The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Bernedoodles" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.
Author Credit: David AndersonHousetraining is an essential part of dog ownership if you are planning on allowing your Bernedoodle to spend any length of time in the house. This breed needs this option because they get lonely easily.
Just like any other puppy behavior, your new Bernedoodle might not understand that it isn’t allowed to use the bathroom where it pleases. If your Bernedoodle came from a knowledgeable breeder, the breeder may have already started housetraining the puppies. However, the concept will still be very new, so more work is required.
One reason that housetraining is so difficult to start is that your tiny pup doesn’t have the bladder capacity yet to hold it for any great length of time. Typically, puppies can hold their bladders one hour for every month old they are. For example, if you have a two-month-old Bernedoodle, it probably needs to go out to do its business every two hours.
Depending on your home and schedule, there are different options for housetraining that won’t result in ruined carpet. Using a designated spot outside is perhaps the most ideal method because your dog is less likely to be confused by your expectations for it. It can easily tell the difference between the backyard and the living room, so once it’s let outside, it knows it’s allowed to use the bathroom. Owners may also find they prefer to only allow their dog to potty outside because it keeps the pet messes out of the home altogether.
However, if certain circumstances make this impossible for you and your pup, there are other options. You may decide to teach your puppy to do its business on a designated indoor spot while you’re away, and to use the yard when you’re home. For inside training, there are a few different choices. Using newspaper is a fairly common (and cheap) method, but it can result in messes if the layer of paper isn’t thick enough to absorb the urine.
Potty pads are another popular product. Think of them as large, absorbent diapers that adhere to your floor. Many contain a scent that is supposed to let your dog know that they are meant to be used as a toilet. They are disposable, so clean up is easy. Because they are not reusable, prolonged use can be expensive and not great for the environment. However, as a backup method for dogs that are inside all day while the family is away, they can help contain accidents.
Dog owners looking for a more permanent indoor toilet may choose a dog litter box or a box that can be covered in turf or sod to mimic an outdoor toilet. These methods are best suited for small dogs and puppies, so your Bernedoodle may not be able to use them for too long before it reaches its adult size.
If you decide to go with an indoor potty, placement is important. Find a space in your home where messes won’t interfere with your life. Also, don’t place a pad in an inconvenient place, just because your dog fancies that place for a toilet. For example, your puppy may like to do its business in the middle of your kitchen floor, but it’s not a sanitary place to have those messes. Put a pad as far away from living spaces as possible, in a place like the bathroom, and teach your dog to go there.
However, if you don’t want your dog to become comfortable using your home as a toilet, you may want to avoid training it to use alternative methods altogether. This is entirely possible if you are capable of taking your dog outside every few hours during its puppy stage. As it grows up, letting it out during a lunch break or with a dog walker may be sufficient for its needs.
The First Few Months
Housetraining is a lot of work. Expect your puppy to need constant practice in appropriate elimination methods for several months. Because Bernedoodles mature a little slower than most breeds, this time can vary.
A good way to prevent accidents in the home is to set a routine for your pup. When you wake up in the morning (which will probably be early with a new dog) take your puppy to its designated bathroom spot outside. Once it has used the bathroom, then it’s breakfast time. Because dogs should have set feeding times anyway, its next bowel movement will be a little more predictable. Let your dog out within thirty minutes of finishing its meal.
From there, determine how long your dog is capable of holding it. If you notice that your dog has accidents at a certain time interval after being let out last, schedule a bathroom break a little earlier. If you watch your puppy closely, you can start to see patterns in its behavior and can anticipate its needs a little better. For example, if your puppy is having accidents an hour after its last bathroom break, try letting it out every forty-five minutes and work on increasing the time between.
It’s also a good idea to take your puppy outside after a nap and right before bedtime. After a while, the routine will start to stick and your puppy will understand what it is supposed to do while outside.
It can be difficult to predict when your puppy is about to use the bathroom. Some dogs give little to no warning before they make a mess on your floor. Others may whine, walk around in small circles, or scratch at the ground. If you notice any of these warning signs, bring your puppy to the yard as quickly as possible so it can learn where it is supposed to go.
Make sure you have some consistency with where you take your dog once you get outside. If you take your dog to the same outdoor spot every time, eventually, the scent it leaves behind will prompt it to do its business. This is an added bonus for the owner because it makes clean up easier and reduces the risk of soiling a pair of shoes.
Positive Reinforcement while Housetraining
Because housetraining is one of the first things new owners work on with their dogs, it’s important to get into the habit of using positive reinforcement. Dogs respond well to positive feedback in the form of treats and affection. Negative feedback, like fear, pain, or intimidation, will only lead to resentment and fear from your dog. In fact, negative reinforcement will likely result in unwanted behaviors.
When your dog decides it’s time to go to the bathroom, lead it to its designated toilet area. When it uses the bathroom successfully, give it a treat. This lets it know that it performed its job correctly. Give your Bernedoodle plenty of cuddles and let it know that it did well. After enough of these positive experiences, it will understand what you want it to do.
If you take your dog out and it doesn’t use the bathroom, give it a little time. Perhaps it needs to sniff around for a little while longer. Try to remove any distractions so it knows that it’s outside for business, not play. Keep toys and other people out of reach at this time. If your Bernedoodle tries to play with you while outside, act uninterested. Eventually, it will figure out that you aren’t there to play. Stay still and quiet, and just observe so you’re ready with treats when your dog is finished.
In the Event of an Accident
Accidents happen—and a puppy is bound to have quite a few. This is completely normal and to be expected. Because negative reinforcement doesn’t work well with dogs, they should never be punished for an accident, especially after the fact. Dogs cannot connect past mistakes to the present. Even rubbing their nose in their mess won’t cause them to remember that what they did was wrong. Yelling and swatting at your dog will cause it to see the act of eliminating waste as wrong. Instead of waiting to go outside, a scared dog is more likely to hide it from you, causing even bigger issues.
Unfortunately, if you don’t catch your dog in the act, you’ve lost out on a learning moment. While it may seem discouraging when you’ve been working with your dog for months, stay patient. Your dog will need to go in another hour or two, giving you another chance to try to make it outside.
If you do catch it, try to startle but not scare the dog by giving a single clap or a “hey!” This isn’t meant to be mean or frighten it, but should work as an alarm of sorts. If the noise distracts it enough that it stops, quickly bring your dog outside to its bathroom spot. If it completes the task outside, reward it. If it doesn’t, try again later. Bernedoodles are eager to please their owners, so positive reinforcement works especially well, and negative reinforcement is especially damaging for your dog.
If your dog has reached a mature age and is still having accidents despite all of the work you’ve put in, consider other factors that may be causing the accidents. Male dogs that have not been neutered yet may use urine as a way to mark their territory. Some dogs will void their bladders if they get too excited or anxious. Work with your dog’s needs to resolve these behaviors and see if they become more successful with housetraining.
One of the benefits of crate training your dog is that it helps with the housetraining process. As a dog matures, it’s less likely to use the bathroom in its living space. A crate provides an enclosed area that your dog may be more inclined to keep clean.
This is beneficial for dog owners who struggle with their dog having accidents at night and while they’re not around. If the dog hangs out in the crate when it cannot be closely supervised, it may avoid having accidents that way.
If the crate is too big, there is ample room for a puppy to poop on one side and sleep on the other. A proper-fitting crate eliminates that excess room. Once you let the dog out of the crate, immediately take it outside to eliminate waste.
Avoid keeping potty pads or newspaper in the crate if your dog associates them with using the bathroom. If accidents occur, wash whatever bedding is in there and try again. Specially made enzymatic cleansers are good for removing the smells that make animals use the bathroom in certain areas.
There are both benefits and disadvantages to installing a doggy door in your home. On the plus side, having a little door for your Bernedoodle to go outside when nature calls is great for owners who can’t be home during the day. If your dog can use the bathroom outside on its own time, it probably won’t have accidents in the home.
But in order for your dog to be able to use a doggy door, it must be housetrained well enough to know the purpose of going outside. A pup that doesn’t know that it’s supposed to use the bathroom outside won’t suddenly become housetrained, just because it has unlimited access to the outside. A young dog may also be too scared of the door to actually use it. However, once your pup is trained, a doggy door can give it a little more independence.
Another drawback to using doggy doors is that the owner has less control over what comes in and goes out of the house. A sneaky dog can take its favorite toys or its owner’s possessions with it, without anyone noticing. Also, if your dog can get inside, so can other small creatures, not to mention any fresh kills your dog may have made while outside.
Housetraining Adult Bernedoodles
Most often, housebreaking is a puppy issue. However, if you adopt an adult Bernedoodle, it might not be housetrained already. If the Bernedoodle spent most of its time outside in its former home, it may have never learned how to use the bathroom in specific places.
The guidelines for housetraining adult dogs are similar to those for training puppies. They need lots of positive reinforcement when they use the bathroom in the correct spot and they require plenty of practice.
After your dog completes its task, a walk is a good reward. It makes it happy, plus it will be more likely to take care of business immediately so it can have fun afterwards.
The best thing about housetraining an older dog is that it doesn’t need to use the bathroom as often as a puppy. Instead of taking your dog out every hour, it can go out once in the morning, once at bedtime, and a handful of times throughout the day. Once it gets the hang of it, it will only need to be let out four or five times a day.
Housetraining is difficult at first, but once your Bernedoodle gets the hang of it, your life will become much easier. Bernedoodles are intelligent, but mature a little slower than most dogs, so remember to be patient and keep training positive. They can be sensitive to negative reactions from their owner, so only reinforce behaviors with treats, cuddles, and play time, not anger.
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