***Updated as of 23rd December 2012
One of the requirements for assistance/service dogs is that they do their business on cue, so not only did I need to house train Knightley, but from the beginning I had to instill a cue word, and I wanted a separate one for his no.1 and no.2. I originally planned to do this by training with a clicker, and also using a favourite toy to make it fun, but this changed as Knightley was so fascinated in outside as a tiny puppy he wouldn't even notice the clicker or a toy - he preferred dirt or leaves! Now, at nearly 5 months old, he has a lot more focus and I do occasionally use a clicker/marker word with a good treat to reward him for going.
|Knightley looking comfortable in his crate at age 12 weeks.|
Growing up and having accidents very rarely.
This schedule is completely adaptable for adult dogs, but what you want to do is get some sort of liquid your dog really wants to drink - something like some chicken bones boiled up is perfect. You don't need to add anything else to it, all you want is something tasty that will make your adult dog need to pee more often! As soon as he has gone once, give him another good couple of cups of the chicken broth and crate him again. The crate is essential for this type of house training, especially at night, but also for when you can't closely supervise. If you have your dog out of his crate, you need to always be watching, or tether the dog to you. Then watch that body language for signs he needs to go!
This schedule is intended only as a guide, the times are flexible really, the point is the dog must go out every 45 mins during the day (for an 8 week old puppy), every 1 hour during the early morning (still sleepy), and every 2 hours during the night. Yes, it is overkill, especially during the night, but the more times he goes outside, the more he realises that outside is the only place to do it. If you find it isn't often enough, then you may have to do it more often for the first week or two until the bladder grows a bit. What time to feed is worked into the schedule but up to you really, as well as whether to play with the dog after a successful potty at certain times of the day etc. As time went on, I slowly pushed the times I was getting up for Knightley forward, for instance at first it was 12am 2am 4am 6am, then it was 1am 3:30am 6am, then it was 1:30am 4am, then it was 2:30am 4:30am, then 3am 5am, then 4am - just up once in the night. By 11 weeks old, the pup should only need this one trip outside, and by 12-13 weeks he should be able to sleep comfortably through the night. Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, going outside a lot. But really, it is only a few weeks when you think about it, and it is so so so very helpful in reinforcing that outside is for peeing.
So here it is:
Toileting schedule for 8 week old puppy
6am Outside, small treat as reward, no play, back to crate in bedroom
7am Outside, small treat as reward, no play, back to crate in bedroom
7:45am Outside, treat as reward, a quick play, inside to be fed
8:05am Back in crate for a short time after feeding
8:30am Outside, treat as reward, play, toilet again, inside to crate/pen
9:15am Back to outside every 45 mins with treats as rewards every success
11:30am Outside, treat as reward, play, inside to be fed
11:50pm Back in crate for a short time after feeding
12:15pm Outside, treat as reward, play, toilet again, inside to crate/pen
1pm Back to outside every 45 mins with treats as rewards every success
4pm Outside, treat as reward, play, inside to be fed
4:45pm Back in crate for a short time after feeding
5:05pm Outside, treat as reward, play, toilet again, inside to crate/pen
5:30pm Back to outside every 45 mins with treats as rewards every success
7:45pm Outside, treat as reward, play, inside to be fed
8:05pm Back in crate for a short time after feeding
8:30pm Outside, treat as reward, no play, toilet again, inside to crate/pen
9:15pm Outside, treat as reward, no play, inside to crate/pen
10pm Outside, treat as reward, no play, inside to crate/pen
11pm Outside, small treat as reward, no play, back to crate in bedroom
The idea of the schedule is that it provides many many opportunities for the dog to go outside, and minimises the likelihood that he will go indoors. So don't get slack, or it will be your fault when your dog can't help but go inside!! If he does go inside, don't scold, it is likely that the pup couldn't help it. Take him outside to the toilet place immediately and hang around there for a while. If he goes again, have a HUGE party! Make sure you clean up with a enzyme cleaner before he is allowed free roam again. At the age of 8 weeks, a Golden Retriever has the bladder the size of a walnut, so it really isn't fair to expect it to hold much more than a couple of hours while sleeping, and indeed much shorter than that when awake. The good news is the bladder, along with the rest of the puppy, grows quickly. It is a matter of learning good habits from the start. That is where a rather overzealous schedule comes in, going out very frequently and making sure your puppy does it outside again and again and again, and gets rewarded for it with a treat and a bit of a play every time (although not at night when you need the puppy to sleep, you may have noticed). Also it is important to take water away from your pup at about 8pm, after his last meal. You can give him some ice if you think he looks thirsty, but when his bladder is so small, by drinking late at night you are just making it harder on you and him to get through the night without accidents or having to take him out quite a few times. This is different if you are wanting to re train an adult or older puppy, who has a good bladder size. You can let them drink at night, in fact I would encourage them to drink with the chicken broth, but do take them outside during the night at least once - and praise and treat profusely when they do go.
Now for training the cue. By keeping him in a crate for the night, and by taking him out often and regularly you know that when he gets outside into an open area he definitely is going to go - perhaps not every time, but many times. This means that you are going to have the opportunity to tell him that he's doing exactly the right thing many times a day. Firstly, keep him on a shortish leash, so you can be right there beside him. You can try using a clicker for this training when the pup is young, but I have to say, it didn't work with Knightley - he just enjoyed being outside far too much and barely heard the click. However what I did do was this: he started peeing and I would say "looloo! looloo!" and then praise him lots and lots verbally. When he finished I would pat him and tell him he was the best puppy in the world. Sometimes I would then play with him, depending of the time of day. He was often too distracted and excited at being outside to eat any treats, although he will now thanks to my hard work! So now what I do now is click my clicker as soon as he is finishing his business (timing is important!), and then immediately give him his treat. Clickers can be bought cheaply at any good petstore, although the iClick is considered the best.
I chose "looloo" for his no1 cue and "go toilet" for his no2. I wanted cues that would be ok to use in public, and wouldn't sound a bit off! It is important you don't go inside straight away as soon as he has done his business, as he will learn to delay it as it means fun over. So stay outside for another minute afterwards. However, if he doesn't go, don't hang about, go back inside and try 20-30 minutes later. Also, always use the same spot, so that it has his scent and encourages him to go.
I wrote this plan well before I got Knightley and followed it almost to the letter - and it worked completely. It is so nice to be able to ask him to go before getting in the car, and many other examples like that. As I said, it is required for assistance dogs, but I wish I had known how to do it with my previous pet dog, it would have been so useful. If you are consistent with training from day 1 of bringing your new pup home, housetraining should be a breeze. If you have a problem dog, or a problem puppy, it isn't too late. Just stuff them full of tasty liquid and have them spend quite a bit of time in a crate!
- Sniffing the ground in circles often means "I need to go"
- Staring into the distance or at you sometimes means "I need to go"
- Always go out by the same door when taking your dog out
- Always use the same place in the garden, the scent will encourage your dog to go
- Use a short leash
- If you pup doesn't go within a minute or two, go back inside immediately. It should be boring unless he does his business. As soon as he does, everything becomes wonderful.
- If there are any accidents inside make sure you use a special pet cleaner that has enzymes in it so that there is no scent left to encourage your puppy to use the same spot again
- In addition to the schedule make sure you take your pup out after he wakes up from a nap and after any play sessions - this is the one that resulted in Knightley's only accidents! Get your pup out FAST after he wakes up AND after play sessions!!!
- Once your dog knows the door you go out by, he'll stand by the door when he wants to go out, so watch out for that behaviour beginning
- Don't tell your dog off for going, even if you catch them in the act. It is quite unlikely to do anything, and your dog may start finding private places to do it, so you won't catch them. It is better you know when they go and see it happening, so you can take them outside immediately. If you tell them off, they will be less likely to do it in front of you in the future.