First, I’ll tell you how not to train a puppy.
When I was a twenty-four year old airhead I got the cutest fluffiest white poodle puppy you have ever seen. A french poodle I named London which I thought was tres clevair. He was smart and affectionate and funny. Which is surprising considering the way I trained him. (Or didn’t train him.) I would walk him in the morning before I went to work. Then put lots of papers down all over my apartment and leave. When I came home from my glamorous copywriting job at the end of the day, I would find he had gone potty everywhere but on the papers. I would take him over to an “accident” and say “No no! Bad dog!” And yes I did, spank him lightly on the behind. Then I would sit him on the papers, and say “Potty! Good dog!” In no time at all, I had him trained so that when he heard my key in the door, he would go sit on the papers. And continue to potty all over the apartment.
To train a puppy you have to catch him in the act.
Of course!!! He had no idea what I was trying to tell him. You can’t teach a dog what’s bad unless you catch him in the act, or he won’t know what you’re badding about. And you can’t teach him what’s good unless you catch him doing it and reward him, right then and right there.
London was a pretty smart dog, and he figured it out despite me. But his first few months were very stressful for both of us because I didn’t know what I was doing. He lived seventeen years, so I didn’t have to come up with any new potty training theories.
Starting from scratch training a new puppy.
About 12 years ago I started from scratch with a new puppy from the dog shelter. He was adorably fuzzy and charcoal colored–so we named him Smokey. Four months later he turned red, which is why he is one of the few red dogs in the world named Smokey. He is a mix of german shepherd and chow, complete with the purple chow tongue, and the pretty shepherd face. (Sometimes he is known as Sir Pooch when I don’t have time to explain about being red.)
Anyway this time I was smart. ( I know, “finally.”) When he was so little he fit in my hand, I kept him in a box by the bed at night. When he got big enough to tip the box over, I moved him to a crate.
Crate training and whimpering.
His crate stayed in the laundry room, and I put a radio playing softly in the room with him so he wouldn’t feel so lonesome. (He still loves old time gospel music.) He whimpered and cried, but not for too long, which is a lot less stressful that what I went through with London. Smokey stayed in his crate all night, except for one time in the middle of the night when I would get up, get him out of his crate, let him drink a little water, take him out to potty, praise him and put him back in. They say a healthy dog won’t go in his “den,” and eventually the Smokester learned to hold it all night.
Trained to potty on command?
First thing in the morning, I took him out, put him in the grass and told him “potty!” then praised him when he did it. I wanted him to associate the command so that when he got older he wouldn’t think he should play around first. First, potty. And in the cold weather go right back in the house. Then play.
Puppy training takes consistency, but it doesn’t take long.
Of course in the house, when he was running around and being very manic like most puppies, he would just suddenly squat to tinkle. I would say “no potty!” grab him, run outside with him and say “potty.” It was time consuming, but I tried never to let him make a mistake in my sight. And immediately after he ate or drank, I took him out. It really didn’t take very long to train him. Within a couple of weeks, he was asking to go out. And he hasn’t had an accident inside for 12 years. His crate is long gone, but he still likes to go back in the laundry room once in a while and see if there is any gospel music playing. (Well that was the station that came in the clearest.)
A stay-at-home-with-the-new-puppy vacation?
I do think the key to training a puppy is being with him or her the first weeks. You can’t expect a new puppy to go all day without relief (as London would tell you) or without water. It would be good to have a stay-at-home-with-puppy vacation. But, if you do have to leave him in the crate all day, at least go home at lunch. And/or have a neighbor kid come in to let him out when you’re gone. Or if you can, take him to work with you until he’s trained. (I know very few of us have that option.) When he’s really little, and the weather is cool, keep him in a box in the car and run out to let him out every hour or so. If you have to drive somewhere, he can ride along in his travel box. Remember, it’s only for a short time. Smokey went with me everywhere at first.
Puppy training with treats or training with praise.
I did not give Smokey treats every time he went potty, I just praised him. I used treats for other things (sit, stay, dance – yes, he can dance! See pictures.) When my friend Nancy trained her puppy she did it with treats. Her dog was a scammer. She would ask to go out, run and squat, come get a treat, run and squat and come back for another treat She thought nobody would notice that after the initial potty, she was just faking it. But like most puppies, she eventually got the hang of it. It’s worth extra time in the beginning to end up with a good dog for life.
I have heard of keeping treats in a special place to reward your dog when he goes there to potty so he’ll always return to that spot. Smokey automatically goes to the same place, which may be a trait of the chow. It certainly makes clean-up easier.
Any more puppy training tips?
Oh yes you can train a dog not to jump up on people who enter your house by having them turn their backs on him the minute he jumps, while you say “No jump.” Dogs really like adoration, and if they don’t get it when they jump, they’ll stop jumping. The key here is to train the pup not to jump while he is still little and cute when he jumps. Then when he’s big and it’s not so cute, he’ll be trained to stay down.
This article was published on ehow
under the name Blabbergirl.