Are you interested in adopting a pet from a rescue group but aren't sure if it's the best option for you? We answer a few common questions about rescue groups and explain how adoptions work.View Article
You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.
Canine Connection Pet Training
dog & human friendly training
Denise Nord, CPDT - KA
Classes / private training / behavior consultations
Denise Nord is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and has been working with dogs and their humans for over 20 years. She lives with a pack of Beagles who attempt to teach her the ways of dogs. They do like her training methods, which are fun for dogs and humans, and involve treats, toys and other good things. Denise did the training segments for the Emmy nominated cable TV show "The Dog Show with Jazz"; she has been interviewed for many dog magazines and books; has been a featured speaker doing training demos (and TV appearances) at the MN State Fair and a guest speaker on Animal Wise Radio. She is an evaluator for the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen program, an obedience judge for the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and a charter member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Her dogs compete in conformation, obedience, rally, tracking, agility, lure coursing and sofa surfing and have won many awards in all venues. They also do photo shoots for print & TV ads. Denise works with hundreds of dogs every year and appreciates the opportunity to learn from all of them.
by Denise Nord, CPDT-KA
Getting your puppy reliably housetrained can be a challenge but with a plan and an understanding of what a puppy is physically and mentally capable of, the road will be much smoother (and dryer).
Puppies are usually about 12 weeks old before they can 'hold it', until then they are not physically or mentally able to think before they squat. However, you still have a very short window to get them outside. Puppies need go outside immediately upon waking up, after having a drink of water or eating, after playing, before bed. For a puppy under 4 months of age, assume that she has to go out every 30 to 45 minutes when she is awake. The good news is, if its 30 minutes this week, it will be 35 minutes next week, 45 minutes the week after that....it DOES get better.
Put your puppy on a schedule. It is not the puppy's job to tell you they need to go out - it is the owners job to get the puppy on a schedule that is age appropriate. It can take some tweaking to discover how long they can hold it. Eventually most puppies give a signal that they need to go out, but if it happens before 6 months of age, you are lucky. You can easily teach them to ring a bell on the door in a few days but expect to have a few false alarms while your puppy figures out this system does work & you will get them outside. (and hey it can be fun to get the humans trained too!)
When you go outside, take the puppy out on a leash. All dogs need to learn to potty on leash even if you have a fenced yard, and if you are not out there with them, you have no idea what they have or haven't done. There are a million distractions in your yard - leaves, bugs, grass - and puppies easily forget why they were outside. Take the puppy to an appropriate spot and STAND STILL. You can spend the entire day walking the puppy around waiting for him to find the Perfect Spot. It does not exist.
Give them 2 to 3 minutes. When they go, lots of praise AND a small treat. Right there, outside. Don't wait til you come back in. Your puppy gets the opportunity to play & have some freedom when they are empty. If your puppy doesn't go in the allotted time, bring her back inside and either confine her to a crate, or attach the leash to your body. Try again in 10 minutes. No pottying means no freedom.
Also beware of creating the monster that goes like this: dog goes out, potties, owner brings him back in immediately, no play, just boring - teaches dog that pottying (and its usually pooping) means the end of walk/fun outside etc. Now you have a dog that can walk for hours & hold it because he is 'punished' for pooping, because he loses the opportunity to be outside having fun. (This applies to adult dogs too)
Daytime potty training doesn't correlate much with nighttime; if the puppy is sleeping, they can hold it much longer. A general rule of thumb for a sleeping puppy is potty breaks every 1 1/2 to 2 hours for every month of age, plus one hour; ie; at 8 weeks for up to 4 to 5 hours; at 12 weeks for up to 5 1/2 to 7 hours. Smaller puppies have smaller bladders.
All puppies have strong substrate preferences - they like to pee on what they are used to. Keep this in mind when you get your new puppy - what kind of set up did the breeder have? If they start pottying on paper, they are going to look for paper. Sod or litter are probably the two best options for puppies while at the breeder's house. Another thing to be aware of when you live in northern climes - the huge difference between that substrate in January and in July! Many puppies have accidents when the grass or snow disappears.
If a puppy is peeing in their crate and strict time management doesn't work, try taking the bedding out. Many puppies will use the bedding to soak up the urine. With no bedding, things aren't quite so cozy if they pee. You may also have to limit water intake in the evening but be careful as you don't want your puppy to get dehydrated or tank up on water when they can. Check with your vet about limiting water.
Realize that ANY schedule changes in your household will affect your puppy's housetraining. I always get a lot of housetraining problems in early September - right when kids go back to school. Puppies are usually about 80-85% housetrained by five months. At this point, many owners think their puppy IS trained and relax their management - and the puppy makes mistakes. Most puppies are not "100%" reliable until 10 to 12 months. Close, but not quite there yet in all situations.
If you feel like you have tried everything - go see your vet. Urinary tract infections are much more common in puppies than most people realize.
Pees in a Pod - litterbox training
My last litter - a singleton - was born in the middle of a very cold Minnesota winter. Mom did a great job of cleaning puppy those first 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, but once this pup had open eyes and was beginning to get mobile, I set up a litter box. I bought an actual litter box for the main one, but you can make your own, just be sure there is a place that is low enough for a very young puppy to get into the box. For litter, I had great success with the Purina Second Nature. It kept things from getting stinky and my puppy was not at all interested in eating it (and yes, she did chew on most things!) In other seasons, I would probably get sod for the box to develop a good substrate preference for grass. When it was warm enough for this puppy to go outside, her original choice was to pee on rocks!
Once the box was up, I put the puppy in it as soon as she woke up, tons of praise when she pottied in the box, and I let her find her own way out. Within a few days, this 3 1/2 week old puppy was making the choice to go to the box to potty. As she got older and had more freedom in her puppy play area, she ALWAYS found her way to the box and had no accidents anywhere.
I also set up a second box in another level of the house - for that I took a low cardboard box, cut out a place for her to get into the box, lined it with a puppy pad and put the litter over that. She never had access to that box unless I was around, didn't need her shredding the puppy pad and tossing litter all over. Poop cleaned up as soon as possible, clumped up areas cleaned out a few times/day and new litter every 2 to 3 days (remember this is 1 puppy, your mileage may vary)
Once I was back to work and she was home alone for more hours than she could hold it, I set her up in an expen with the litter box in the far corner. That set up lasted for several months and she would use it when I was at home if I was being negligent in getting her outside on her schedule! She transitioned easily to pottying outside, but the box was there as back up. A nice option too in bad weather.
The key time for setting up the box is about 3 weeks - open eyes, mobile puppies. People who have tried to litter box train an older puppy they've brought home - 8 to 12 weeks - have not had much success - back to that substrate preference again.
Four on the floor
Many dogs come equipped with extra springs in their legs - and have a great desire to use them so they can reach to plant a kiss on the surprised face of any human they meet. It's an endearing trait - up to a point. Muddy paws on your work clothes are never fun and dogs can be strong enough to knock a toddler or an elderly adult off their feet. The sight of your dog flying through the air, mouth open, can bring chills to many who don't realize that they are looking at a doggy grin, at eye level.
How can you convince your dog that a Proper Greeting involves four feet on the floor? It's easy enough, but it takes time and consistency.
First, decide in your perfect world that a dog without 'four on the floor' is invisible. Dogs leap and jump for attention. ANY attention: eye contact, a harsh "off" or "no", pushing or kneeing the dog, grabbing its feet - are all forms of attention from the dog's point of view. And when we are trying to change the dog's behavior, that's the only point of view that counts! In other words, looking at your dog and telling him "off" when he has his front feet on you is actually rewarding & reinforcing the behavior. The dog is getting attention.
Second, choose the behavior you want to replace the jumping. Four on the floor is a good place to start; sit is even better. Jumping and sitting are totally incompatible behaviors. Your dog cannot sit and jump at the same time. Now you have a behavior - four on the floor/sit - that you can reward.
Behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated.
Third, be consistent. When you are teaching your dog Proper Greeting etiquette you cannot reward or encourage any jumping on humans. This means when you come home and your dog is SO happy to see you, you must only reward the behavior you want: four on the floor. Later, when the dog understands how to greet people, you can invite him up.
It is easiest to begin this work on leash, with someone holding the leash. The leash holder's only job is to stand still and hold the leash. The greeter approaches the dog, making eye contact, talk to him if you want. Keep an eye on his front feet. If they come up off the floor even an inch, break eye contact and move away fast. Turn back and approach again. You want the dog to think that his feet leaving the ground are making you go away. When you can approach and the feet stay grounded, give the dog a treat and praise like crazy. Be sure his feet stay on the floor! Repeat - most dogs will jump again, just testing their doggy hypothesis. Repeat until the dog sits or stands quietly as you approach. Now switch, so you are the leash holder and the other person approaches the dog. Expect the dog to jump on that person. Dogs don't generalize well - it takes them several trials for them to think that ALL humans suddenly know how to play.
Do this with everyone in your household and everyone who comes to visit. (People generally fall into two camps - those that like dogs and those that don't - and both are usually willing to help you with this, for differing reasons!) The leash will help you to manage the dog.l If your dog gets wild when company comes, put him on leash to keep him under control, off your guests, and in the house and not door dashing.
When you come home and your dog is not on a leash, remember that he is invisible unless he has four on the floor. As soon as those feet touch the ground, praise, lean down QUICKLY and pet him. If he jumps up again, stand up quickly. Often crossing your arms and staring up at the sky works very well - most dogs will back up in order to see your face. You can also add a bit of drama - sigh and roll your eyes as you turn away.
For dogs that like toys, teach them to grab a toy before they come to greet you at the door. Dogs with toys in their mounts often aren't quite as jumpy. When you come into the house, run to the toy box and grab a toy and entice your dog to take it. Encourage him to run to you with the toy in his mouth. Of course this also keeps his mouth occupied.
Remember that like humans, it takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit. If your dog has been jumping on people for 3 years, it will probably take more than 21 days to teach him that Four on the Floor is a Good Thing for Dogs!
Good luck and have fun!