Housebreaking a puppy can seem daunting, especially in a tiny house. Our puppy, Pippin, just turned a year old. We lost our “old man” in December of 2016. Birdie, my daughter, was devastated by the loss of our 14-year-old dog, Murphy. After having dogs for decades, I wanted to wait before getting another one. Birdie didn’t. We had just moved into our tiny house and I had reservations, but she was relentless. Every time we had a meal or watched a movie she would look at me and with a straight face ask, “Do you know what would make this better? (pause) A DOG.” After four months I folded like a wet paper bag. Actually, I missed having a dog around too. They are fun, silly, comforting companions.
I got Murphy when Birdie was five. Now that Birdie was 19, she wanted to pick out a puppy all on her own. But how were we going to manage a puppy now that we had moved into a tiny house? Birdie offered to take full responsibility for a puppy. She saved her money, checked out vets and read all kinds of articles on raising a puppy. Armed with information she was ready to find her new furry friend. In March of 2017, we found Pippin. We melted the moment we saw her. She is a wired-hair miniature dachshund. Birdie had visions of playing fetch with her, of watching her run around the yard and cuddling up on cold nights.
However, Birdie failed to realize that the behaviors she dreamt of in a dog do not come naturally. In fact, the more natural behaviors in puppies include chewing on your favorite shoes, barking at every little noise, and peeing wherever. These behaviors might seem cute and manageable but, left unchecked they can lead to a very naughty adult dog. The problem with untrained puppies is that they grow into untrained dogs. That cute little howl can grow into loud, obnoxious barking that pisses off the neighbors. Chewing your shoes may turn into destroying the furniture. Little puppy poop on a piddle pad may end up as unexpected dog crap on your shoe. In a tiny house, all of those annoyances are magnified tenfold. After all, I only own five pairs of shoes, and a piddle pad would take up valuable floor space.
Because dogs have social intelligence, they are able to read visual and verbal cues and adjust their behavior accordingly. While each dog trains at a different pace, nearly all domestic dogs are trainable. Just like humans, dogs go through a series of cognitive developments. Puppies, like babies, learn to interact with the world around them at around eight weeks. They will also mimic behaviors, so if you have a well-behaved adult dog, your puppy can learn from it. Undoubtedly, the most important and first thing you will do with your new puppy is potty train. Your dog doesn’t know the difference between the inside of your house and the backyard. As far as they are concerned, there are very few places that are not an acceptable place to pee or poop, I bet you beg to differ.
Potty training doesn’t have to be hard. Set yourself up for success. If you can, get your new puppy in the spring. It is far easier to potty train in the spring and summer. Little dogs, especially, do not like the cold touching their little “bits.” We brought Pippin home at the end of March and started taking her out immediately… and often.
Piddle pads did not appeal to us. Our floor space was too small, and we didn’t want Pippin to get in the habit of doing her business on them because it was too cold or wet outside. We crated her when we weren’t home. The rule of thumb is that a puppy can hold it for one hour for every month of age plus one hour. If your dog is two months old, she should be able to hold it for three hours. This does not mean you should wait three hours before taking her out. Birdie and I had staggered work schedules, so we were able to come home on our lunch hours and take her out. If we weren’t able to get home, my mom or brother would come over to let her out. Timing her meal times was very helpful. We fed her when we came home from work. That way we had the evening hours to potty her afterward. We couldn’t feed her first thing in the morning and then expect her to hold it until lunchtime.
Because we didn’t have room in our 194 square foot tiny house to cordon off an enclosure we “bell trained” her. Bell training is the “bomb.” We tied a large jingle bell on a string and hung it over the doorknob. Every time we took her out we rang the bell. After a week or so, we would walk her up to the door, take her paw and ring the bell with it before we took her out. It didn’t take her long for her to associate the bell with going outside. Before we knew it, she was ringing the bell to go out by herself. The second she rang the bell, even if she was just playing with it, we took her outside to go potty. Now she rings the bell when she wants to potty or play outside. We also hung bells on my mom’s doors. Since we spent a lot of time at her house, we wanted Pippin to be able to tell us when she had to go potty, if we weren’t paying attention.
Count on spending a lot of time with your dog during potty training. Don’t get a puppy the day before you leave on a two-week vacation in Hawaii. The best time to get a puppy is before your weekend, so you have at least two full days to spend solely on housebreaking. It is time-consuming. Birdie had no idea just how much time she was going to have to invest in house-breaking. The struggle was real.
Purchase training supplies. You will need a lot of treats. Buy an ample supply and a variety of treats. There are treat bags you can purchase that will clip to your belt or pocket, but a sandwich bag that seals works just as well. Just don’t keep the treats in your pocket or they will never leave you alone.
After Pippin had eaten, we took her out to go potty. We choose the same area of our lawn as her potty area. Walk your dog around the area and use a cue like “Go potty!” Make sure that everyone in the household who will take the dog out uses the same cue. Continue using your cue phrase while the puppy goes potty until she is finished. Once she is done praise her, give her affection and a treat. If she does not go potty within five minutes take her back inside and kennel her. Wait fifteen to twenty minutes and try it again. Be diligent. Repeat the process once every hour, even when your puppy has not eaten. Each time your puppy has a successful potty session praise her and allow her to have some supervised play time. At bedtime, your puppy should be tucked in her kennel. While she is still young, you might want to move the kennel next to the bed. It will make her feel secure. Naturally, don’t feed or water your puppy near bedtime. Make sure the last one to bed takes the puppy out to go potty. Same with the first one up in the morning. The first couple of weeks, you may want to set the alarm at least once during the night so that you can take your puppy out. It’s a hassle, but it will pay off later.
With few exceptions, your puppy will be trained in a few days. If you still have problems you may need to adjust your schedule so that it better suits her needs. Remember that even the best-trained dogs have accidents while they are young, so be patient. Keep a good supply of floor cleaners on hand to deal with any messes. Don’t punish your puppy for accidents. They are just that, accidents. She is not willfully disobeying you. All she wants is your love and approval. Positive reinforcement does work!
Puppies are an investment. Take the time to train her. A well-trained dog makes for a happy home.
What is your experience with potty training a puppy? Did living in a smaller space make a difference in how you trained your dog? Let me know in the comments below.
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