Clickers, the ultimate communication tool when it comes to dog training

How to mark the exact moment of your dog's success 

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If I could provide only one piece of advice when it comes to training it would be to start using a clicker as soon as you bring your new companion home. Developing the clicker association even at six or eight weeks of age is not too early. Once your pup is a little older, his or her more formal skills such as walking on a leash and recall, will already be partially developed. Adult dogs can learn this system of communication with ease as well.

Clicker training (otherwise known as the mark and reward system) is used to create a fast and reliable association between your command and when your dog's performed as requested.

The clicker tool has a great advantage over human speech because a dog’s central nervous system can process the click many times faster than it can process a word. A spoken word must be recognized and interpreted before the dog understands that a behaviour is being marked. A click is processed instantly. It’s thought that a click goes directly to the instinctive, reflexive part of a dogs brain (the amygdala) while a word is processed in the cortex (the thinking part of the brain), which takes longer.

Once a dog is conditioned to a clicker, he will respond “reflexively” without having to stop and think about it.

Getting started

Suggestion: Perform the following exercise prior to a meal, not after, to keep the dog motivated.

Step 1.

Otherwise known as "loading the clicker", develops the association between the sound and the reward.

At home, start with 15 very small treats (cheerios, cheese, chicken, etc., something highly motivating). Make sure the pieces are small and soft. You will be doing rapid repetitions of this exercise so it’s important the dog can consume the treats quickly.

Step 2.

Start with the dog in front of you. Hold the treats in one hand and the clicker tool in the other. Click and provide a treat within a half-second (hold the clicker behind you or at your side, not too close to the dog's ear). Do this about 15 times. 

Your timing should be:

Click/treat, wait a beat; Click/treat; wait a beat, Click/treat, wait a beat...

Make sure the click comes before the treat, not after, and within that half-second window, for maximum effectiveness. Canine understanding only happens if a dog receives a reward within a half-second after attempting to do as you ask.

What we are doing is conditioning the dog to have an almost involuntary response to the sound of the clicker tool.

Step 3.

Perform this exercise twice a day for three days with your dog. By the fourth day he'll be whipping around corners in search of you. That’s when you know your dog has learned the clicker system successfully.

Step 4.

Will be to expand the use of clickers for other commands. Once the dog is clicker conditioned, click for his attention, and treat only once when he responds.

Name recognition

Clickers work really well in conditioning a dog to get ‘really excited’ and to pay attention when they hear their name. It means they sit up and takes notice, anticipating the new request you're going to send their way.

For example: If conditioned properly, the dog will look up when he hears his name, waiting for the next command such as “come”.

So…just like the loading exercise:

Step 1.

Start with the dog in front of you, treats in one hand, the clicker tool in the other.

Step 2.

Say his name, and perform the... click/treat, wait a beat; Say his name, then, click/treat; wait a beat, say his name, then, click/treat, wait a beat (do 10 or 15 repetitions in rapid succession).

Step 3.

Perform this exercise twice a day for three days. By the fourth day your dog will be snapping to attention when he hears the click, awaiting your next command.

What you’ve just taught him is that his name has great significance. Hearing his name means great things coming. His name is now synonymous with the click sound.

Step 4.

Eliminate the clicker as the use of his or her name now takes the place of the clicker sound:

- Call his name then...
- Give the “come to me” command, and...
- When he complies, reward him

Hide and seek

Once your dog responds reflexively to the clicker, reinforce his responsiveness by playing the hide and seek game.

Step 1.

Hide from your dog in your home, and click. When he or she finds you, provide the reward.

Make it easy for him or her to find you at first, then make it a little harder. Once they're good at the game, practise by adding in their name:

Hide:

- call his name/click and treat if he finds you
- call his name/click and treat if he finds you
- call his name/click and treat if he finds you

Step 2.

Once he’s good at the name game practise by calling his name only:

- call his name and treat if he finds you
- call his name and treat if he finds you
- call his name and treat if he finds you

 

So next time you're at the pet store, find the clickers and pick one up. For the cost of a toonie you'll reap the life-long pay off in great training skills with your dog.

THE DOG BLOG is a great resource for tips on training and canine well being. Got questions or a topic in mind? Let me know via the comments box. I would love to hear from you.

Life goes on, including dog training, after the April COVID-19 shutdown

First graduate, June 11, 2020

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Meet Toby, my first graduate with the reopening of training facilities in our community. Toby and his human partner completed intermediate level with me and most of my advanced program, before the pandemic hiatus. They returned earlier this month to finish advanced training and obtain their advanced certificate. Watching Toby and his pet parent work together now, is a true joy, and a testament to the real potential of dog and human teams when we commit to training as a lifestyle and not just something that happens for a few months, while our dogs are puppies.

Toby first came to my intermediate class at 11 months of age, and like most teenagers, he struggled with distraction and the ability to focus. Still, he was smart enough to grasp the necessary skills. A few months later he was back to complete the advanced classes, a little older, calmer, more receptive to working, due in part to simple maturity, and to his pet parent’s steady dedication to training, throughout his adolescence.

Come this August, Toby and his owner will be returning to join other students for the therapy dog program, and I can’t wait to participate in their partnership, once again.

Summer is usually quiet when it comes to dog training, however, like so many things due to COVID-19 restrictions, this season’s turning out to be very different…and very, very busy.

It’s only late June, new classes are filling almost faster than we can post them online. A great many people have adopted a furry little family addition over the past two months, or they were ready for classes a couple of months ago and are anxious to start training with their older puppies and adult dogs. By necessity, my curriculum has been tailored to suit our new COVID-19 reality which, paradoxically, makes for a richer classroom experience. With the observance of social distancing and smaller class sizes, pet parents and dogs get more individual attention. With the addition of masks (optional), I’m getting better adherence with hand signals; and with the requirement to maintain a six-foot distance from each other, pet parents become more skilled in managing their companions from several feet away.

To borrow from that famous line of Forest Gump, dog training is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get.

Just this week I finished teaching the last three sessions of a beginner class that had been interrupted by the pandemic hiatus. This was a large group of eight originally, with several full-grown, powerful, reactive dogs, including but not limited to an Argentinean Dogo, a very solid terrier/boxer cross, a Siberian Husky, a game little Boston Terrier, and a 10 week old Golden Doodle puppy I had sheltered in a corner. It was the most challenging class I've run, to date. Those first three weeks were like standing in a powder keg. Air horn at the ready, I was constantly on my guard for problems.

Of those original eight, four returned recently to finish their last three weeks and, ironically, those that did were the Husky, the terrier/boxer cross, the game little Boston Terrier and (thankfully now much bigger and able to hold her own) the Golden Doodle puppy.

Time and fewer numbers had such a positive effect on the dynamics of this class. These particular pet parents continued to work on what they’d learned in the first three weeks so when they returned there was a marked improvement in both the management of their dogs and the skill level of the dogs themselves. For those final three weeks, the new four dog class maximum meant everyone could spread out. Both dogs and owners were much more relaxed and able to work and…every one of these dogs will be moving up to intermediate level.

There have been several requests to address potty training as well (an additional and very valuable part of my job). These seminars have not yet been approved but I’m hopeful for the fall and, in the meantime, if you and your puppy are struggling, check out two of my earlier blog posts to tide you over:

THE DOG BLOG is a great resource for tips on training and canine well being. Got questions or a topic in mind? Let me know via the comments box. I would love to hear from you.

Canine dementia is more common than you think

 The Seasons of a dog's life

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Sadie, a grand lady at 12, almost 13 years of age

It started in early spring with Sadie, a strange evening restlessness, a compulsion to ball up her blankets and dig, dig, dig. She no longer wanted to stay with us at night and began to seek out darker, more isolated places to sleep. Sometimes she would go out in the backyard and refuse to come in.

In the morning, she's fine, happy to greet us with her tennis ball, enticing us to play. Physically she’s enjoyed better-than-average health for a dog soon to be celebrating her thirteenth birthday. Her catlike tendencies are still sharp, running along the back of the couch, crawling under furniture after toys, dashing up and down the stairs with little effort. This repetitive nighttime behaviour is new.

As a trainer, owners have sometimes come to me with stories about their senior companions, so I had my suspicions as to what was happening with my own dog. The vet called it Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) but it’s also known as canine senility or canine dementia and it often goes unrecognized. Dogs are living longer these days so it’s not surprising they're also experiencing the same cognitive decline as we do, with age. Milder symptoms are circling or repetitive behaviour, wandering, house soiling, sleep disorders, decreased learning, and increased levels of barking or whining.

More advanced symptoms could be pacing back and forth or in circles, losing the ability to recognize familiar places, staring into space, seeking out tight spaces, failing to remember known routines, etc. As with humans, canine dementia can be attributed to a build-up of beta-amyloid plaques around neurons which affect the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. And, as with us, there is no cure but there are things we can do to delay more pronounced symptoms…

Management

Puzzle toys to keep your dog engaged and stimulated, at any age
  • More daytime activity to provide fresh experience and mental exertion
  • Increased social interaction to increase motivation
  • More exposure to sunlight to regulate a dog’s sleep-wake cycle
  • More toileting opportunities, on a regular basis, since older dogs simply can’t wait as long as they once could
  • A change to prescription senior food that includes antioxidants for cellular-level health and medium-chain triglycerides 
  • An addition of supplements to their diet, that contains amino acids which can reduce CCD related anxiety

How time flies...

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Sadie at two months, October 2006, when we were new and just beginning

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Sadie at seven months enjoying her sunny spot on the couch

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Sadie and my daughter Emma, puppy class graduation day, summer of 2007. Emma's a young woman now, just finishing university and with a new dog of her own

There are also some medications available, however, these can be hard on a senior dog’s liver and kidneys. For mild symptoms my vet recommended Gravol to help Sadie sleep, to be taken as needed. You should confirm the dosage with your own vet, depending on your dog’s weight. For now, I found this was a very effective and minimally invasive solution. In addition I've kicked her training routines up a notch.

In closing, as the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, once wrote "Do not go gentle into that good night..." Find ways to get your dog excited about life again. Improvements and substantial delays can be made to this unavoidable decline, just as new experiences and new routines can make a difference with us.

THE DOG BLOG is a great resource for tips on training and canine well being. Got questions or a topic in mind? Let me know via the comments box. I would love to hear from you.

 

Colour from a dog's-eye view

What your dog sees is no longer black and white

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...which is why it's important to pay attention to colour for training routines and choosing toys.

Originally, scientists thought dogs could only see in black and white. It’s now been proven that our four-legged companions are able to experience colour.

To prove this theory, Italian researchers created a measurable way to assess colour vision in animals using a modified version of the Ishihara’s Test (used to determine colour blindness in humans). What was discovered is that a dog’s range of colour vision would be similar to yours and mine IF we were affected by red/green colour blindness. The Ishihara’s Test for humans uses numbers, disguised in a circle of red and green dots. 

People with red/green colour blindness can't see the green W in the first circle. They might also have problems seeing the green 3 in the second circle.

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 For dogs, the scientists used images of cats (animated frames) instead of numbers, and according to the study's lead author, Dr Marcello Siniscalchi, the findings have a bearing on how you train your dog, especially when trying to improve their ability to pay attention.

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Dogs see a simpler palette than we do. Where we can see dozens of variations between hues, dogs can only see shades of blue, yellow, and some shades of gray. A dog's colour vision is limited because they have only two types of cones, compared with three types in human eyes. Dogs would see a rainbow as dark brownish yellow to light yellow, grays, and light blue to dark blue. They can’t see red, orange, or purple (violet).

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So remember to choose your dog toys with colour in mind. Stick to blue instead of red since dogs do have the capacity to see some blue shades. A red toy is going to be hard to distinguish from the grass if it's lying on the ground in the backyard.

In addition, if you're outside, avoid red clothing and shoes for training since it will be harder for your dog to see your body movements against the green grass. Dogs also function more accurately with agility training when the equipment is painted in colours they can easily see.

Coupled with a limitation of colour vision, dogs are also very nearsighted. In the following chart, compare our average 20/20 vision on the left, to a dog's average 20/75 vision on the right.

The term 20/20 refers to the clarity and sharpness of human vision at a distance of 20 feet.

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Below, the picture on the left shows how we would experience this moment. On the right is the same scene depicting how our dog would see it.

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And...as the canoe gets closer

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 And your dog's toy box, within a few feet

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In closing, before you assume your dog is at a disadvantage it's important to remember that vision is only one of five senses humans and canines use to navigate the environment around them. A dog's sense of smell is up to 10,000 times stronger than ours. A dog's hearing is also better than ours when it comes to high-pitched sounds and a variety of very low sounds below our level of detection. When it comes to survival, evolution has prioritized other senses, over vision, for most creatures on earth.

THE DOG BLOG is a great resource for tips on training and canine well being. Got questions or a topic in mind? Let me know via the comments box. I would love to hear from you.

 

Potty Training 101, Part 2: Persistent training issues

For standard potty training advice, puppies two to six months old, see last month’s blog post: Potty Training 101, Part 1: Setting your puppy up for success, dated February 11, 2020

Consider this post for house training issues that linger beyond six months.

Has your puppy hit a potty training plateau?

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Most puppies will be completely house trained by the time they are six months old—if their pet parents have been vigilant in always reinforcing a good potty training schedule. However, if your puppy is not quite there yet, don’t worry, there are a number of valid reasons for late bloomers.

1. Consider the size of your puppy

Late potty training competence can affect smaller breeds because they have much smaller bladders and therefore need to go out to do their business much more frequently than large breed puppies.

Small and toy breeds are more difficult to house train but it may be due to the fact that owners don’t recognize the special challenges that go along with house training micro puppies. It may be closer to a year to expect full compliance with toy breeds, to give their bladders time to reach full size.

Not surprisingly, what’s been considered some of the harder breeds to house train are:

  • Dachshunds
  • West Highland White Terriers
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • Maltese
  • Bichon Fries
  • Pomeranians
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Pekinese
  • Havanese
  • Italian Greyhounds

It should be noted that I have a 13-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, who was first toilet trained to a litter box because I adopted her in the dead of winter, then nudged to the backyard for toileting purposes, in springtime. What worked with her was a very consistent schedule for going outside to do her business, and consistent praise and reward when she correctly eliminated outside. I still maintain her outside schedule with little variation. And if I need to be out of the house for four hours, she’s crated and then taken out to the backyard, as soon as I come home. Larger breeds may not feel the need to eliminate more than twice a day. I know that wouldn’t work with my little dog. Those that are considering a small breed dog should also be available to take them out to their toilet area, six or seven times a day. On a positive note, small breed dogs also don’t need to walk long distances for exercise and toileting needs, as compared to medium and large dogs.

Since these smaller dogs are often apartment dwellers that spend most of their time inside, why not consider an indoor solution. What's important is to find a reliable system for their toileting routine and if getting them outside in time, is causing them to fail, and you to pull your hair out, set up their toileting area in a spare bathroom with a litter box. Then get them outside for the simple pleasure of walking and exploring.

Pet parents also need to pay special attention when puppies are playing as, like children, they tend to notice the urge only when they can’t hold it any longer, and will just stop suddenly and squat before showing any signs of distress. In this case, interrupting playtime to go outside is a good idea until they are older. This action helps to teach the puppy to pay attention to the need to go during playtime and head for the door.

If you’re fast enough, grab a treat when Puppy starts to squat inside, call and lure her to the backyard but wait till she finishes toileting, before providing the reward.

2. Feed and water on a regular schedule

I mentioned this in last month’s blog but it bears mentioning again; in order to help a dog eliminate on a regular schedule, you need to feed and water on a regular schedule. This means food and water are provided at the same time every day. Allow the dog about 20 minutes to eat, then pick the bowl up and don't provide more until the next meal. Water should also be given five or six times a day but don’t leave it on the floor until your puppy is better able to control his or her bladder. Free-range feeding (leaving food on the floor all day for the dog to graze) will sabotage your potty training goals.

There are exceptions to this rule, especially for tiny dogs who can be prone to hypoglycemia. If you have a tiny dog, ask your vet to help you with a healthy feeding schedule, appropriate to the breed.

3. Reduce the free-range house privileges

By tethering your dog to yourself you can eliminate the dog sneaking off to a private corner while you’re not watching. This means you do need to develop a strict schedule for taking your puppy outside so that he or she begins to internalize that elimination routine. Reduce his or her area to roam freely in the house, to an area you can watch at all times. If you take the puppy out to pee and nothing happens, put your puppy in the crate for 20 minutes and then try again. Praise and reward, reward, reward, for success. Once your puppy is fully reliable, you can wean off the treats but do retain the praise.

And…there’s nothing like play and exercise to stimulate bladder and bowels. Weather permitting with a fenced-in yard, get your puppy outside, chasing a ball and see how fast you can get him emptied out while having some fun.

4. Use the proper kind of bedding in the crate

Ensure that puppy’s bedding inside the crate is not too “cushy”. This encourages puppies to poo or pee in one corner because the bedding absorbs the moisture enough for them to nest in a separate corner. While a puppy is still working on potty skills, use only a thin layer of padding in the crate, such as a flannel blanket folded to two layers.

5. Clean up accidents using products that eliminate all odour

Minimizing toileting in the house is two-part. You want to eliminate attractive odour and you want to break the habit. Soap and water or vinegar will not break up the scent of urine. A dog has 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans. A dog's brain is wired for smell and works 40 times harder than ours when it comes to processing smell.

A dogs' sense of smell is something like 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute as ours. It’s no wonder they are so preoccupied with smelling everything when they get outside, to the frustration of their owners who are impatiently focused on walking continuously in a straight line, with little to no distractions. Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher and author of Inside of a Dog, states that dogs can detect some scents in parts per trillion; that while we might notice if our coffee has a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water.

Enough said. This should convince you to use a cleaning product like Natures Miracle, which includes an enzymatic formula to break up urine molecules. Any cleaner you get must include the enzymatic ingredients to dissolve lingering scent.

The second part of addressing accidents is to break the habit of going back to that same spot to eliminate. Once you’ve taken care of the cleaning, move the furniture to a different location or place a new piece of furniture over the area where the dog has eliminated before.

6. Handle submissive peeing and peeing to greet correctly, to reduce occurrences 

Entry into adolescence can sometimes increase the frequency of submissive peeing (when a dog pees in front of you or a guest, for no understandable reason). A dog is communicating its willingness to be friends with this behaviour. Never scold a dog for doing this. Simply ignore the behaviour and clean up the mess. Punishing a dog for submissive peeing will only make him work harder at convincing you he wants to be friends, i.e. more submissive peeing. Try not to loom over a dog who exhibits this behaviour either and ask visitors not to do so. Looming over a dog can also trigger submissive peeing. Looming over a dog you don’t know can trigger a fear or aggressive reaction as well.

7. Actively supervise for male marking in the house

Attempting to mark in the house appears with the onset of adolescence. Both sexes will mark in the house but it’s much more prevalent in males. It may be even more common now since most vets prefer not to neuter until your puppy is nine to fourteen months old (depending on breed), to allow for full bone development in larger dogs.

There are a couple of ways to counteract marking in the house. The first is to tether your dog to you so you can catch him attempting to lift his leg, at a moment’s notice, and redirect him outside. The second is to use a male belly band that fits around his middle. With a belly band, you can catch the dog in the behaviour without urine reaching your furniture and leaving a lingering scent. Catching the dog with his leg at half-mast means you can quickly redirect him outside. Always provide a reward after he completes the job where he's supposed to go. The band can help you to better understand your puppy’s urination habits.

As noted above, it’s important to properly clean all areas of floor and furniture where the dog has successfully marked, using the proper kind of cleaner, so he’s not compelled to redo his handy work.

Take heart, if you are vigilant with routine and schedule, your late bloomer will achieve house training consistency, usually by 12 months.

THE DOG BLOG is a great resource for tips on training and canine well being. Got questions or a topic in mind? Let me know via the comments box. I would love to hear from you.

Potty Training 101, Part 1: Setting your puppy up for success

Set your new puppy up for success

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Potty training your puppy isn’t just about keeping the carpets clean. It’s also about developing the foundation of how you and your new companion will work together, for many years to come.

It will take observation, patience, commitment and lots of consistency, on your part. The better you are at keeping to a schedule for feeding and toileting, the faster and more consistent your new pup will get at letting you know when it's time to "go".

What you’ll need

What matters in the first few weeks

Use your powers of observation in order to develop an elimination schedule based on your puppy’s behaviour. Keep your puppy in an area where you can keep an eye on what's happening. Puppies should not have access to the whole house initially. Increase the pup's ability to roam, gradually. More accidents happen when your puppy is given too much freedom, too quickly. 

Signs puppy needs to go

You should start to be able to pinpoint when to take your puppy outside:

  • If he or she starts to whimper
  • If his or her tail is rising. For short-haired breeds, you can usually see the anus start to bulge
  • If he or she starts sniffing the floor in circles
  • If he or she actually scratches or stands by the door
  • If he or she begins to squat. Don't allow your puppy to finish (and don't scold). Instead, interrupt with a gentle "Agh, Agh", and whisk puppy outside to finish. If there is more to finish while your outside, praise and reward
  • Any time your puppy appropriately eliminates outside, praise and reward, right after the event

Realistic expectations for the first six months

  • Understand that your puppy won’t really have good bowel and bladder control before the age of four months
  • Don’t expect your puppy to be fully house trained before the age of six months
  • For the first few months, it’s on you to set your puppy’s routine for eating, drinking, and when and where to eliminate
  • Note that smaller breeds often cannot wait as long as a large breed pup so small breed pups should be going out a little more often
  • Feed high-quality puppy food. If your puppy is digesting food well, it means fewer bowel movements, firmer stools
    and a more consistent elimination routine. If he or she is not digesting food well, bowel movements will be looser and less predictable.

 Your responsibilities

Depending on age, your puppy is going to need to go:

  • First thing after leaving the crate in the morning (keep the crate on the main level so you can reach the back door in time)
  • Shortly after each meal
  • After a nap
  • After playing or any kind of excitement
  • After smelling another dog's poo or pee
  • Before entering a new place he or she has never been before, and after exiting your car
  • Just before going to bed

Praise and reward any time your puppy eliminates in the correct place. Reward right after the event, not before.
As time goes by and your puppy is reliably going to the back door and asking to go out, you can slowly wean off the treats but continue to praise.

A basic guideline for scheduling

  • At 2 to 3 months, toilet every 2 hours and once during the night
  • At 3 to 4 months, toilet every 2 hours and try eliminating the late-night outing. For small breeds, it may be a bit later
  • At 4 to 5 months, try toileting every 3 hours with no night time outings
  • After 5 months, expect that puppy will need to eliminate, 4 or 5 times a day with no night time outings

Gastric Colic Reflex: what it is and why you need to know about it

Dogs are built to eliminate shortly after eating, within 30 minutes after eating (and expect sooner). The first action of eating triggers the second event of elimination. Use this bit of information to set your routine. Map out your puppy’s anticipated times for elimination, and be consistent about getting the puppy to his or her elimination place, when you can expect the need. It may be helpful to create a schedule and put it on the fridge to keep yourself on track.

Why using a crate is the most effective method of house training your puppy

Along with schedule making, let’s not forget the second essential tool for potty training, that’s the crate.

Dogs are denning animals that naturally prefer not to soil their dens.
Using a crate helps you to keep your puppy on schedule since he or she is less likely to want to “go” in his or her den. In addition, if he or she takes nap time in the crate, it means you can more correctly pinpoint when the need to pee or poo is going to happen; pretty much in the few minutes just after the crate door is opened. If you are crating your puppy based on a schedule, pretty soon, those elimination needs will line up with that schedule.

It’s a myth that puppies and dogs won’t soil their crate. They just prefer not to. If you leave them in too long, eventually they will. This is not a habit you want your puppy to develop so be sure you are taking your puppy out of the crate, and to his or her elimination place, based on:

  • At 2 to 3 months, toilet every 2 hours and once during the night
  • At 3 to 4 months, toilet every 2 hours and try eliminating the late-night outing. For small breeds, it may be a bit later
  • At 4 to 5 months, try toileting every 3 hours with no night time outings
  • After 5 months, expect that puppy will need to eliminate, 4 or 5 times a day with no night time outings

Use your crate for times when you can’t directly supervise your puppy but do keep to his or her “outside” schedule for toileting. At first, when not in the crate, try keeping the puppy on a leash and nearby if, for instance, you are on the computer or fixing a meal. Keep an eye on the time though and ensure you are keeping to his or her schedule for bathroom breaks.

Keep the crate on the main level so you and your puppy can reach the back door in time. Don’t make the bedding too thick or absorbent as this invites accidents.

  • Never leave a collar, leash or harness on a puppy when crated
  • Make sure there’s no electrical wiring close enough to the crate, where a puppy could pull it inside
  • And… don’t feed or water while your puppy’s in his crate. Your puppy should not be crated long enough to require hydration or food. By feeding or providing water inside the crate, you’re going to throw off your puppy’s elimination schedule. The whole idea of using the crate is to slow your puppy’s digestion while resting, so you can be more successful at regulating his or her toilet needs.

If you crate train your puppy you’ll find it just becomes part of the daily routine, even into adulthood. Once your puppy no longer needs the crate to toilet train, you can still use it. My dog is going on 13. She freely enters her crate, on her own at times when there are guests in the house and she needs a quiet place to “get away from it all”.

A note about food and water

Do maintain a consistent feeding schedule for your puppy. Don’t leave food on the floor for your puppy to graze at will. You won’t get a puppy trained this way. Leave his or her food on the floor for maybe 20 minutes, then pick the bowl up whether all the food has been consumed or not.

The same applies to water. Ensure your puppy has access to water 5 or 6 times a day but pick it up after 15 minutes or so. You can start leaving water on the floor all day, when he or she is a little older, and fully house trained. In addition, don’t water or feed while your puppy in the crate. A puppy shouldn’t be in the crate long enough to require water or the next meal.

How to properly address accidents

Expect that:

  • Accidents will happen but don’t allow them to happen often. Frequent accidents lead to unwanted habits
  • When they do happen, eliminate all odour. Use an Enzymatic cleaner (which actually breaks up the scent molecules). If possible, cover the spot with an object, like a chair or potted plant, to stop your puppy from returning to that spot                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Puppy pads: to use or not to use

It’s better to train your puppy to go outside, right from the start, if you have the time. Puppy pads are convenient initially but can cause confusion for the dog and ultimately delay proper training down the road.

My opinion on puppy pads loosens up when considering small breed puppies, in the middle of winter. In this case, using the pads may be a necessity until the weather warms up.

Litter boxes for apartment dwellers

Be fair, if you can’t get your dog along the hall, down the elevator and across the lobby, in time, three to four times a day, on a daily basis, it may be time to consider the use of a litter box if you live in a condo or apartment. You can easily purchase a litter box or construct one from corrugated plastic sheets (more feasible for small to medium dogs, I will admit). It should be something like 5 feet x 3 feet and 3 to 4 inches deep, to allow for circling behaviour. Cut out a semi-circle on one side to allow easy access. Leave two sides higher, for males. I had to do this for my very short-haired, three-pound puppy, many years ago, when I brought her home mid-October. I used newspaper in the box (cheap and easy to replace on a frequent basis), then moved the box outside when spring came. She started scratching at our town home’s back patio door right away, to reach her box. Within a week, the box was removed entirely, as by then the backyard offered a much greater allure.

It should be noted that all standard potty training procedures still apply to litter box training. You still need to follow a consistent schedule, and get the puppy to the box, just before he or she needs to go, with praise and reward based on successful results.

Check back next month for part 2 of Potty Training 101: Persistent potty training issues

THE DOG BLOG is a great resource for tips on training and canine well being. Got questions or a topic in mind? Let me know via the comments box. I would love to hear from you.

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