The Daily Spike: Tips for housetraining a puppy

Who wants to housetrain a puppy?

I know a lot of people are hesitant to get a puppy, as they don’t have the time or energy to deal with housetraining. I've had a few sleepless nights with Spike in the beginning, so I get it.

And when you live in an apartment building and/or big city like I do, there are extra obstacles. I’m on the 5th floor, and can’t just open up a door and let him out in the backyard.

Housetraining is really all about supervision, consistency and having your puppy on a good schedule of feeding and watering. I thought it was really helpful that Canine Companions gave us a "sample schedule" for the first couple months of housetraining for Spike and have shared that below.

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Canine Companions assistance dogs are trained to toilet on command. Like pet dogs, Canine Companions' puppies like Spike start toilet-training early. It all begins while still at home with their breeder mom, at around 3½ weeks, and continues as soon as they arrive home at their volunteer puppy raisers' homes.

Puppies who are crate-trained will learn to view their space as a safe, fun environment — and not someplace where it's OK to toilet.

Puppies who are crate-trained will learn to view their space as a safe, fun environment — and not someplace where it's OK to toilet.

And unlike most pet dogs, assistance dogs are not just housetrained, they are trained to relieve themselves on any surface for the safety and convenience of a future handler with a disability.

One of the first things Canine Companions taught us at our orientation is that the pups are less to likely to relieve themselves if you are carrying them. So several times a day, I would carry Spike from his crate to the elevator down to the first floor, outside the building, and then out to the sidewalk. I got a serious workout — and more toned arms — with all those 'puppy curls.'

We talked about crate training a previous blog post. It’s a really important tool when housetraining your dog. The crate is a safe and comfortable place for your dog to hang out when you can’t watch him. Dogs really love being in their crate — they’re den animals. They enjoy sleeping in a small space. Spike goes in his crate unprompted all the time to chill out by himself or chew on his toys.

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Since Spike is a young puppy, we are focusing on consistently toileting outside, and having a big party every time Spike is successful in toileting outside. Canine Companions dogs have a special command called “Hurry” that tells pups and assistance dogs that it’s time to do their business. Right after Spike goes to the bathroom, I say “good hurry” and give him lots of treats and praise. You always want to reward them for doing something you want them to do.

What should you do if your dog has an accident inside your house or apartment? Don’t freak out or punish them. Dogs truly live in the moment and won’t understand being punished for that. The best thing to do is just clean it up and carry on.

Once Spike has mastered "Hurry" outside, we will start working on toileting on all kinds of surfaces like grass, concrete, stones and dirt. Watch "Housetraining: Canine Companions Extraordinary Puppy" on YouTube for more tips.

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Sample Schedule

5:00–6:30 a.m.

Open crate, attach leash and then take (carry) the puppy out to “hurry” on leash in a designated toileting area. Return to crate or start puppy’s daily routine.

7:00 a.m.

Feed pup. Give the puppy the opportunity to toilet on leash. Exercise such as a walk or playtime, then toilet again. Return puppy to crate (one to two hours).                                           

Midmorning

Open crate, attach leash and then take the puppy out to “hurry.” Exercise puppy — walk, interactive play, etc. Pup stays out of crate as long as supervised.

12 p.m.–1:00 p.m.

Open crate, attach leash and then carry puppy out to “hurry” on leash. Feed pup second meal, then toilet pup on leash. Supervised playtime — in an exercise pen, during a walk, while practicing commands, playing games, etc. Toilet pup on leash, then pup returns to crate for a nap.

Mid-afternoon

Open crate, attach leash and then take the puppy out to “hurry” on leash. Exercise — walk or a socialization activity. Toilet pup, then pup returns to crate for nap.

5:00 p.m.

Open crate, attach leash and then take the puppy out to “hurry” on leash. Feed pup meal, then toilet pup on leash. Playtime in an exercise pen, during a walk, while practicing commands, playing games, etc. Toilet pup on leash, then pup returns to crate for a nap or supervised time out of crate.

7:00 p.m.

Open crate, attach leash and then take the puppy out to “hurry” on leash. Give pup last water opportunity. Toilet the pup.

Just before bed

Walk and toilet pup. Pup sleeps in crate.