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Talk to me about house training a puppy.

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We are debating our options. I've never house trained a dog. We've only had adopted older dogs who were already trained. The only dog we are considering is an Aussie or an Australian Cattle Dog. We've owned both and I know how smart they are, but the whole potty training deal scares me, honestly. What do I need to know. How awful is it? :tongue_smilie:

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I had a very smart collie. He was housebroken quickly.


I took him outside to the same place each time, on the leash even though we had a fenced yard. Every time he started to go to the bathroom, I told him to "go potty". This is a very convenient command for a dog to know, so I reinforced it from time to time throughout his life. I did not have to reward the collie for performing -- our terrier, however, will not work without pay (yet - I do have hope). If you do reward with treats, make sure it is immediate (within 1-3 seconds) so the dog connects the performance with the reward.


I took him out when he woke up, after play time, after he ate, and otherwise every 45 minutes to an hour if he was awake.


He did not have any accidents in the house. After the first day of this method, I took him out just the same, except I waited for 1-2 hours if he was awake, and usually he rang the bells first.


I tied sleigh bells to the kitchen door. Every time we went out, I hit the bells. He caught on and for the rest of his life, he rang the bells when he wanted to go out. (This never worked with my terrier, though.)


I fed him a high quality dog food that did not contain useless fillers. Some people feed their dogs a raw diet, but that is too risky, expensive, and troublesome for me.




Puppies who are less than 5 months old often don't have full control over their bladders, so it is important to remember that.


Puppies are fed several times a day -- 3 or 4, can't recall. Eventually, the dog is fed 2x a day, at the same time every day. Leave the food down for about 15 minutes, and then take it away until the next meal. In this way the dog will achieve, among other things, reliable bowel movements at the same time each day. High quality food will minimize the size of these, along with helping to maximize the health of the dog.


We got a crate for our terrier because most dogs will not go to the bathroom in one (where they sleep or rest). Our collie didn't need one -- his only "bad" behavior was nipping. Our terrier, OTOH, has provided me with an endless litany of stories of mischief and destruction. The breeds you mentioned are nothing like terriers, so don't worry!


Our collie did have a crate -- the door was always open and he rested and slept in there, probably to get away from the kids, who were 7 and 8 when we got him. It was his den.


When I bought Aidan's crate, I got one that had a partition so it would fit him as he grew bigger. It was actually cheaper on Amazon than at Wal-Mart. It is the black wire kind with a washable plastic pan on the bottom.


If you find that you are interested in dogs in general, and your dog in particular, and want to discuss it on a forum, here is a good one: http://www.dogforums.com/ . There are plenty of stickies there that have to do with everything concerning dogs, and it is reliable information.

Edited by RoughCollie
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I'll ditto RoughCollie on this one. That's exactly how I trained our now 2-yr old Golden Retriever, and exactly what I'm doing with our current 2 month old (today!) mix.


I will only add in to keep in mind that a puppy can't usually go all night long w/o a potty break, for a while, depending on size/breed of dog. I have our puppy in a crate next to my bed so I hear him the minute he wakes in the middle of the night so I can take him out. So far, on his 2nd week in the house, if I take him out at 11 when we go to bed, he *usually* makes it to 5-ish before he wakes to go potty. Sometimes he wakes at 3-ish, though, and again at 5-ish or 6-ish. By 6:30 he thinks it is time to get up for the day. The time or two I've gotten lazy with that and thought "I'll just let him run around the house while I sleep in...." he's had an accident in the house, so now I get up with him at that time.


Oh, also, we don't do treats for a reward but a "Good Potty!!" in a cheerful voice and then extra snuggles, petting, etc. when he's done. Although now I reserve it for when he's totally done, as often he will run over to me after he tinkles, want his "good potty!" snuggles, and then we go back in the house, back to bed, and he's whining again right away. I ignored him once and discovered it was that he needed to have a BM, too, at an odd time. WHY he comes and sits down with his "I'm done" face before he's really done is beyond me, but so be it. We're very early in this process and just being very patient and he's doing pretty good so far. Not to jink myself or anything, LOL!


Before you start, though, get some really good pet enzyme stuff for cleaning up just in case. He had a few accidents on the carpet and the ones that I cleaned -- blotted up immediately with a dry rag, then sprayed pet enzyme stuff -- you can't see or smell at all. The one my DH cleaned up -- blotted with water, used regular cleaner, *then* used the pet enzyme stuff -- you could still smell. He had to go back and just wet it and redo the pet enzyme and that took care of it. Just FYI, in case.


Good luck, and know it's worth it!

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Perversely, very smart dogs may actually take longer to house-train than other dogs. Our Border Collie just turned a year old in February, and his last "accident" was probably in March or April.


I use quotes, because I don't think he was having accidents. He noticed as a very young pup that Barbara and I used the indoor bathrooms, so he decided that was where he was supposed to go, too. At times, I was sure that he was holding it the entire time we were outside to wait to get indoors where he wanted to do something. Sure, enough, a couple minutes after we came in, he'd head for the indoor bathroom. A few times, when I kept him outside until he just couldn't hold it any longer, he actually pulled his way up to the front door and demanded to be let inside.

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Be sure to have plenty of chewy toys so that you don't have issues with chewed up furniture, leather items, books, etc.! I would also decide on how much indoor barking you're comfortable with. Thinking about these things will help you to be consistent with your doggie from the beginning....this is really important. Also you'll want to make sure all family members know and agree on what the rules are (including feeding treats, behavior at the dinner table, etc.). "Good Dogs" are very often the result of consistency.

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I've trained a lot of dogs for my extended family, mostly because no one else had the patience to do it correctly.


The method that works the best for most dogs (including my sister's English/Australian shepherd) is from the book Smarter than You Think, which I highly recommend. Basically, you want the dog to bond to you and to see you as the leader. When they are bonded to you, your home is their home and they are not only easy to house break, they change their habits to fit yours instead of the other way around. How do you do that?


Well, whenever you are home the dog is with you, on a very short leash. If you need your hands free buy a waist leash, or hook a leash around a belt. Keep the puppy on it. If you want them to not be too close (like in the kitchen, for example), give the dog a bed in the corner. Keep him on it with a very short tether attached to the baseboard. You can get a short length of chain and some hooks and eye hooks at the hardware store. You want the tether only long enough that the dog can stand up, and reach some water and his bed, not long enough to wander.


You can also put a bed and tether other places you want him to rest calmly - like the living room or beside your bed.


By keeping the puppy on a leash almost all the time, you will learn the cues of your dog. They're going to whine, or get restless, or draw your attention to them in some way when they need to go out. I agree with hanging a bell on the door- you can get a length of sleigh bells at dollar tree when it gets closer to Christmas. For an older dog, you can train them in 3 days with this method. With puppies you may have an accident from time to time, but basically within a few weeks you should not have a problem (unless you have a toy breed dog).


The book's writer suggests not doing crate training, but I disagree, especially for a smart dog like an Australian shepherd. The dog is going to get very destructive if you leave it alone for too long. My sister's dog once chewed up a baseboard and some flooring while she was tethered. In a crate you know the dog and your belongings will be safe while you are gone. Have the dog sleep in the crate at night, preferably in your room. Also keep him in it when you leave the house without him. Always let the crate be a safe haven for your dog - if he does something wrong and you start to scold him, if he runs into the crate, stop. You don't want him to be afraid of the crate, ever.


The only dog this hasn't worked that well on is my yorkie mix. He had accidents for months in rooms we don't use often (dining room, basement 2nd kitchen), and I still don't trust him in unfamiliar homes. I think they are a little harder because the house is so big and they are so little they have a hard time grasping the problem. What finally solved that was negative reinforcement - DH, sick of the issue, started training the way he was taught as a child, rubbing the dog's nose in it. Every single training book I have ever read says NOT to do that, but for the Yorkie it's the only thing that worked. He has not had an accident in the house since (except for one time that was totally my fault - he rang the bell, whined, spinned in circles and scratched my knees but I was distracted with wet paint and didn't let him out in time. Totally my fault.


Anyway, it's a lot simpler than it seems, but if you have any questions, that book Smarter Than You Think is one of the best dog training books ever.


My only other advice is that unless you are a very high energy family and have a big yard, you might want to choose another breed or get an older Australian Shepherd. They are smart, and can be destructive if you don't give them enough exercise and mental stimulation. As a general rule of thumb, choose a dog that needs a little less exercise than you do.

Edited by Katy
to fix a typo
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We kept our puppy leashed to me for several weeks too (adopted him at 12 wees; kept him leashed until 16 weeks). It was great! I could pick up on his cues right away and take him outside. I also would set the timer for 2 hours to make sure I took him out so I didn't forget. 15 minutes after meals too. Lots of praise for going in the right place. He's 20 weeks old now and has only had 1 accident in the last couple of weeks, and that was because I forgot to take him out on time. Really want to train him to ring bells! He doesn't ever alert us that he needs to go outside.

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