In the last issue, the first installment of Gun Dog Training, we looked at several points to consider before getting a pup. Once you do that, and the pup is home, the training starts. While we’ll take a more extensive look at training in another issue, let’s first break down the very important task of potty training your pup.
Potty training begins the day you bring your pup home. Actually, it starts before you bring the pup home. Being prepared to successfully potty train a pup begins with having strategically placed kennels and pens near to doors to provide for quick access. It also starts by having one door being with a direct connection to the outdoors, where the dog will learn to go when it needs to go potty.
I like having two kennels in the house when potty training. One is placed near the door where the pup will exit to go potty. The other is placed on a table or bench near my bed, where the new pup sleeps at night. I want the bedtime kennel at eye level, so the pup feels com- fortable, but also where I can keep an eye on it through- out the night. This is not only a good way to monitor when the pup needs to go potty, it also establishes sleep patterns and fosters bonding.
A seven-or eight-week old puppy plays hard, then crashes. Before it falls asleep, take it out to go potty. When the pup is sleeping, never wake it up to go potty, however. But as soon at the pup awakens, get it out the door. Decide on a potty command that everyone in the family uses. You want your dog to learn how urinate on command. “Go potty” is our command, and all three of our dogs respond to it.
For the first week or two, you should physically carry the puppy outside once it’s taken from the kennel, placing it where you want it to potty. Once the pup estab- lishes a place to potty, it will keep going to that same spot. Carrying it out of the house ensures that it won’t stop to urinate inside the house.
After a couple weeks, when the pup awakens from a nap in the daytime ken- nel positioned near the door, let it walk outside on its own to go potty. This act will help it learn that when it has to potty, it should go to the door and walk to the established site.
Be sure to reward your pup with praise and petting when this happens. At this young age, physical contact is a big part of developing a bond between you and your dog, and positive reinforcement is the key to quick potty training. Some folks like rewarding with treats; I’m more for rewarding with praise.
KEEP PUP NEAR
During the day, I like placing a pup in a pen in my office. This gets it used to sleep- ing in a different place, allows me to keep an eye on it, develops bonding and when it wakes up, I can immediately get it outside to potty.
When the puppy is awake, take it out- side to potty every 20-40 minutes. Male pups have to potty more frequently than females do, so every 20 minutes is not an overkill. Calling them to the door in the middle of playtime is a good way to teach them to go to the door when they have to potty. It’s also the start of teaching them the command to “Come.”
For the first week or so, at night when the pup is sleeping in the bedside kennel, take it out as soon as it begins to stir. Every two to three hours is typical. This will teach your pup that it’s not okay to potty in the kennel and it also helps develop the trust that you can be counted on.
I’ve had female pups be fully potty trained at three months of age, while males can take up to five months. After a few weeks of going potty out the same door of the house, start changing things up. Begin taking the pup out different doors and having it potty in different places, and even on different surfaces.
You don’t want a dog that always has to potty only on grass. Having a pup that will potty on gravel, sawdust, river rock, dirt and even pavement ensures that as it ma- tures, it will potty on command, wherever you want it to.
LIMIT NIGHT WATER
After a pup is about a month of age, and in order to prevent accidents, don’t give the pup water two to three hours before bedtime. As a growing pup, they need water, but just limit it at nighttime.
Once the pup gets comfortable with going potty as soon as it gets outside, start carrying it to where you’ll eventually want it to relieve itself as an adult, usually further from the house. This will prevent the pup from doing its business next to a sidewalk and killing the grass. It’s nothing for a dog to go 50 yards or more before going potty, but you have to teach them that, early. As they mature and you teach them verbal commands and hand signals, you’ll be able to direct them to exactly where you want them to potty, at whatever distance.
Before you bring that pup home, have a pot- ty-training plan in place. Be patient and positive, and don’t scold a pup for any accidents it has in the house for the first month or so. If you catch it in the act, sternly say “No,” pick it up and carry it outside to finish its business. Accidents will happen. Positive reinforcement will result in better, quicker results than negative actions since these can stress a pup and inflict uncertainty, along with a lack of respect for its humans.