Puppy Advice & Crate Training

House Training - How you can help

It's vital that you (as the owner) do not skimp on the input needed by you in order for your puppy to "achieve". The rules are to never let your puppy toilet in the wrong place. You should praise and give rewards when your puppy toilets in the correct place. The more opportunity you give your puppy to make the right choice, the quicker good house training will be learnt. You should go outside with your puppy for a few minutes each time (calmly and quietly observing them) and place your puppy in the same area. This can help them repeatedly get it right. Be calm and expect a few accidents. Do not ever punish your puppy for failing to get it right, as this will teach the puppy never to toilet in front of humans! Remember your puppy will not have full bowel and bladder control until the age of 12-14 weeks. In the wild, dogs move away from their bed area to toilet, so confining the puppy to a fairly small bed area with toys and water will encourage them to keep that area clean. A puppy crate can be useful; this must be a safe and enjoyable place for the puppy to be! Please see below for crate introduction.

Useful Tips: A good start is observing your puppy and realising when it needs the toilet it may: Sniff the ground Walk slowly or wobbly legged Whine or become restless Try and gain your attention, or Try and find a quiet, private area

Let your puppy outside

There are lots of key times when it's important to let your puppy outside to go to the toilet. These include after play or excited sessions, after food and water, when your puppy wakes up and finally upon greeting and before leaving your puppy. In summary, as often as is possible!
If there are any accidents then they should be cleaned up with a biological cleanser, as disinfectant often just masks the smell and so the puppy will keep returning to the same spot. Try and avoid cleaning up accidents in front of your puppy as this can make them feel awkward.

Introducing your puppy to a crate

Position the crate where you want it to be and make it warm and comfy. It will help to use a bed that your puppy is already used to lying on and smells familiar. Leave the door open with your puppy's water and toys in. Throughout the introduction get all family members to walk past and drop treats into the back of the crate. You will find that your puppy will run in and eat the treats; you may need to use high value treats, e.g. cheese or chicken. Start off by letting your puppy wonder in and out of the crate on its own and once they are confident start by shutting them in the cage and leaving for 5 minutes. You should build this up each time and take a few months to get to being able to leave the puppy for a few hours. 

It’s very important that when you leave and return to the house you don’t say anything to your puppy. If they realise that when you leave, you do come home again, nothing is said and its not big deal to anyone it will give them a great start to enjoy their own company, cope with life when you are not there and so prevent separation related anxieties and destruction in later development.

Tips for Crate Introduction:

  • The crate is a nice place where your puppy should want to go.
  • Do not allow children to crawl into the crate and tease the puppy, this area should be treated as the puppy's bedroom or safe area that it goes for some peace and time alone
  • The crate can be useful if your puppy is nervous or unsure. If this is the case then the crate should be positioned in a quiet, sheltered area possibly with a blanket over the top.
  • Whenever you give your puppy a toy, treat or food then put it in the crate. This is building a positive association with being in the crate
  • Feeding meals in the crate is a great way to make it a safe, rewarding place to be, however it’s still important that you can handle and reward your dog around the food bowl occasionally.
  • When leaving the puppy in the crate this must be done gradually and built up over a couple of months. When leaving and greeting your puppy you must stay calm and not over excite them.
  • As soon as you return you should let your puppy outside to its toilet area and praise for correct toileting.
  • Always leave your puppy a lot to occupy them with. Make use of rubbish e.g. egg boxes or pop bottles (with lids removed) and rotate them daily to prevent boredom as they are much more likely to play with items if they are gone the next day.
  • Puppy crates can help you teach toilet training as in the wild, dogs will naturally move away from their bed area to toilet so if you are only leaving your puppy for short periods you can return and let them outside to toilet correctly.

Once your puppy is crate trained you can take the crate on holiday, to dog shows and fun days, peoples houses and use it for travelling in the car allowing your dog to have a safe secure bed at all times and have lots of fun out and about with you.

Play biting in puppies

All puppies bite, it is a normal behaviour! They are undergoing a natural learning process called bite inhibition (how to control their jaw muscles and bite) It is your job as the owner and 'acting top dog' to correct the behaviour and teach them that biting humans is not acceptable. It is important that they learn bite inhibition from an early age and ideally before 16 weeks of age.

Proactive Activities:

Encouraging sensible play of fetch and retrieve, instead of tug of war or rough playing that can lead to biting and aggression. By doing this, you as the owner are initiating and ending play sessions, rather than the puppy coming and demanding play by throwing toys at you.

Attending socialisation classes for puppies to obtain vital interaction with other puppies (helping teach bite inhibition).
Provide the puppy with a secure area where it is safe and can have time out alone (a pen or crate may be used).
Quite often owners will smack the puppy, bite it back, scream, or yell 'NO'.   This is very confusing for the puppy and it may learn that If you bite a human you must run quickly to a avoid a smack or it may learn to be very excited and bite more if you scream (especially young children) and the puppy may think you are very excited and continue to bite to please you.

A word that would be clearer to a puppy would be 'AH AH'. Other dogs within a pack would growl at the puppy as its teeth touched the skin and so the puppy would learn to be softer in play. We can act out this by practising 'AH AH'. Adults must start this off and once the puppy responds children may be able to copy.

The key to this along with so much of puppy training is consistency, everyone that handles the puppy knows how to train it and what words to use, if each time the puppy tries the behaviour it gets the same response it will learn very quickly. Often people say to me they have tried everything and nothing has worked only having owned the puppy for a few weeks and I advise you must all agree on one way forward and stick to it for at least a month before judging it. Puppies need time to respond and learn and if you constantly change your response it becomes a fun, intriguing game of what do I get if I bite you this time?

If the puppy is extremely excited and 'AH AH' is not working then getting up, walking out of the room and ignoring the puppy is another solution. This will signal to the puppy immediately that you don’t want to be in its presence if its going to persist in biting you. Never pick the puppy up and put it out of the room as you will be giving them attention and physical praise/contact. 

It is very important that potential aggression problems are corrected as early as possible. If you feel you are not coping with puppy biting then please speak with Sarah or Alex for further advice.

Socialising your puppy

Socialisation is the process where the puppy learns about itself, its own species and the other species with which it will interact. Your puppy will develop relationships with other living beings in its environment.

Habituation is the process where the puppy becomes accustomed to their environment and numerous stimuli (sounds, smells, sights and events). This can be the TV and washing machine at home or the train station and a bicycle.

Many behaviour problems seen are due to a lack of socialisation as a puppy. The main socialisation period for puppies is between 3-14 weeks of age. It is essential to expose your puppy to as many different stimuli as possible during this time. It is also important not to flood your puppy with stimuli and new information so you should aim for one new experience each day, making this a gradual learning curve rather than 5 new events in one day!

Please CLICK HERE to see and use the socialisation checklist

What you can do to help

Your puppy will not be fully vaccinated until the age of 10 weeks; this doesn't give you much time! If possible, it is helpful to carry your puppy to new places after its first vaccination so it can start to see the world. It is not advisable to allow your puppy on public ground until it is fully vaccinated. If you have the opportunity, try to socialise your puppy in the house and garden with other vaccinated dogs or puppies of sound temperament.

Early handling and grooming by family members and visitors to your home will also be beneficial, as your puppy will then be more sociable and less fearful of people as they develop. When you are out with your puppy, people will say hello and this should be encouraged (especially if they are wearing a funny hat or carrying an umbrella) and you should ask them to feed your puppy a food treat as a reward with all its feet on the ground, allowing your puppy to learn rewards come if I sit politely and not if I jump up.

Coming to our puppy classes will allow your puppy to socialise with a selection of other puppies and people in a fun, safe environment. We also provide an adult tutor dog for the puppies to meet and learn from and hold a social club in an outdoor field environment to continue more through socialisation and canine communication.

It is also as important to continue socialising throughout development and into adulthood. It is never too late to socialise, it is just harder as dogs get older they learn certain responses to environments and stimuli and become more fearful.