Part II: Potty Training, Biting and Chewing
Have you tried everything to potty train your puppy and just can’t figure out why they haven’t caught on, yet? Are you frustrated that your house and family seem to be constant chew toys for your newest furry family member? Be sure you aren’t perpetuating these puppy problems by missing the important pieces highlighted below.
1) Potty Training:
I could write a ginormous blog on this topic alone, and maybe one day I will. For now though, I just want to address the keys to potty training success that are frequently overlooked. My own puppy predicament was potty training. You bet that having almost 20 years of experience as a professional dog trainer and raising several of our own puppies and dogs has shaped my thoughts on what’s considered “normal” in behavior and development. A healthy medium or large breed puppy, whose parents are consistently following an established potty training protocol, should be fully potty trained by six months old. In general, that’s a true statement. Individually, that just might not be the case.
Puppy is taken out about every 45 minutes, but still has accidents frequently. The inquiries I receive about this usually begin with an annoyed and desperate “I’m at my wits end with this”, but the solutions are really quite easy.
What can be done to avoid this predicament?
The 3 most simple things that often need to be implemented in these situations are: 1) give puppy less freedom to roam indoors, 2) implement more involved, consistent supervision, and 3) take the puppy outside to potty while on leash.
Limit Freedom Indoors & More Involved Supervision: Young puppies potty A LOT! What exactly is a lot? Well, it’s probably 2-3 times more than you expected when thinking about potty training a puppy. Young puppies under 16 weeks old (4 months) can need to potty every 20-30 minutes during active awake hours. Yep! You actually might not be able to sit down and watch an entire episode of your favorite tv show without 2-3 potty breaks in between for a few weeks after brining your new puppy home. In order to accomplish that feat, you’ll need to work on crate training, tethering, using an exercise pen or safe and small gated off puppy proofed area. It’s always interesting to see how people react to that last statement. There’s often resistance because they don’t want to confine their puppy when people are home. However, it’s somewhat of a catch 22. We want our puppies to have freedom in our homes and only soil outside, but we don’t want to start them with the boundaries and consistency that help them accomplish that goal. Either commit to pausing that tv program and restricting freedom, or resign to constant clean up and potty training problems.
If you are not actively engaged with your puppy, then utilizing their crate or success station will help you accomplish your potty training goals more quickly. Think of it like this: every time your puppy pops a squat in your house and you are not immediately interrupting to move them outdoors for bathroom business, they are learning that doing their business indoors is acceptable. So, if you can’t watch your puppy closely enough to interrupt an accident prior to or while it’s occurring, then you must reconsider the freedom involved in your potty training plan. Also, keep in mind, this blog is for troubleshooting. So, if you have a different plan and it’s working, then go with it.
Take Outside on Leash to Potty: If you don’t take your puppy out on leash to potty, then: a) Your puppy is probably going to explore the great outdoors first and wait to potty right when they get back in the house. Despite your inclination to think it’s purposeful, I assure it’s not. If your puppy is excited, nervous, or even neutral about going outside, just the change in the environment can override their sensation to potty. Once they are calm again, usually after entering the house, that sensation comes back. Admit it! You’ve had to go to the bathroom, got interrupted and forgot, then almost peed your pants when the distraction resided. Your puppy’s experience is similar. b) You won’t know if they eliminated or not which in turn means you aren’t able to reward the behavior you want to see more of – in this case, doing their business outside. c) Puppy associates outside with freedom, fun and play instead of going potty. Ideally, we want puppy to learn that potty first unlocks the freedom of unleashed play and exploration in a fenced in yard.
Within 20 minutes of eating, drinking or playing, immediately after waking, at any indications of needing to potty (ie. circling, sniffing, excessive biting, etc), after any change in activity, and anytime you’ve seen a pattern, take your puppy outside on leash to one area that you prefer they potty in. Stand in that area and wait for your puppy to potty. While puppy is pottying calmly say, “go potty”. When they are done say, “good” followed by giving them a treat or letting them off leash to play in a safe fenced in area. Once they’ve eliminated, THEN give them freedom to explore. Potty first outside means fun playtime afterwards. Once you take them indoors again, remember it won’t be long before this needs to be repeated.
Pretty much everyone expects their puppy to bite.
Likely to happen:
Once puppy is home, the frequency and intensity of biting that puppies do is alarming, upsetting and concerning to many puppy parents.
What can be done to avoid excessive puppy biting:
Good news! I’ve got a detailed blog on this topic that you can check out here. To sum it up though, the bottom line is that when young puppies seem scary with their biting, they are usually over tired or stimulated and need a break. Viewing and addressing the biting as the problem doesn’t work because the biting is a symptom, not the cause. If you’re having difficulty with excessive puppy biting, then check out the above blog.
Puppies are expected to chew things, but only appropriate things and only when they’re teething.
Likely to happen:
Have you heard that saying for cats, “If I fits, I sits.” Well, for puppies, I think the saying would be, “If it looks new, I chew.” Puppies chew just about everything! They explore and experience the world through their mouth. Yes, they have amazing olfactory and auditory senses, but their mouths sort of serve a similar function to our hands. Need to pick something up? How about carry something? Eat? Drink? Defend? What would you do without your hands? A puppy’s mouth is much more than a food orifice. Puppies also chew to relieve teething pain, soothe or calm themselves, and relieve boredom.
What can be done to avoid inappropriate chewing:
Above when mentioning potty training predicaments, too much freedom was a culprit. Well, guess what? Too much freedom is also a problem when it comes to dogs chewing things we don’t want them to. The responsibility of inappropriate chewing falls on us. Puppy does not have some innate magical sense of what is suitable to chew in our homes. If it’s interesting or even just available to a puppy, it’s highly likely it will get chomped on. We should consider anything our puppy has access to as a potential chew toy, unless we are willing to fully supervise and redirect.
Providing ample chew toys and edible chewies can help puppies relieve teething pain, which is most prevalent through 6 months old. Some options for puppy teething relief are: Nylabone™ puppy starter packs, bully sticks, Kong™ puppy teething toys, Himalayan yak chews, durable squeaky toys, and frozen ice cubes or homemade pupsicles. Remember, all chews should be supervised for safety, and consumables should be limited and monitored to avoid tummy troubles.
You can prevent boredom chewing by implementing a routine that meets puppy’s needs. A puppy’s day should include a rotation of physical activity, enrichment games and puzzles, free play, training times, naps, potty breaks, and petting or massage. You can find ideas for entertaining toys and chews here.
Anxious puppies that chew excessively to self soothe may find comfort in the above suggestions, calming aids, confidence building games and activities, and could benefit from the guidance of a professional positive reinforcement dog trainer and/or veterinary behaviorist.
Overall, it’s important to have a reality check when raising a puppy. Training the individual pup in front of us calls for a re-evaluation of our beliefs and expectation. Raising a puppy is challenging and adjusting our plans to meet our own puppy’s needs can be difficult. However, when we open mindedly consider the troubles we have with our puppies, it’s quite clear to see that they are more so people predicaments than actual problems with our puppy.
Having difficulty getting your puppy to settle in a crate and sleep at night? Check out last month’s blog, Part I: Trouble Shooting for Common Puppy Problems.