How Do I House Train my new Poodle?

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Poodles" by Tarah Schwartz. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Tarah Schwartz

Different Options for House-Training

poodle ready to be let outsideDepending on the size of Poodle you have adopted and your own preferences, you have several options for house-training your new Poodle. The most popular method is teaching them that the only appropriate place to eliminate is outdoors, sometimes in a specific location. This method requires consistency and dedication, but Poodles are intelligent dogs and learn new habits quickly. Another option is an indoor “potty patch” or litter box. This option works better for smaller dogs, such as Toy Poodles. Disposable puppy pads can also be used as either a long-term solution or just until your dog can be relied upon using one of the other methods.

Be Consistent

If you choose to use the more traditional method of house-training, consistency is key. Some owners choose to take their dogs to the same location in their yard or neighborhood to help the dog understand what is expected of him. When taking your dog outside for a bathroom break, try to discourage him from playing or exploring the yard at first. After he goes to the bathroom, he can be praised and allowed to play and explore as much as you let him. This freedom also works as positive reinforcement and will encourage him to repeat the behavior in the future.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Potty Training – Choosing the Right Option for Your Poodle

miniature poodle housebreakingIndoor options for house-training work best with small dogs, simply because of the size of their messes. Bigger dogs, such as Standard Poodles, can easily be litter-box trained, but you would need quite a large litter box. This is also a great option for owners who live in extremely hot or cold climates, or for those who work long hours and want their dogs to be able to relieve themselves as they please. Whether you choose a litter box, potty patch, or disposable puppy pads, make sure to set them up in a specific area and do not move them. Your dog will develop a routine much quicker if he can eliminate in the same location every time. As with outdoor house-training, a verbal cue and plenty of positive reinforcement will help your dog learn the desired behavior.

Don’t Punish Accidents

No matter which method of house-training you decide to use, you must be consistent in your supervision and routine. Never let your Poodle wander through the house unsupervised. Every time he is allowed to eliminate inside the house without correction is a setback in his training. However, if you do not catch him in the act, you cannot correct him. According to Bob and Penny Daugherty of Sundance Poodles:

“If you don’t catch them in the act, don’t waste your time. Clean it up and go on your merry way.”

Your Poodle will not understand that he is being punished for his actions in the past.

The First Few Weeks

You will likely have to clean up more than a few messes during your first few weeks with your new Poodle. However, being as diligent and consistent as possible will help your puppy understand the rules of the house more quickly. According to Sherri Regalbuto of Just Dogs with Sherri:

“When a puppy has an accident it is our fault, not theirs.”

The younger the puppy, the more frequently he will need to go to the bathroom. A good rule of thumb is that for every month of your dog’s age, he can go one hour between potty breaks. This means a two-month-old puppy will need to go out every two hours and a six-month-old puppy will need to go out roughly every six hours. Unfortunately, this rule applies around the clock, so if you have a particularly young puppy, you will likely be getting out of bed several times during the night. Just remember, the more consistent you are in your training, the more quickly your dog will become house-trained.

Manage Your Own Expectations

During the first few weeks, or even months, after bringing your puppy home, remember to keep your expectations relatively low. You may forget to take him out on occasion and you will need to clean up a few messes. No one is perfect, and mistakes will be made. Stay positive and patient with your puppy and he will be house-trained before you know it. If you set your expectations too high, you will likely become disappointed and frustrated with your puppy’s progress, which will only serve to upset him and set your training back even more.

Thinking Ahead Makes Cleanups Easy

potty padSince accidents are inevitable, it’s important to have the right supplies on hand for cleanup. Disposable, absorbent puppy pads make clean up a breeze. As long as your puppy does not try to chew on them or eat them, they can be laid out across his pen or crate and thrown in the trash once they’re soiled. Setting your puppy’s area up in a place with easy to clean floors can also help. It’s much easier to wipe up a mess on tile or hardwood flooring than on a shag rug. Your local pet store or favorite online retailer likely has a variety of cleaning products that can help eliminate stains and odor. Since dogs are creatures of habit, some cleaners even contain certain enzymes to help clean the mess more thoroughly and discourage your dog from eliminating in the same area again.

Positive Reinforcement

One of the most popular and successful methods of dog training is positive reinforcement. This simply means that when your dog performs a desired behavior, you reward him immediately afterward with treats, praise, play, or a marker such as a clicker. As his training progresses, you can reduce the intensity and frequency of his rewards, but in the beginning you want to lavish him with affection, give him only high-value treats, and play with his favorite toys. It’s okay to make a big deal out of his good behavior at this stage. If he sees that his behavior gets more of a positive reaction from you, he’s more likely to repeat that behavior in the future.

Timing is Everythng

poodle by the door to go pottyInitially, when you take your dog outside for a potty break, he’s not going to be able to connect any verbal cue with the desired behavior. During the first stages of potty training, wait until you notice him getting ready to eliminate before giving him your chosen verbal cue. He may sniff, slow his pace, or walk in circles, so keep an eye on his body language. You can repeat the verbal cue a few times while he’s going, to strengthen his connection between your words and his behavior. It’s best to wait to praise him until he’s finished. If your praise is particularly exciting, he may get distracted and stop what he’s doing, so let him finish before pulling out the treats. Once he’s done, feel free to praise and pet him, give him his favorite treat, or play a game with his favorite toy.

Positive vs. Negative Reinforcement

You will likely see the most progress in your dog’s training using positive reinforcement, but you may also need to use negative reinforcement on occasion, namely when you catch him eliminating inside your home or in an inappropriate place. If you catch your Poodle in the act, use a sharp “No!”, or a loud clap or stomp to startle him. If he stops what he’s doing, simply pick him up and take him outside to finish. Be sure to reward him when he goes outside. Never hit or yell at your dog; it will only cause him to be afraid of eliminating in your presence. If you find that your dog has had an accident in the house, but you didn’t see it happen, it’s best to simply clean it up and move on. If you punish your dog after the fact, or rub his nose in it, he won’t understand what you’re trying to tell him, and it won’t further his training. The more diligent you are about supervising your puppy and taking him out at regular intervals, the less likely it is that you will find messes around your house.

Crate Training

One of the most helpful tools in house-training that any dog owner can use is the crate. Some owners may balk at the idea of keeping their beloved Poodle in a crate while they’re away from the house or unable to supervise their dog, but it’s important to remember that dogs are not humans. While you may not find comfort in a cozy, enclosed space, your dog thinks differently. With proper training, dogs learn to enjoy their time in the crate and will readily go inside without prompting. You may even find that your dog prefers to sleep inside his crate even when the crate door is left open and he is free to roam. Most dogs will not choose to eliminate in the same area that they sleep, so by confining your Poodle to a smaller space, he is less likely to make a mess before you are able to take him for his next potty break.

Getting your Poodle Comfortable in Their Crate

crate training your poodleIf your dog has never been in a crate before, or becomes anxious or nervous when put in one, you may need to introduce the crate slowly. You want to make him understand that the crate is not a punishment, it’s a comfortable place where he can enjoy a little peace and quiet. If he’s not a chewer, place a few cozy blankets, towels, or a dog bed inside. If you can take him outside for a walk or have a long play session before asking him to stay in the crate, he may be more inclined to relax and take a nap rather than become distressed. Introduce the crate by tossing a few treats in and verbally praising him when he enters. Eventually, you can begin closing the door behind him and allow him to stay inside for a few seconds at a time. As his training progresses, you can practice crating him while you do housework or relax at home. He’ll learn quickly that the crate is a comfortable place that he can retreat to when he feels overwhelmed.

Be Careful of Crate Dangers

poodle in crateBe careful about what you put in your Poodle’s crate while he’s unattended. A puppy who chews can easily rip pieces off blankets, beds, or toys if given enough time. He could easily swallow these pieces and choke or develop an intestinal blockage. If you notice your puppy chewing on things, either remove them or supervise him while he has the item. It’s not recommended to leave food and water in your puppy’s crate while you’re away either. Even if the bowls are attached to the sides of the crate, he is likely to spill them and soil his bedding, forcing him to sit on wet blankets until you return. He will also be more likely to urinate or defecate in his crate if he has access to food and water all day. Don’t worry, he won’t suffer without food and water for a few hours at a time, but be sure to give him access to clean, fresh water as soon as you release him from the crate.

Playpens and Doggy Doors

Once your dog has progressed with his house-training and he can be trusted to hold it for longer periods of time, you may want to consider investing in either a playpen or doggy door. Neither option is appropriate for dogs who have just begun house-training, since it allows the dog too much freedom, but once the dog has a basic understanding of house-training, he can be given a bit more space to roam. Playpens are a great intermediate step, as they allow the dog more freedom than a crate, but he is not yet given unrestricted access to the entire house. If you trust your Poodle not to get into trouble in your absence but want him to be able to relieve himself as needed, your next step can be installing a doggy door.

Playpens – Choosing the Right Option

poodle in a doggy play penThere are many types of playpens available on the market depending on your own personal preferences. The most inexpensive varieties are made of wire or plastic. They are typically made up of four or more panels and can be moved to fit whatever shape you feel is necessary for your dog’s space. More expensive playpens are usually made of wood or clear acrylic or plastic. Use your best judgment to decide which material you like best and what size and height is most appropriate for your dog. Bigger Poodles will need taller playpens while smaller Poodles may do fine with shorter panels. If your dog is a jumper, you may need to look for a covered playpen to contain him.

Doggy Doors – a Variety of Choices

doggy doorIf you’re interested in a doggy door, you have a few options. If you have a sliding glass patio door, you may be interested in the type of removable door that can be placed in the door frame. With this type of doggy door, you will be sacrificing the use of your patio door, but they are generally less expensive and less invasive than a permanent doggy door. Permanent doggy doors can either be installed in your back door or through one of your exterior walls. Typically, the latter have more depth than removable doors or those that are installed in wooden or metal doors, as they must go through the width of your house’s wall. They often have two flaps to help insulate the door and prevent drafts inside your home. With some encouragement and plenty of positive reinforcement, your Poodle will quickly learn how to go in and out of his new doggy door.

Safety Concerns

Be aware, however, that if you choose to install a doggy door, you may be leaving your home open to invasion if you aren’t careful. If you own smaller dogs, such as Toy Poodles, the doors will be too small for a human to fit through, but a human could easily fit through a Standard-Poodle-sized doorway. Similarly, wild animals such as raccoons or skunks, or even other neighborhood pets or strays can easily enter your home through a doggy door. The easiest way to prevent an unwanted visitor is to close and lock the door while you aren’t home. There are also doors that remain locked unless your dog approaches with a specific tag on his collar, allowing him to enter or exit. If an animal without a tag approaches, the door will remain locked.

You should also be cautious about allowing your dog unsupervised access to the yard while you’re away from home. Toy Poodles and even Miniature Poodles are small enough that they can easily be snatched by neighborhood coyotes or birds of prey. Poodles of any size may also be able to dig under or jump over your fence and escape. Depending on the security of your yard, your dog could also be let out or stolen by neighbors or strangers. There is also the risk of him ingesting something dangerous that he finds in the yard. Before you allow your dog to use the doggy door while you’re gone, consider how responsible he is in your absence and whether or not it’s safe to allow him to go outside without supervision.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to Poodles" by Tarah Schwartz, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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