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Become an expert: Training a puppy to behave at home

Goldendoodle puppy sat on a bed advice

How to train a puppy to behave at home

© Unsplash

Teaching a puppy how to behave in the house is essential unless you want canine anarchy in your home. An untrained pup will grow (and grow) into a chaotic adult dog if not taught how to behave indoors.

By G. John Cole

A well-behaved dog, on the other hand, is a pleasure to live with! If you want to learn how to train a puppy not to poop or pee in the house, chew things up, or run around like a dog possessed, read on!

House training a puppy

Your dog will probably never learn to use your human bathroom. But training your puppy to know where (and when) it is appropriate for him to poo and pee is important – and how to do so is on most dog owners' minds the second they bring their puppy home.

The key thing with potty training is to be consistent. Never punish your dog for going to the toilet in an inappropriate place. At best, he won’t understand you. At worst, he’ll misunderstand you, be afraid of you discovering his excrement, and start to do it in hidden places around the house. Remember young puppies don't always have control over their bladders - you can't blame them for that.

Instead, use positive reinforcement. Use praise, treats, and fusses, whenever your puppy goes in the right place. He’ll soon learn the link between his behaviour and nice things happening to him.

So how do you teach him what is the right place to go to the bathroom?

Set up a routine. Take him out first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Take him out, or put him in the garden, straight after his meals, after he wakes up, after he plays, and at least once every 2-3 hours. And make sure his meals are always at the same time (this helps to keep track of his bowel movements).

Pay attention to the signs that he needs to go ‘off-schedule.’ This can happen if he starts to whimper, become agitated, sniff the ground, and circle around. Yes, he’s trying to tell you something.

If you’re too late, and catch him in the act, don’t tell him off – simply pick him up and put him outside to finish, then praise him for doing the right thing. That’s the civilised way to deal with these things between friends.

Take it step by step. Once your pup starts to understand where he's allowed to go to the toilet, you can start taking him out less frequently.

Training a puppy not to chew house items

A puppy really isn’t so different from a baby. It’s literally a baby dog. And like a baby, he reckons he can learn about the strange world around him by putting it in his mouth.

If he’s teething, too, you’ve got twice the problem to deal with.

It’s vital to teach your dog the rights and wrongs of chewing before he gets big enough to eat your whole house, and old enough to be unable to shake the habit.

Know that he will chew stuff. There is a learning curve. So when you get a new dog, whatever the age, keep your most precious stuff where he can’t reach it. He will always chew the thing you least expect. You can’t blame him. He doesn’t know the human value of human things. Only the dog value, which is on a scale of nought-to-let’s-chew-this.

But that doesn’t mean you should let him chew human stuff that you consider expendable. Give him an old slipper to eat, and he’ll calculate that your new slippers are fair game, too. Instead, give him a dog toy, and make a ritual of it (you can even gift-wrap it if you like) so he knows it’s for him.

Don’t chase your dog if he has something he shouldn’t. He’ll think he’s invented a wonderful new sport. Offer him a treat in return for your beloved possession. It must be something of real value for your dog.

And don’t punish him when you find he’s chewed something he shouldn’t have. He won’t know what you’re punishing him for. Just treat him when he’s good, and keep him entertained enough that eating your furniture feels like a waste of time.

Training a puppy not to go berserk in the house

Life is beautiful when you’re a puppy. Every next step could be the greatest step the world has ever known. Sometimes, in their enthusiasm, they will try to take this step, and the next one, and the next one, too quickly for your comfort.

To some degree, your doggo will grow out of this one as he becomes an adult. But at its heart, what you have on your hands is an energy imbalance! If your dog is going wild indoors, he's not getting enough enough action outdoors.

Give him plenty of exercise. Give him garden time – but it has to be engaged garden time. Play with him. But don’t confuse him by playing wild games indoors.

You can teach him the way to be indoors by engaging in mentally stimulating and calm activities like tricks, problem-solving, or nose work! Remember training sessions should always be kept short and sweet!

You should also reward your dog often when he’s calm in general and especially in his bed/crate. Treat him when he listens to your instructions. Teach him ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ and reward him when he complies.

Training a puppy to stay alone in the house

Separation anxiety is a common behavioural issue in dogs. Dogs are social animals, so it’s not natural for them to be on their own. Your puppy must be trained to stay calm when alone in the house, and like all training, this will take determination and patience!

The main goal in training your puppy to be separated from you is to encourage him to be independent. Therefore, don’t encourage your pup to follow you all around the house. If he follows you around, just ignore him. Don’t feel bad for doing this, you’re simply teaching your dog that following you around is boring. This will come in very handy when he has to start being alone.

Then you can start distancing yourself from your pup even while you’re both in the house. You can do this by installing baby gates between you and your pup. This way, your pup can still see you and smell you, but he’s not in the same room as you. For your puppy to be happy on his own, make sure he has a comfortable bed to lay in and something to keep him occupied (like a treat-dispensing toy for instance).

You can also start getting your puppy used to you leaving the house by getting your things ready (e.g. keys, coat, bag), without actually leaving the house. This will help your dog get accustomed to these cues without becoming nervous about them.

You can then start leaving the house and closing the door behind you, but returning immediately after. Over time, you can very gradually start to increase the length of time you are gone. If your pup is whining and crying when you re-enter the house, just ignore him. If he has been good, on the other hand, you can reward him! In this same regard, don’t make a big fuss before you leave. Just set up a routine phrase such as ‘see you later’ which you can say to him as you leave the house. With consistency, your puppy will learn that this phrase means you are leaving, and this will help keep him calm if he’s unsure about what you’re up to.

To set your dog up for success remember to exercise him and make sure he’s been able to go to the toilet before you leave the house. Prepare your things prior to your departure so as to limit any stress or agitation right before you leave. Give your dog a treat-dispensing toy to keep him busy. You can leave the radio on for him as background noise, and also leave him with a shirt that smells like you.

You lucky thing. You have a dog in your house!