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So You’re Getting a Pup, Part 2 – The First Two Weeks

a pup beside a puddle of wee

New Pup Part two – Toilet Training, Establishing Their Name as well as the Come and Wait Commands…

In New Pup Part 1 of this “new pup” series, we taught you the vital basics of what to do before your pup comes along, including what they will need to eat, where they will sleep and how to settle them down for the first couple of unsettled nights. Now that a few days have past and your pup is starting to enjoy his new home, it’s time to start laying down a few simple rules. The very first one that springs to mind is toilet training but we can also start to establish the come command and maybe a simple wait command before dinner. We don’t start obedience tasks like “sit” or “down” yet, he’s a wee bit young yet. Your pup is around 9wks old now.

Toilet Training Your pup…

Your pup has been weeing on the floor his entire life. Mum cleaned it up first. Then his human servants have been happily cleaning up after them for the few weeks thereafter. Now you’re coming along and saying all that it is wrong, he now must wee and poo outside. Like someone coming along to you and saying “right, no more pooing in the toilet, you must go outside on the ground”! So, keep in mind how alien that would be for you and give your pup some slack. And no, rubbing his face in it is idiotic and absolutely forbidden! Asides being barbaric, it just teaches your pup a) not to trust you and b) to wee where you mightn’t find it!

Rubbing your pup’s face in his mess is like potty training a baby by taking his soiled nappy off and rubbing it in their face

Dry food contains lots of salt, meaning they drink and wee more…

a pup beside a puddle of weeAt 8 weeks of age your puppy will have only limited control over her bladder and bowels. OhgodIneedtogothe…….oops, sort of thing. Couple this with most pups are, very unfortunately, dry fed. Dry food begins at 1% salt. This the same salt content as sea water or brine. It is 4-5 times the amount of salt your dog needs per day. It is in dry food to make them eat it. Unfortunately, asides from destroying her kidneys, salt will make them drink more. Dry fed dogs drink a lot of water compared to those fed a fresh, meaty diet that contains water. Fresh fed pups are far easier to toilet train. Also, their poos are not as sloppy, they are easier to pick up and they hardly smell at all. A

Also, their poos are not as sloppy, they are easier to pick up and they hardly smell at all. We can all appreciate this!

How to feed puppies fresh food.

How to teach your pup to wee on command…

We were very particular about a dog’s toilet habits in guide dogs. We couldn’t have working jobs deciding to copping a squat in the office or walking down a buy street. They had recognisable toileting times and commands, so the owner could effectively “empty” their dog before they head off. These dogs effectively wee’d on command. Sounds like an impossible task but remember this was taught by pup-rearing families with no more skill than you have. It was simple repetition that achieved this neat trick. Here’s how it’s done.

Take a week off work

Most people give this no head time. A pup is not going to toilet train itself. If you are toilet training a kid you take time off to give it full attention. All those hours unattended the training is breaking down.

Restrict their movement initially

For the first week or two try not to give them the whole house to wander around. You need to keep an eye on them. Maybe just the kitchen, maybe just a half the kitchen (on the tiles!). Or better still a little pen when unattended. It’s easier to clean and dogs are very clean, they are reluctant to wee the bed.

Establish a clear, consistent pattern for her

Your pup needs a plan. She needs LOTS of toilet trips.

  • Every time she wakes up from a nap (eg first thing in the morning).
  • Every time she has a drink or eats some food
  • After every play session (excitement, movement)
  • After you say hello to her when you haven’t seen her in a bit (excitement)
  • Before bed

Outside of these times you need to bring her out on the hour every hour (if she’s not fast asleep!). If you and all your family are consistent with this it is far easier for her to know when she’s going out. You couple this with a reward for doing her business outside. Have a little bowl of meaty treats beside the door, ready to go (or in your pocket). This greatly speeds up her positive association of outside toileting. They will hold it for a few mins if they get a reward for weeing outside. Over time you step off the treats and reduce it to one now and again. Paying out like a fruit machine is a powerful hook, they never know when the treat will come!

Also, if you have more than one doors out to the back yard make sure you use the same door each time.

Bring to the same area each time on a lead

I recommend bringing your pup out to the toilet on a lead. This is important for three reasons. The first is you can bring her to the spot in the garden you would like her to use. This area will quickly be seen by her as the latrine as it will smell like one. Most important is that you do not play with her in the toilet. Only one thing happens in that area. Wall it off or spread sand on it for awhile. Something to mark it off.  I use the side of my house. Make sure it’s a pretty boring area with no toys etc.

The second reason you use a lead is that it prevents the pup nosing around the garden, chasing butterflies and forgetting the job at hand (then you bring him back inside the house and he remembers…). The third and most important is it allows you to reward the dog within the time allowed (1.5 secs max or the moment has passed!).

dog toilet area

Establishing the “busy busy” command…

I used the term “busy busy” to make them go to the toilet (some used “quick quick”, it won’t matter much to your dog!). You bring her out, treat in your pocket, to the toilet area and wait for the action to happen. You do not ask her to go with the command. She has no idea what it means and you are liable to repeat yourself over and over. In that time she might have had a scratch, sniffed the ground, sat down etc. She won’t know what “busy busy” was in relation to. Also, repetitive commands teaches the dog that you will ask many times and she can respond when she likes. This isn’t ideal. I ask you do is preferred by every trainer I know!

So, only when she begins to toilet do you very calmly and quietly mutter “busy busy” or whatever you want your trigger word to be. Keep in mind, be calm and unobtrusive. Look away maybe. If you were going to the toilet and somebody stuck their big excited face in yours, you’d stop going pretty quick too!

Only when the pup is finished do you “bring out the parade”. Give her a big, happy goooooood girl and excitedly repeat “busy busy” as you administer one, two maybe three tasty treats, one at a time! For the amount of times you bring her out and she doesn’t go (which is lots, only spend maybe 2 minutes at it), you only need to catch her 2 or 3 times during the say with a reward to establish the busy busy command in a week.

Once the pup begins to get it and you begin to identify the telltale signs that your pup is about to go (walking, sniffing in circles), you now should develop the “busy busy” command by saying “busy busy” just before she actually goes. Then, as above, quietly all the way through followed by a treat. Gooood girl, busy busy, come on busy busy, gooooood girl busy busy……etc

Repeat this ad infinitum. Once you suspect she’s starting to get it you will begin to say “busy busy” once at the back door before letting her out. Come on Dudley, busy busy. Open the door and bring to the toilet etc.

Hang a bell…

a paw shaped door bell for dogsThe toilet training process can be greatly improved by teaching your dog how to ask to go out. The easiest (and cutest) way to do this is to teach him to ring a bell. I hang a bell from a string off the back door handle. Have it that it is around the puppy’s head height. Put a little dab of peanut butter on it and show it to the pup. Just as pup licks the bell say gooooood boooyy, immediately open the door and bring them outside. He won’t know what happened and will want to go back in to the bell. That’s fine but wait a sec then bring him back in and plonk him on the other side of the kitchen. Repeat repeat repeat. It’s so simple. If shows any interest in the bell outside of peanut-buttered times, then you explode out with goooodd booooy, open the door and toss a little treat outside. Over time you step off the treats.

Another way is to get a paw-bell! Really cute (see opposite). Easiest way to teach them this is with a clicker, but you’re not there yet. I’d do the peanut butter thing!

Cleaning up accidents is really important…

Clean up accidents with biological cleaning agents that will eliminate bacterial odour (ammonia). A weed on floor / carpet smells like a latrine to them and encourages them to go on the same spot. After cleaning it up, sprinkle the area with baking soda (these crystals soak up moisture from deeper into the fabric). I would even follow that with an odour remover the likes of Febreeze. The odour remover has enzymes that will break down any remaining biological waste and odour causing things. Removing the smell of the latrine removes the notion that weeing inside is cool.

Teaching Wait

Teaching the wait command is easy and really important (stopping dogs running out the door, across roads, up to narky dogs etc). This is initially taught in young pups using their dinner and a whistle. You simply put her food bowl down and restrain her from getting her food for a couple of seconds saying calmly “waaaiiitt”. Remember to draw that word out and say it calmly. This means deflecting the word downwards, as you might speak to a child when soothing them. It’s all about your energy. You calm them with your tone. If you say “wait wait wait” in a fast, high-pitched, staccato voice, they absolutely will not relax.

So use the flat of your hand across her chest. Hold her back for 3 or 4 seconds then blow your whistle 3 times (as in part 1), remove your hand and say eat up. He’ll charge forward like an elastic band!!

After two or three days of this, you will notice that the pup will expect to be held back and fight less, knowing the hand will be removed shortly. Often the pup will sit of its own accord if you hold her here longer than a few seconds. If this happens immediately say Good Girl!! Blow whistle three times and release saying “eat up”!

Her dinner aside, simply placing a treat on the floor and holding her back with the flat of your hand is a great way of her learning the wait command. Very quickly she will get the game you will be stacking treats up on her head like some people!

dog balancing treats on nose

Teaching Their Name and the Come Command…

One of the crucial lessons in dog training is

You get what you pay attention to

This can be good and bad. For example, if you give attention to a dog every time he barks at another dog you will get a dog that barks at other dogs. If you bend down and pat them every time they put their paws on you, you will teach them to jump on you and your visitors. But on the flip side, if you break out in a big

But on the flip side, if you break out in a big gooooood booooyyyyy every time he sits his butt on the ground he will offer this behaviour this more to make you happy (i.e. get a reward, be it a treat or a simple pat on the head). This is why I always tell people that to teach a dog some simple door manners only say hello to him when he is sitting, you ignore him until his butt is on the floor. If he jumps you turn your back and do mundane things until he calms and sits. Soon you will have some nutters coming running up with their butt skidding on the floor, trying desperately to calm themselves but their frantic tales giving them away. Very cute!

For very young pups, every time the pup walks towards you say their name with the come command. Never miss an opportunity. And give them a lovely big rub when they get to you.

To teach this command quickly you need a second person whereby one restrains the pup while the other person excitedly calls them. The pup will be excited to get there but will be stopped from doing so a couple of seconds. Then the person lets the pup go like an elastic band and you repeat his name with the word come as he runs towards you! This is one of the few times where you can repeat the command, really drilling it in there as you back away from them over time. Praise their arrival lavishly with pats and interaction, maybe the odd treat. Coming to you in the greatest thing ever. We will develop this later, whereby he will have to avoid temptations to get to you (working our way up to the park where there are infinitely more exciting things than you about). Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Remember always stop at the top. Only repeat a training exercise three or four times. Don’t do it so much that they wander off and of their own accord. Leave them wanting more.

The other obvious way to teach the come command is to present a treat so they run to you. This is great too but it teaches them to come when they see a command, which is really weak. I want him to come to me without seeing that (though he’s going to get one now and again, needless to say)!


Next week…The Basics of Dog Training and the Sit Command!

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