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How To House Train a Puppy in 3 Days

Dog Training Without Punishment

Molly the Doodle Pup with her "Coaches," Chihuahuas Jack Johnson and Este.

This is an instruction sheet I gave to a new owner who sent me her pup, Molly, for training. These instructions are basic hints for how to have a successful first few days with a new pup.

Molly has been sleeping in the small crate all night and during the day when I have to leave. Every time she goes in the crate, she is given a stuffed kong. This contains her kibble that has been soaked in chicken fat (I am trying to get weight on her and get her coat in better condition so she is getting much extra fat right now) and put in the freezer. I keep a Kong in the freezer pretty much all the time. I also top it off with PB once in a while. For this, she will go right into the crate and stay quiet while in there.

There is one grassy area outside designated the “Potty Spot.” I encourage her using the words, “Go Potty” or “Hurry Up.” The other dogs go with her and this gives her the idea. She is very good about knowing what is expected because as soon as she goes, I let her back in the house. I do not play with her or engage her in any way. I just stand there and wait for her to do her business. When she does relieve herself, we go directly back into the house and then everybody gets a cookie. With a dog her age, this process is all business.

She will have to go when coming out of the crate, or when she is running and playing a lot. She ALWAYS poops at least twice every morning, so be aware that when you bring her in, you may have to take her right out again.

When you get her home, for the first 3 days, be prepared to treat her like a brand new puppy. This means if you cannot watch her every second, keep her crated with her Kong. Take her out to the same spot every time. Maintain the same ritual. Wait for her to potty, come back inside, get a treat. Coming back into the house signals to the dog that the job there is done, and that is the ONLY reason she is outside. It is also very rewarding to be back in your space and get praise and a cookie.

Do not expect her to “tell” you she has to go. She won’t know the routine there and will be utterly confused. It will be up to you to keep asking her. Say, “Do you want to go outside?” and walk her to the door. She will have to urinate about every half hour when she is running around. When she is crated, she can hold it for a long time. She goes all night without a peep, especially when her kong is in there.

After she has settled into your home routine, she will invent a way to communicate with you that she has to go. Here, she ran to the door once or twice. I always followed up on it, but it takes a while to get to that point. I like to get into a routine that is very comfortable, where no mistakes are made. The most important thing is for her to understand that her duty is to potty in the designated place outside. We put greater emphasis on this than on trying to catch her making mistakes indoors and correct them. She is given few opportunities to make mistakes.

I think you will find she will remember how it was here, and she will transfer to your “potty spot” pretty easily. In all fairness to her, let’s give her three days to make the adjustment, wherein you have to be the “potty police” and act as if she knows nothing.

To keep her comfortable, don't give her any water for two hours prior to bedtime, or any time she is expected to stay in the crate for long periods.

After this initial time frame, remember that a dog has to be four and a half months old before he/she has any real bladder control. Continue to take her outside every half hour, and be patient. Take advantage of the cognitive skills inherent in every dog, and talk to her and give her plenty of praise.

Remember that you will be spending the next twelve or fifteen years with this wonderful animal, and these early days pass quickly. If you invest a lot of time in the beginning, it will make the months and years to come so much easier, and you and your dog will have more time to enjoy each other.

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Nancy Bailey
Nancy Bailey

I'm an artist, author and animal trainer. I tour with Clifford, a trick trained horse who visits libraries and schools, providing therapy for people with disabilities, and signing his own biography, Clifford of Drummond Island.

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How To House Train a Puppy in 3 Days
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