By Dr. Alicia Simoneau | Humane Veterinary Hospitals Reading Veterinarian
A frequent concern I hear from new pet owners with brand new puppies or a newly adopted adult dog regards house training. I wanted to give some tips for success that may work for your recent or next puppy or dog addition.
The first thing I think works great is positive reward. We can do this in two ways. One way is with our voice. Praise such as “Yay for potty” reinforces that is what you are looking for. The second way is with a food reward. Dogs need instant gratification. It is important that we are rewarding while the good behavior is happening. This means while your dog is urinating or defecating outside. Take treats with you. Giving a treat once your dog is back in the house reinforces that they should come inside, not go potty outside.
In order to give a treat and acknowledge good behavior we have to be right there with the dog. I recommend taking the dog or puppy on a leash and harness to the same part of the yard every time. And the same times of the day too. Tell them with your voice the goal of the trip outside: “Potty time”. Or get fancy and ring a bell attached to a string from the door knob. Over time your dog will understand that if they ring the bell with their nose that this is a signal to you they want to go outside.
Regular, consistent potty breaks outside every 2 hours initially at age 2 to 6 months, then every 4-6 hours once a puppy is 6 months, and then every 6-8 hours when over 9 months will help. If a situation arises that a dog or puppy needs to be left alone for longer than those time frames an alternative means for relief must be given. For instance, a potty patch (artificial turf on a plastic tray), puppy pads, or a dog walker can be used.
Don’t let your dog or puppy have the run of the house as the norm until they are reliably house trained. They need to be able to be seen for signs of needing to go outside. You may try a small area in a kitchen with a play pen, a crate, or keeping the leash and harness on in the house and having them follow you around. What you chose depends on the age and size of the dog. Look for those signs: A sniff of their rear end, sniffing and circling, acting anxious, looking at the door that goes outside.
In short, consistency from the family with positive reward is the best approach to house training success!