Hassle-free Housebreaking

You have just purchased the cutest, furry, little bundle of joy. But surprise — it does not come housebroken. The next few weeks will definitely be a test of your patience. Your puppy will need constant supervision for next little while, and if you can devote the time, you will find it very rewarding.

It is easier to get your animal housebroken if you understand the reasons behind what you are doing. It can be a relatively easy task or very difficult depending on how you handle the circumstances.

Understanding the Steps to Housebreaking

There are several steps to housebreaking which include the following:

a) The puppy must learn that there are places that are acceptable for elimination, and places that are not. The house is not the place.

b) Young puppies will normally eliminate when the urge hits them. They must learn to hold it until they get to that appropriate spot, and

c) He/she must learn to tell you when they need to go outside.

First, let us look at what happens in the wild, with coyotes and wolves. The mother digs a den in which her little ones will be born. It is very small, comfortable and secure. The pups are born, and the mother keeps it clean by eating any of the wastes. Once the pups are weaned, the mother begins leading them out of the den to eliminate and play. The den is then kept as a clean, secure place to sleep. If it does not smell, it is less likely to attract critters that will prey on the pups. The pups are comforted by being in this small environment.

Can I use a crate to help housebreak by puppy?

Yes: using a dog crate as a training aid can be very useful. It is a wonderful substitute for the den. By nature, a puppy does not like to soil its bed. Rather than soil its bed it learns to hold it. It also cries to tell you that it has to get out of its bed to go potty. If you respond to its cries by taking the pup to the spot where you wish it to go potty, you are showing it that there is one place only for it to go (outside), and you have begun the housebreaking process. Please do not think that I am suggesting that the puppy should spend most of the time in a crate. I am not.

Is there a routine I can use?

The routine I suggest is as follows:

a) Take the puppy out as soon as you get home, wait until it relieves itself, give lots of praise and then go inside. Try giving the command, “Get out” as you go outside.

b) Let the puppy have a good playtime, to wear off any excess energy. When it starts to tire, put it in its crate with a treat and some toys and close the door. If it fusses, ignore it and go find something else to do.

c) After a quiet time in the crate take the puppy outside and again wait until it eliminates, giving lots of praise when it does so. If he does not go, then return him to his crate. Wait and try again later. Do not reward him by giving him his freedom or play time.

d) Repeat this procedure (a to c) so that pup learns that there is a time to sleep, a time to play and a time to go outside to eliminate. Outside should be only for going potty, not play during this period.

e) Remember to take your pup out immediately after it wakes up and begins to cry,

f) Remember to take your pup out right immediately after every meal.

g) Remember to give lots of praise when it does what you want it to do.

You may wish to give a command at the time the dog is eliminating, such as, “Hurry up.” This may prove to be useful later on. Be sure to give it lots of praise when it does what you want it to do. Puppies will respond to praise much better than to punishment.

Also, if you take your dog to the same spot in your yard every time you take it out to eliminate, it will continue to use this spot, which will make cleanups much easier in the future. Some people go so far as to put a graveled area in one corner of their yard, behind a few shrubs and that becomes the pup’s permanent potty area.

Who is to blame?

Your puppy will not all of the sudden just squat and relieve itself. It will always give you a sign that it has to go. The trick to success is watching for, understanding and responding quickly to the action the pup gives. The pup might do circles. It might just start sniffing the floor or lose interest in a toy. It might give a small whimper or a loud bark. It might just run to the window, or the door. It is your job to recognize the sign and get him/her outside. If you do, your life will become so much easier. If he/she has done these things and you have not reacted immediately, then you are to blame for the resulting accident.

I never look at a puddle or pile in the house as a mistake of the puppy. It is my mistake for not having responded to the signs that the puppy gave. Therefore, I do not punish the puppy for going potty in the house. Instead, I grumble (talk in a low voice, like a growl) while I am cleaning it up, so that the puppy can hear and then I forget about it. Praise is the key, to get your pup to do as your want it to do. Rewards can also help. If you carry dog cookies in your pocket and offer one after each elimination, the pup will quickly learn to respond. NEVER punish a puppy by spanking it or sticking its nose in the mess. If an accident does happen, and you catch the dog in the act, then in a low growly voice say, "No." Then take the pup outside. When successful outside, in a high pitch voice, say "Good dog." The dog will soon learn the difference. And you will likely be more attentive next time.

How often does the puppy need to go outside to eliminate?

During the first few days that your pup is in its new home, my suggestion is that you take it outside every hour or two during the hours that you are awake. If you feed your pup at the same time every day, it is likely to eliminate at the same time every day. Therefore, if you grab a piece of paper and a pen, and keep track of each time the pup eliminates, within a few days you will have a better idea of the needs of your individual puppy.

Night time

An 8-week-old puppy is not bodily able to hold it for periods over 2 –3 hours. Therefore, you should not expect him/her to be able to go through the night without going potty. Be prepared to have to take your pup out at least once during the night. If the pup is in a crate beside your bed, you will likely hear it and know when that time has come and will be able to respond quickly enough that there should be no accidents. If you are a sound sleeper and not likely to hear the pup, then I suggest you set an alarm for about 3:00 a.m. to get you up. This is the only time the pup is not to be rewarded for going potty. He should be praised and returned to his crate with lights out until morning.

One of the ways you can help to keep nighttime from becoming a nightmare is to give your last meal of the day before 7:00 p.m. By removing all food and water at that time, and not putting it back until the next morning, the puppy will be less inclined to have to eliminate as much during the wee hours of the morning. This is the only time the pup is not to be rewarded for going potty. He should be praised and returned to his crate until morning.

It is also a good idea to tire the puppy out with an active playtime, prior to putting it in the crate for the night. Chances are you will both get a better night’s sleep that way.

I have to leave the puppy for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. What do I do?

When you cannot provide constant supervision of your new pup, I suggest that you leave the puppy in a small room or within an enclosure in a larger room. At dog supply houses you can purchase portable dog pens, which are very useful in all stages of your dog’s life. Try to take your puppy out just before you have to leave him/her. I would not put it in a crate if you expect to be away for more than 2 hours. You will only be causing undue stress on the pup, because they are not likely to be able to hold it for that long. So expect to return to a bit of a mess to clean up. The space should be large enough to allow them a spot to eliminate, a spot to play and sleep, and a place to eat.

Should I use newspaper as a potty spot? It has been my experience that paper is not a good substitute for the great outdoors. If you let the puppy have the run of the house (not in the crate), when you are not there to observe, you will likely come back to puddles and piles that the puppy has run through and spread all over the place for you to clean up. That is not good for the puppy or for you.

Some people believe that you should put paper down and the puppy will automatically go to the paper. Well, it does work on occasion, but often what you will come home to find is the paper has been chewed into little bits and is spread, along with it's contents, all over your floor. By allowing the puppy to use paper, you are telling him/her that it is okay to go potty in the house - so it just gives you one more step that will need to be eliminated.

The only time I recommend using paper, is when the puppy will be left alone for periods of more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. An 8-week old puppy's organs are not developed sufficiently to allow it to hold itself for periods longer than that. With time it will, but not at this age. You can encourage the use of paper by cleaning up soiled spots and rubbing it on the paper so that it has the correct smell. As soon as you can, get rid of the paper all together.

To prevent shredding of the paper you can purchase some wire mesh with 1-inch square holes, cut to the size of your papered area. Lay your paper down and put the mesh on top of it. The pup will no longer be able to shred the newspaper. This is only useful if you have a convenient place to hose down the wire mess when it is soiled.

My puppy soiled my carpet. Help.

One of the most difficult things in potty training is to stop a puppy from returning to a spot where they have previously eliminated. The smell remains and acts as a reminder. It is therefore essential for you to remove the smell. There are many commercial products available to help you to remove both stains and smells. It is a wise investment to purchase one of these. You will want to saturate the area with an odour-neutralizing product, and then remove it as best you can, with a cloth or paper towel. It is also important to restrict access to that area again, if the smell cannot be totally removed. Baby gates are great for this. Or, you can buy quarter round from your hardware store, apply two 3-feet trips on your doorjambs with a space between them, and then slide a cut-to-fit piece of plywood down the groove. This is a simple solution to keep animals from going from room to room in your house.

In conclusion

This will likely be the most stressful period in your lifetime with this dog, both for the pup and yourself. You will experience lack of sleep. You will endure messy cleanups. You will put up with a fair bit of complaining from your puppy. You will put up with a lot of frustration. Please be assured that the time you spend with your puppy to make this the most positive experience will be paid back in spades. If you spend the time, your puppy should be almost totally housebroken between 10 and 12 weeks of age. By then, it is likely to be able to hold it through the night and for longer periods during the day. Keeshonden are very bright dogs, and will learn very quickly if given the opportunity and positive atmosphere in which to do so. You can consider your dog housebroken when it can go for 4 to 6 consecutive weeks without any accidents in the house.

Patience, perseverance and praise are the keys to success.

Prepared by:
Kathy Stewart

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Kathy and Bruce Stewart
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