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House Training Your Puppy: Paper Training Basics

By Tasha Ardalan 

Do not expect to complete the house training process with your puppy until he/she is at least six months old. Puppies need time to develop bowel and bladder control so they can “hold it” as long as adult dogs can “hold it.” Puppies, like babies, need to eliminate frequently. So, in order to quickly house train your new best friend, you need to be very diligent. The most important thing you can do to make house training happen as quickly as possible is to reward and praise your puppy every time he/she goes in the designated elimination area. The more times your dog is rewarded, the quicker he/she will learn. It is paramount that you spend as much time as possible with your puppy, and give him/her regular and frequent access to the toilet area. Consistency and patience are the keys to successful house training.

Pick a bathroom spot outside, and use a leash to take your puppy to that spot. While your puppy is eliminating, use a word or phrase, like “potty time” or “go potty.”

Reward your puppy every time he/she eliminates while outdoors. Food is a great puppy motivator, so reward your lil’ buddy with a treat; but remember to do so immediately after eliminating, not after going back inside the house. This is crucial because rewarding your dog for eliminating outdoors is the  best way to communicate what is expected of the puppy.

Put your puppy on a regular feeding schedule. Depending on their age, puppies usually need to be fed 3-4 times daily. Feeding your puppy at the same times each day will make elimination more likely to occur at consistent times as well, making house training easier for everybody.

To reduce the likelihood of nighttime accidents, pick up your puppy’s water dish about two and a half hours before bedtime. Most puppies can sleep for approximately seven hours without having to eliminate. If your puppy wakes you up during the night, do not make a fuss. Turn on as few lights as possible; don’t talk to or play with your puppy; and simply take him out to do his/her business; then return to bed.

A puppy under six months of age cannot be expected to control his bladder for more than a few hours at a time (approximately one hour for each month of age). If you have to be away from home more than four or five hours a day, this may not be the best time for you to get a puppy. Instead, you may want to consider an older dog who can wait for your return.

If you already have a puppy and must be away for long periods of time, you have some options. You could arrange for someone, such as a responsible neighbor or a professional pet sitter, to take him outside to eliminate. OR, you could train him to eliminate in a specific place indoors. Be aware, however, that doing so can prolong the process of house training. Teaching your puppy to eliminate on newspaper may create a life-long surface preference, meaning that even as an adult he may eliminate on any newspaper lying around the living room.

Paper Training

First, confine your puppy to a small, puppy-proofed room, and paper the entire floor. Try to designate a sleep area with water and food bowls, a play area with toys, and an elimination area. At first there will be no rhyme or reason to where your puppy eliminates. They will go everywhere and anywhere. Quickly clean up the mess and lay down fresh papers.

While your puppy is confined, he/she is developing a habit of eliminating on paper because no matter where he/she goes, it will be on paper. As time goes on, he/she will start to show a preferred place to do “business.” When this place is well established and the rest of the papers remain clean all day, then gradually reduce the area that is papered.

Start removing the paper that is farthest away from the chosen potty location. Eventually you will need to leave just a few sheets down in that area only.  Once your puppy is reliably going only on the papers you’ve left, then you can slowly and gradually remove the papers all together.

When your puppy eliminates in the toilet area, praise and reward enthusiastically! Your puppy may be too young to understand reprimands and punishments, which can set the house training process back drastically.

Don’t allow your puppy freedom outside the designated puppy area unless you are certain his/her bladder and bowels are completely empty. It is a good idea to keep your puppy on a leash while exploring your house in order to keep your pup out of trouble. Every 30 minutes return your puppy to the elimination area.

When an Accident Occurs

Expect your puppy to have a few accidents in the house — it is a normal part of house training.

• Interrupt your puppy when you catch him/her in the act of eliminating in the house.
• Make a startling noise (be careful not to scare him) or say “OUTSIDE!” Immediately take him to his bathroom spot, praise him, and give him a treat if he finishes eliminating there.
• Don’t punish your puppy for eliminating in the house. If you find a soiled area, it’s too late to administer a correction. Just clean it up. Rubbing your puppy’s nose in it, taking him to the spot and scolding him, or any other punishment will only make him afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. In fact, punishment will often do more harm than good.
• Clean the soiled area thoroughly. Puppies are highly motivated to continue soiling in areas that smell like urine or feces. Check with your veterinarian or pet store for products designed specifically to clean areas soiled by pets.

 

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