by Carol Postley
The fastest and kindest way to house train a puppy is with the use of a wire crate. The crate becomes the puppy’s safe and comfortable bed, and most puppies will make an effort to keep their bed clean. If the puppy is not accustomed to a crate, there may be a couple of difficult days at first, so line the crate with newspaper and shred more paper on top. The shredded paper will help keep the puppy clean in case of accidents. The crate is a home, not to be used as punishment!
In nature no young puppy is ever left alone in a strange place, and the puppy that screams the longest and the loudest in that situation is the one that is most likely to be found by his pack and will survive. So, if you take a new puppy home and leave him alone overnight, you can expect that he will be awake all night and make a real mess of the area. If you take that same puppy and let him sleep in a crate beside your bed, he will feel safe and secure with his new pack leader (that’s you) and sleeps through the night clean and quiet. Give him a raw hide toy to chew on, put him in the crate and go to bed yourself. Do not talk to the puppy or fuss over him. Most will quickly fall asleep. If he really persists in being restless, or wakes you up at night, take him out for a quick airing, but that is really unusual. First thing in the morning, pick the puppy up and carry him outside to the place you want him to use to relieve himself. With this method most puppies are clean and quiet through the night from the beginning. After the puppy is settled in and beginning to understand house training, you can move the crate somewhere else.
First thing in the morning or after a meal, take the puppy outside. Give him plenty of time to empty out, and just as he finishes relieving himself really give him a lot of praise. Applaud; cheer, rah, rah, what a clever puppy! This is how you explain to a dog that, yes; this is the place I want you to use. This is your positive reinforcement for correct behavior. Then ask, “are you ready to go in?” and occasionally a dog may, in effect, say wait a minute, and make one more puddle. When you take the puppy indoors, and you are pretty sure he is empty, you may allow him to run free in the room with you, or keep him with you on a lead as you work around the house.
The puppy will play and explore for a while and then settle down to chew on a toy or to nap. When the puppy wakes up or becomes restless, take him out again immediately. Puppies have a very limited capacity for waiting. Each time you prevent a mistake by getting the puppy out at the right time and each time the puppy eliminates outdoors, you are reinforcing the correct behavior and the puppy’s natural instinct to keep his home clean. The time will come when the puppy relieves himself and looks to you expecting praise, proof that the puppy is beginning to understand where the “correct place” is. Until this happens you should never, never, make any correction for mistakes indoors. Just clean up and say nothing. If you make too tough a correction before the puppy understands what is wanted, he may be frightened and simply never do anything when you are nearby. This is what has happened to most older dogs that are not house-trained. Even when the puppy is obviously getting the idea and being clean most of the time, you should be careful to avoid overdoing the corrections. You should see progress each week even though there might be a few mistakes along the way.
If someone is home most of the time and really paying attention to the puppy, he should be well trained in a month. If no one is home during the day, you will be lucky to have the puppy trained by six months of age simply because the puppy is not physically capable of waiting that many hours. Can you wait all day? It will speed up the process immensely if you can get someone to take the puppy out in the middle of the day. Just keeping a puppy outdoors doesn’t help because he is not learning to wait and to keep certain areas clean.
When you are too busy to pay attention to the puppy, when you have to leave the house for a while, exercise the puppy and then put him in the crate and go about your business. Ignore the puppy. He should be used to spending some time in the crate every day.
Kerries have a wonderful barometer on their rear ends, the tail! If you catch the fellow chewing on a chair leg and you tell him “no”, and the tail stays up and he goes right back to chewing, you know that that correction was not severe enough for that dog. If on the other hand the tail goes down and stays down, you over-did it a bit. Should a dog pick up a piece of laundry you dropped, a mild “no” would probably be appropriate. Don’t use the same correction for minor things that you would use for something major.
If you crate the puppy when you are too busy to keep an eye on him, the puppy will not be learning -destructive habits, and prevention is much more effective than corrections. As the puppy becomes more civilized, you may gradually increase the time he is left unsupervised. At the first sign of chewing or soiling, go back a few steps and use the crate. Almost all pet owners give the puppy too much freedom too soon, which fosters the formation of difficult habits. It is not uncommon for a puppy that seems well trained to go through another chewing stage as an adolescent. Just use the crate and closer supervision again. Dog breeders often house-train several new puppies each year, and with the help of a crate, their houses survive with less damage than most pet owners have with one puppy.
The surest way to bond a puppy to one person, if he is supposed to be Suzy’s dog for instance, would be for him to sleep beside Suzy’s bed and for her to begin basic obedience training the day after the puppy arrives.
Last Updated: 12/19/2002, 4:05 pm