a command and always have your reward ready (treats or a hug). I use go pee and go poo and they do know the difference, use whatever you are comfortable with. Use the command, wait for the action then say YES!!! And reward. Don’t let the puppy distract you once you have given the command you need to wait for the potty to occur. They do not play first, they play after. Patience is important. If the puppy absolutely can’t go, just bring her/him back inside, or put him back in his pen or crate and try again in 10 minutes.
Timing Is Important!
An 8 – 10 week old puppy should be taken outdoors every two to four hours. Older puppies can generally wait longer between outings. Most puppies should be taken out: as follows, but your best training aid is to make a chart and track when your puppy potty’s, that will let you know what is normal for him. Try to give your puppy food and water at the same time when you are initially training your puppy.
- After waking in the morning – carry him/her to the spot
- After naps – walk him/her to the spot
- 5-10 min after a drink and 20-30 after meals - walk him/her to the spot
- After playing or training – walk him/her to the spot
- After being left alone – walk him/her to the spot unless it has been 3 hours or more than you might want to carry to avoid an accident
- Immediately before being put to bed - walk him/her to the spot
- Don’t ever put your pup back in his/her crate or take them back into the house immediately after potty has occurred, they will start to realize that if they delay the potty they get more time to play. Let them play for a bit with you after so they associate this very nice play time with more reward for going potty. Trust me even puppies are smart and I had a puppy that would take forever to potty so he didn’t have to go back in the house – once I stopped immediately taking him back it was a snap. This is why I prefer to potty my dog first in MY CHOOSEN SPOT and then walk him. They love the walk it is all part of their reward.
Why sometimes walk and sometimes carry?
You want to walk your dog to the potty area whenever possible so eventually they will walk there on their own if litter box, wee pad or door trained. If you carry your dog every time, they will not associate the way to go on their own. If you use a litter box or wee pad – walk your puppy their (preferably on a lead), give your command and wait for the event. Remember your goal is to control when and where they potty. If you train your dog just to go outside and only outside walk your dog through the same door every time and take him/her to the same spot. Some people train their dog to ring a bell when they want to go outside, so walk your dog to the door where you have hung a bell and let him hit the bell with his paws or nose – reward him and then take him out to potty. If a puppy has gone all night, or you just know he/she REALLY REALLY has to go potty – it is OK to carry a puppy, it could avoid an accident.
Crate training is really just a very convenient way for you to prevent the puppy from having accidents and let you stay on top and control the areas where she/he will potty. Since puppies generally do not like to dirty their sleeping area most puppies will hold their bladders until they are out of the crate. If you crate a puppy too long however they will have to go in the crate and once they begin doing that, it can be more difficult to teach them that this is not acceptable. So NEVER put a puppy in a crate that has not gone potty, unless you are just waiting 5 – 10 minutes to try it again. Don’t use your crate as punishment, it should be a happy place for your puppy. I always treat when I put my puppy in his crate and always use a command before placing him there. I say “Crate Up” See article on Crate Training for different types of crate. Puppies can be crated at night and after 10 weeks will generally be able to hold their bladders all night.
Some advice on getting your puppy to love her/his crate; feed your puppy his dinner, one piece at a time, by tossing pieces of kibble into the crate for him to chase and eat. This way, you can make a game out of training.
When you pick up her/his toys, store them in the crate so he will enter on his own to play. You may even want to occasionally hide a biscuit in the crate as a nice surprise.
A Typical Crate/Potty Training Schedule:
- No food or water after 8:00 pm for a 10:30 or later bedtime
- Make sure your puppy has gone potty before going into the crate
- Use your crate command and get the puppy to go into the crate – REWARD!!!!
- Close the door – cover your crate if you are using wire and go to sleep
- If the puppy cries you can take the puppy out to potty if it has been 4 hours or more for a puppy over 8 weeks.
- If you have to take the puppy out to potty in the night, do not play, talk, or cuddle the puppy – you are only interrupting your sleep for an urgent potty not for a play date. Take the puppy out of the crate, put the lead on the puppy if going outdoors and carry the puppy outside to avoid an accident.
- Give the puppy the potty command – wait for the puppy to pee, reward, but don’t be too exuberant on this midnight potty you want to try to keep the puppy calm – give another command “go poo” or “go more potty” and see if the puppy has to poo.
- The puppy will almost always want to play, cute as that puppy is ignore it and stick to your guns – you are waiting for potty not playing. If the puppy clearly does not have to poo, walk the puppy back inside and put immediately in his/her crate.
- Use the crate command and a soft reward. Initially almost all puppies will protest and cry, whine or bark, they are wide awake and don’t want to go back to bed – you have to ignore this. A gentle tap on the crate and a firm stop command generally helps. Wait it out, the puppy will go back to sleep. If you are consistent with this, your puppy will re-crate after a nighttime potty without protest generally by the 3rd or 4th time.
- The puppy will sleep through the night almost always by 12 weeks, if he/she is not you are either giving water too late in the evening or not pottying right before crate time, or having a great play date with your puppy when they wake you. If you are doing everything correctly and still having to get up, check for urinary infection.
- Morning time – carry your puppy to the potty spot to avoid an accident – use your command and rewards
- Let the puppy have play time before bringing him/her indoors or confining him/her
- Crate your puppy
- Don’t feed your puppy immediately when you get up if you can avoid it. If your puppy associates food with wake up, you could be in for earlier and earlier mornings. I try to wait ½ an hour but I know this is not always possible. It’s not a huge deal, but if you like your weekend sleep it helps to wait.
- Feed your puppy – make sure you have left yourself at least 30 minutes before you have to leave the puppy so you can make sure you get a full potty from your puppy.
- Potty the puppy
- Crate your puppy.
Outdoor Training but No Confinement
If you don’t want to confine and use a crate you will have a harder job and it will take a lot of your time but it can be done. Really the method is the same - the difference is you will have to watch your puppy every moment for signs that it has to go potty. Use the same schedule but look for indications that your puppy has to go potty – you will be taking him outside about every 1 ½ hours at first. Some people put a collar and lead on the puppy and tie the lead to themselves so the puppy can be watched and with them all the time they are awake. Try using the bell at the door so your puppy begins to let you know when it needs to go out, not all havanese will bark or make a vocal sound at all so the bell is great. Many Hav’s just simply stand at the door and wait for you to notice.
Litter Box Training
A litter box can be a box, a wee pad a newspaper anything. It is great to get puppies started, teaches them the where, not necessarily the when though. It is also very convenient for apartment dogs, or for people who find it hard to take their dogs outside. You can use both indoor litter box and outdoor training – just make sure the puppy is trained first on the litter box.
- Keep the potty area in a consistent spot
- Initially use the same potty material all the time – wee pads, newspapers, shavings
- Keep the box clean, but initially not too clean, I often blot up a bit of pee from the old wee pad onto the new wee pad since puppies first learn potty training by smell alone.
- If there are accidents use a good neutralizer product – puppies can smell urine something like 100 parts to 1 so a neutralizer product is important..
- You can use litter box training combined with crate training or if you choose not to confine, you will have to watch the puppy all time time, and consistently move her to the wee pad or litter box. The more space you give the puppy the harder it is for her/him to know where you want them to potty.
Typical Litter Box Training with confinement
· Crate puppy at night
· Take puppy out of crate and put on a lead
· Walk puppy to litter box and give command
· Wait for the event and reward
· Play with puppy
· Feed and Water puppy
· Either take puppy to area and give command or watch her very closely and move her to litter box when she has to go potty
· Use the command
· Wait and reward
· Follow crate t raining schedule above
· Pretty quickly your puppy will be consistent and it is up to you then whether you want to take her to the box every time or just let her use it when she wants to.
· Note: Keep your litter box in the same spot for at least a little while, your puppy will eventually learn that it is the box that is important not the location, and this can be a real advantage for traveling – you can take a wee pad or even the box to hotels, airports etc.
Types of Litter
· Wee pads
· I buy rolls of white newsprint from a mill – you can sometimes get these a dog stores
· Pet litter shavings – this is excellent – prevents staining of feet and puppies don’t eat it
· Avoid cat litter many swell in the intestine and some have ingredients harmful if eaten. Puppies eat everything so I just avoid
· Recycled newspaper pellets – I don’t use they are expensive and puppies may eat them – I prefer shavings
Thoughts on Rewards
Treats: I know some people think you should not have to give treats to get good behavior but I use treats a lot. My dogs are food motivated, they love treats and for them it is a very effective great reward. They don’t always get treats but when I’m in the training phase I do treat train. I actually use dog food though, my dogs and puppies love Natural Balance Beef in the rolls – it is a healthy treat and easy to use. I make sure that I always have treats in my pocket or reachable in the house when I’m in the training phase – rewards have to be immediate.
Since dogs can get confused with human language I try to use the same reward word all the time. It is really your body language and voice that indicates to the dog whether you are pleased or not so try to say it the same way every time. Good girl or Good boy works – I simply say a very excited Yes. You give the reward word EXACTLY when the good behavior occurs. For example as soon as the puppy starts to pee give the reward word. As soon as the puppy touches the bell to ring give the reward word. Treat after the action is completed. Eventually for commands like stay you will stretch out the time between the reward word and the actual reward (treat)
This is the advanced approach to the Reward Word:
Clickers take the inconsistency out of the human language so instead of sometime saying good, or way to go or yes, you click. They learn very fast that the click sounds means they did well. So as soon as they go pee you click – let them finish and then reward with treat or affection. Clicker’s are inexpensive and can be purchased at most pet stores. Clicker training classes are also available. The most important thing is that the click HAS to occur when the desired action happens – not after it happens as soon as it happens, the puppy then associates what it is doing is something desirable, he/she is pleasing you. A good way to start with clicker training is to play the Name Game:
Call the puppies' name (this is one command you can repeat over and over) AS SOON AS THE PUPPY so much as looks at you click and then reward. Do this 7 -10 times a day for a couple of days. You will have started to re-enforce clicker recognition, your puppy will know it’s name, and you will also be on the path to teaching your puppy to come to you when you call his/her name. You will notice as you play the name game that the puppy follows you around - get two involved in the game with one calling from one end of the room and one from the other – remember the puppy MUST acknowledge the person who called his/her name.
OK I know it can be annoying but you really have to change your thinking on accidents – for example a young puppy really just does not know what you want until you train it – so who had the accident you or the puppy?? Just know there will be accidents, you are not perfect and neither is your puppy – it will be because he/she didn’t understand, you did not get the puppy to the right place at the right time, they had all this room to play in so surely it is OK to have a bedroom here, a dining room here and a bathroom right there on your rug or just ooops I was having just so much fun I just forgot you wanted me to go there.
How to handle accidents is an area of opinion – some say don’t do anything at all – just clean it up, old school thinking had you punishing the dog for it – I’m kind of in the middle here. I have tried the don’t do anything approach and it did not work for me – yes yes my fault for not being consistent enough on the reinforcement behavior but I do find a small reminder that the behavior is not correct has worked for me, oh and yes if you plan to yell at your puppy, rub their nose in the mistake, or hit them then you are not grown up enough to be a parent or a puppy owner – sorry but that’s the way I see it – don’t get a puppy.
Here is what I do;
IF AND ONLY IF I see the puppy having the accident I make a loud uh uh sound in the back of my throat – this is not to reprimand the puppy, more to get his/her attention and stop them from finishing – I don’t reprimand the puppy I pick him/her up and put her in the right spot – and if I’m lucky she will finish what she started and I can praise her. When the puppy is not looking clean the spot thoroughly with a neutralizer.
More often then not though if you scare the puppy they will not finish – so be gentle. If you are close to the puppy don’t use any sharp sounds simply say in a normal voice “not there” pick the puppy up and put her/him in the right place use your command and reward and praise. A puppy that gets scared will learn that pottying is bad and will hide it from you – this is when you will start to find little presents in corners etc. And by the way yelling or scaring the puppy does nothing for the training process it actually slows it down.
Quite often the puppy will not continue to pee – she is either afraid to, is confused, or already finished – in this case you really really want to catch the next one so you can reward and praise so keep a very close eye on the puppy so he/she can get that positive re-enforcement. If you are outdoor training take the puppy outside and be patient and wait, generally they will pee eventually outside, especially if they are getting to know the command. If you are using a litter keep the puppy near the litter box and keep a close eye on her so you can praise her. You want this next potty to be a successful one so you can praise and reward. Use your judgment if you know for sure she actually finished there is no need to stand outside for 30 minutes, wait a bit, give the puppy a big drink and try again - but again make sure the next potty is a success. Don’t put your puppy right in the crate or x-pen after an accident; remember you don’t want the puppy to associate his happy place den with a time out punishment.
If I don’t catch the puppy in the act there is absolutely no point in using any corrective behavior, the puppy would not understand a reprimand at all – it may understand that you don’t want it to go potty but it won’t associate that it did it in the wrong place, so clean it up, forget about it, and do better next time.
You just missed it – nothing you can do about it – you failed J
That’s it for now – happy training!!!!
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