How to Housebreak Your Puppy

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tragas's picture
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Joined: 2007-10-19

The trick  is to find this magic means of prevention. Here we take advantage of
a very natural instinct of the dog—his desire to keep his sleeping quarters clean—
i.e. not to mess his bed. It only follows that if we can devise a bed that he cannot
get out of—then presto—he is going to stay clean. Add to this a common sense schedule of being taken from his
bed to outside and we have the perfect answer to housebreaking.

The Crate
First the bed that he cannot get out of—this is known as a crate—a cage just large
enough for him to comfortably lie down in. If you are appalled by the idea of
confining him to a cage, let me dispel any idea of cruelty. You are actually catering
to a very natural desire on the part of the dog. In his wild state, does a dog, when
he beds down for the night, lie down in the middle of an open field where other
animals can pounce on him? No—he finds a cave or trunk of a tree where he has
a feeling of security—a sense of protection. With a crate, this is what you are providing. Then too,
think of it as a means to an end. He is only going to use it for a few short
weeks and with frequent and lengthening periods of freedom he proves
himself to be reliable.

The Schedule
And now to the important part—the common sense schedule we  mentioned earlier.
We’ll start with the last thing at night. Bedtime for the puppy:

Takethe puppy out and give him an opportunity to do his duties (if possible, and you are
in a protected area, let him go free of the leash. Very often to start with, the leash
can be sufficient restriction to keep him from doing his duties.) If necessary, use a
suppository and be sure to praise him when he has completed his duties. Take him
inside at once and put him in his bed (the crate).

The first thing in the morning (and I mean the first thing) pick him up and take
him outside. He’s been clean all night—and holding it all night—he should do his
duties in a hurry. Now bring him in and give him freedom, but in the kitchen only.
A child’s gate at the kitchen doorway is an excellent barrier to the other rooms in
the house. Give him this freedom while breakfast is being prepared and while you
are eating breakfast. After your breakfast, and when you have time to take him
out, feed him his breakfast—and take him out immediately. Remember the rule . . .
outside after each meal.

Now bring him in and put him in his crate and go about your normal routine of the
morning. He should stay in the crate until about 11:00 to 11:30 am. Then out of the
crate and outside. Bring him in, and while you are preparing and eating lunch, let
him have the freedom of the kitchen only, for an hour or two. Follow this with a
quick trip outside. Then back in and into the crate until 4:00 or 4:30 pm.
It is now time to feed him his dinner. To save yourself an extra trip outside, feed
him in the crate and as soon as he has finished his last mouthful—take him outside.
After he has completed his duties, bring him in and again give him the freedom of
the kitchen while you are preparing dinner an during the dinner hour. Give him
another trip outside about 8:00 pm—and again just before your bedtime.

Increasing Freedom
Keep up this 24-hour schedule for at least two weeks, so that by prevention in the
house and repetition of the habit of doing his duties outside, he has the first association
with the proper place to relieve himself. You can now start increasing his
freedom out of the crate. Do this by first giving him freedom in the morning—but
again, only in the kitchen. If he remains clean then the next day try freedom in the
afternoon. It is only thru these testing periods, that you will know when he has
arrived at the point of being reliable.

NoraJ's picture
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Joined: 2007-10-05

This is excellent information. Crate training is very important, especially if you are interested in showing or other activities. It can also be helpful if your Doberman needs to stay with the vet over night or at a puppy sitter.

changa's picture
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Joined: 2008-05-25

This is excellent information.  I don't have a Doberman puppy yet, but I am expecting to get one in about a month and was looking for some help in creating a housebreaking schedule.  My question is, when do you incorporate training and play sessions into the schedule?  Is it during the time when the puppy is allowed to play freely in the confined area?  What about exercise time?  I'd be grateful for any responses.

AlphaAdmin's picture
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Joined: 2010-01-18

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Hi changa, welcome.

Training and play can be anytime. Following Tragas' method, you would do training when the puppy is allowed outside or in the kitchen. Young puppies don't need nearly as much exercise as adults or older puppies (6-months), but they do need some. They can get enough just from you working with them outside or letting them goof around.

Remember, especially with young puppies, training sessions should be short. Trying to have a 30 minute training session with a 10-week-old puppy will make you both nuts. It's better to have multiple short sessions. I like to forgo actual sessions until they are older and to the point where they understand they are expected to learn and are at an advanced level. At a young age, you can simply incorporate training into everything you do with the puppy. For example, I like puppies to learn to sit before they receive affection (petting), this way they learn not to jump-up long before they are 90 pounds and can knock someone down. Another good one is teaching them to sit and wait before they get their food. This prevents messes.

You could easily fit 30 or so one minute little training session into each day - and that would fare more effective than two or more whole 30 minute sessions.

changa's picture
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Joined: 2008-05-25

Thanks for your reply.  :)

I am getting my puppy tomorrow and have already read books, done some research, and made up a schedule for him.  One question I have is, where should I put his crate?  I have read that for at least the first night the crate should be placed in the bedroom or somewhere the puppy can hear you.  That is fine, but we have a 2 story house, and I'd hate to have him stay up there alone while I am downstairs in the living room during the day.  Is this something he will get used to, or should I keep a crate downstairs in the confined kitchen area, too? 

This is probably a dumb/common sense question but even though I have had puppies before, I've never crate trained.  Thanks again for any input you can give me.

AlphaAdmin's picture
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Joined: 2010-01-18

Pet Profiles

You don't really need to keep them close at night. I've always kept our puppies on the other side of the house in their room. The important is that you kennel him in the way you intend to kennel him. Plan to at least kennel him for one year, so however you'll kennel him in that time, it's good to get him used to it right away. The first night will probably be rough anyway.

What you can do, is leave something that smells like you near or on top of him kennel.

BlueNemo's picture
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Joined: 2008-07-22

Great training tips, same method I've been using for years, even before I got a crate I used and still use a bedchain, which is a leash just long enought o allow the pup to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably, same idea as a crate. I hood the bedchain to the head post of my bed so I can reach down any time during the night and my puppy is within reach.

As far as a 2 story house, in my opinion, dogs are pack animals. In a wild wolf pack, you don't see all the pack but one sleeping together and one all alone in a seperate den. The pack dens together, not in the same nest, but in the same den (room). If I were you, I'd get 2 crates. Put one in your room, where your pup will sleep, and put another one in the main area of the house, but out of the way and in a quieter area where he can rest. When he is crate trained, he will still use this "den" to get away from the activity and noise of the house. Once housebroken, the crate in your room can be exchanged for a large dog pillow or left there, whatever your dog prefers.

bcheah's picture
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Joined: 2009-11-11

Hi, thanks for the tips...
I haven't bought a puppy yet, but am considering it.  I have found a couple breeders that I am interested in.  I haven't owned a dog before, although I have had roommates with them, so I have lived with them...

Anyway, my question regards crate training while i'm at work...
I understand leaving the dog in the crate for a couple hours and then taking him out, but is it okay to leave it in the crate all day long - 8-9 hours?  Will it be able to handle waiting 8-9 hours without using the bathroom?
Would it be better to put the crate in the yard, and allow him to wander into a fenced off portion of the yard instead?

I'm not quite sure how i'd be able to handle it, especially for the first several months while it is puppy.  What is the best way to handle being gone at work all day?
Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Thanks 

glengate's picture
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Joined: 2009-07-22

I'm sorry, but no, a puppy can't sit and wait in a crate all day for 8-9 hours while you're at work.  You would have to make arrangments to either come home yourself mid-day to give puppy a break and playtime, or arrange with a family member/friend/petsitter/dogwalker to do it. 

Leaving it outside unattended is unacceptable for many reasons.  For your purpose in this situation, you'll just be "training" it to eliminate anywhere anytime, which is no training at all.  Not to mention that puppies eat *everything* so it would be eating grass, sticks, rocks and anything it finds outside which could also include poisonous mushrooms, plants, etc.  Unattended, bored puppies also are very prone to becoming problem barkers and diggers.