Puppy potty training is probably the most difficult aspect of getting a new puppy, and all puppies are not created equal. Some breeds are known for being easy to potty train while others are more difficult. Be sure to do a little research before deciding what breed is right for you and your family. If you don’t want to mess with potty training at all adopt or buy an older puppy or an adult dog that is already potty trained.
Here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind when puppy potty training: most puppies can hold their urine for how many months old they are plus one (i.e., a two-month-old puppy should be able to hold his urine for 3 hours). Using the example above, I would recommend taking this two-month-old puppy outside every 1 ½ to 2 hours. Most puppies will need to defecate 30-45 minutes after eating. It takes time to potty train a puppy, so the most important thing is to be patient and consistent.
Two Keys to Successful puppy potty training:
Key #1: Crate confinement
The primary key to potty training is crating or confining your puppy when you can’t watch him. Crate training your dog is not cruel. Crate training works because most animals don’t like sleeping or eating where they go to the bathroom, and it protects your puppy from injuring itself and your property. Restrict the puppy’s access to tile or easily washable flooring. While potty training, it’s also important to stick to a schedule by feeding at the same time every day and getting up and going to bed around the same time each day.
Key #2: Keep your puppy on a leash
I recommend taking your puppy outside on a leash to the same spot to potty. Taking your puppy on a leash is the second most important aspect of potty training. By using a leash, you are controlling where your puppy is going and what your puppy is doing. Without the leash, your puppy will wander off to play and forget the real reason why they are outside. By taking your puppy to the same spot each time, they will smell the urine or stool that helps to stimulate them to go potty. Potty pads work because they have a scent impregnated into them that does this very same thing. If your puppy is using the same spot in your house each time so make sure that you are using a cleaning product that says it neutralizes urine and fecal odor. You can also use a key phrase like “hurry up” or “go potty” which will help once your dog is trained.
Most puppies will signal when they need to go potty by circling, sniffing and arching their back. When you see this behavior, immediately pick them up and take them outside. Never yell or punish your puppy for accidents and don’t rub his nose in it. If you find the accident after the fact, clean it up and scold yourself. Call Guthrie Pet Hospital for all your puppy behavioral and medical needs.
When I tell people I teach dog obedience, they usually say something like, “Oh! I need you to teach my dog how to behave!” While I love to think of myself as a miracle worker who can teach behaviors and troubleshoot problems with your dog, the truth is that I can’t do it without you. My actual job is to teach owners and caretakers how to communicate with their dogs. I know it sounds all new-age, cable tv show, touchy-feely. It’s a fact, though. You and your dog will have better results and a better relationship if I teach you, then you teach them.
Three tips for better dog obedience results:
Always Reward Good Behaviors
Our dogs, like ourselves, are much more likely to repeat a behavior that they find rewarding. The problem is that we end up inadvertently rewarding undesirable behaviors. When our dog barks and we yell at them to stop, we’re rewarding their noise by yelling right along with them. If my dog jumps up and I respond by pushing him off of me, I’m rewarding his annoying behavior by giving him physical contact and attention. Some behaviors are even self-rewarding—meaning that the act itself gives the dog pleasure (think counter-surfing or garbage eating).
For us to teach our dogs to make better choices, we have to make those desirable choices pay. Reward your dog with a pet or a treat for sitting or lying down calmly. Reward your dog when he’s quiet. Reward him when he doesn’t put his feet up on the counter. The more a behavior is rewarded, the more your dog will perform that behavior.
When you’re training your dog, think of it as teaching English as a second language. You want to say things the same way each time to avoid confusion. Did you take Spanish in school? I did. I was pretty awful at it. The worst part was when I thought I finally got something, and then I learned that there was a similar word that meant something completely different. Our dogs can become frustrated, too. Set them (and yourself) up for success by being consistent in your language, tone, and reward timing.
Make Time To Practice
To master any skill, it takes practice. Just because our dogs get a behavior right one time doesn’t mean that they will automatically get it right every time. Regular practice is necessary to perfect the skills that we are teaching them. You don’t have to spend hours a day on obedience—but 2 or 3 10-minute sessions each day will make a huge difference in how quickly you and your dog will master each behavior. Think of it like playing the piano. Even if you know your scales, that doesn’t mean you can play a Mozart piece without practicing it first, and you have to practice those scales first to have the foundation in place to tackle songs in different keys.
To keep dog obedience practice from feeling like a chore, you can make an appointment with me to learn some great obedience games to play with your dog! From “Hide & Seek” to “ Puppy in the Middle,” there are some really fun ways to help your dog want to learn.
I think Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ He was saying that it’s better to try and avoid problems in the first place, rather than trying to fix them once they arise. What exactly does this have to do with veterinary medicine? Everything! Preventative medicine is the foundation of staying healthy for you and your furry friends. Pet immunization is just the tip of the iceberg.
Pet immunization is an important aspect of preventative medicine. All puppies and kittens should have three series of vaccines typically at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. The mother’s milk provides antibodies to protect puppies and kittens from contagious disease. These antibodies start to decrease between 8 to 12 weeks of age, and that’s why we start to vaccinate during this time frame. We are trying to stimulate the animal’s immune system to develop protection on their own before the mother’s protection is completely gone and most importantly, before they get exposed to the real disease. After this initial series of pet immunization, adult animals need yearly vaccinations.
But it’s not just all about the “shots.” The physical exam is the most important aspect of the visit. A comprehensive physical exam involves checking every aspect of the animal from head to tail. During puppy/kitten exams, your veterinarian is primarily looking for congenital birth defects and parasites. Animals age faster than we do, so an annual exam to them is like you going to the doctor every seven years. Annual examinations help us to detect and treat diseases early before your pet starts showing symptoms.
In animals, parasite prevention is as important as vaccinations. 34% of dogs in the United States are infected with intestinal parasites. 1-3 million people are infected with hookworms from their pets each year. The CDC recommends at least once a year deworming for intestinal parasites. It’s also important to keep the environment free from all fecal material to prevent infection from you and your pet. Heartworms, a blood parasite, are easily prevented with monthly medication that is only available through a veterinarian. There are 244,000 dogs diagnosed with heartworms every year in the United States. Heartworm prevention cost an average of $6.00/month. Heartworm treatment can cost $500-$1000 and left untreated heartworms can be fatal.
The jingling of tags on a collar. The low whistling whines. The inevitable sound of “lick, lick, lick” that brings you out of a dead sleep and is the pet owner equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. “STOP!” Silence. You lay back down, settle into your pillow, and then- “lick, lick, lick.” This is the song of an itchy pet.
Just reading that probably raised your anxiety level by a good four notches. Your dog is not doing that to drive you crazy, nor does he likely have a severe neurosis or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Odds are your dog is dealing with the same thing a considerable part of the human population is currently, which is seasonal allergies. Like humans, dogs and cats can have allergic reactions to pollens, mold, chemicals, and food.
Where we humans tend to go for the more dramatic reaction like sneezing and puffy red eyes, dogs and cats often present with skin issues and even gastrointestinal issues, which are not the first thing you generally associate with allergies. Pollens can settle on the pet’s skin and cause irritation, which creates an itchy pet, which can result in hair loss or skin scrapes or cuts. Open wounds can become infected, causing even more discomfort and irritation, which leads to increased scratching, and soon, you have a miserable dog or cat that needs serious medical attention.
Fleas are often blamed for itching and scratching, and rightfully so, but sometimes the pet has an allergic reaction to the flea saliva. In these cases, it is imperative that you stay ahead of the flea infestation.
How to relieve your itchy pet:
So, what can you do to make your dog or cat more comfortable so you both can get a good night’s sleep? First, make sure you don’t have a flea issue, and if you do, treat all the pets in the home and the environment. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best flea treatment for your pet, but you will also need to maintain efforts at home to keep them in check. Inside you will want to vacuum frequently around your pet’s bedding and areas they lay or sleep. Wash their bedding and blankets often. Treat outside areas with safe pet products to control fleas and ticks and keep the grass trimmed.
In the early spring and fall when pollen seems to hang in the air, try putting a light fabric shirt on your dog to keep the pollens off his skin. Bathing your itchy pet weekly in a cool bath with an oatmeal shampoo will remove the pollens and soothe the skin. Regular brushing will disperse natural oils throughout the coat to create a barrier for pollens and irritants. You might also consider paw socks or boots for extended outdoor time to keep allergens off their feet.
Letting your dog hang his head out of a car window is never a good idea, and doubly so when the air is full of things just waiting to make him sneeze. Roll those windows UP!
If despite your best efforts your pet is still scratching or chewing or sneezing or bumpy, don’t throw in the towel just yet. There are many pharmaceutical solutions your vet can prescribe, starting with simple antihistamines and progressing up to prescription medication in severe cases. Your itchy pet doesn’t have to suffer, and neither do you. The next time you are awakened by the “lick, lick, lick” take a moment to check your pet over. If you don’t see signs of fleas, it is probably time for a quick trip to the vet for a bit of allergy relief. You will both sleep better for it!
The last few weeks, I’ve seen several cases of inappropriate elimination in cats. Spraying or avoiding the litter box is the number one sited reason cats are surrendered to animal shelters. Hopefully, the knowledge you gain from this article can reduce the chance of litter box problems.
The most common reason a cat will use the bathroom outside of its litter box is that it’s not clean. Let’s face it- when we go to a public restroom and find a dirty toilet, we go to the next stall; if it stinks, we will find another bathroom somewhere else. Why do you think it’s any different for your cat?
How to prevent inappropriate elimination in cats:
- Use unscented litter.
- Scoop the litter box every day
- Clean the litter box once a week with mild soap and water
- Don’t use ammonia or citrus scents
- If the box begins to smell like urine, use an odor neutralizer or replace the box with a new one.
The number of litter boxes needed depends on the number of cats in your household. The general rule of thumb to follow is the number of cats you have in your household plus one (example: 2 cats = 3 litter boxes). I would also recommend providing different types of litter box and varying the size of each of the boxes. We have similar choices: home vs. public restroom, inside vs. outside, and handicap vs. regular stall. It’s nice to have a choice.
If you have inappropriate elimination in cats and you have tried the above suggestions, your cat may have a medical or behavioral condition. Contact your veterinarian for an exam and diagnostics in order to resolve the issue early. Never punish your cat for going outside the litter box, as this may cause other behavioral problems. Some individuals think the cat is trying to be vindictive, when in fact, there is a legitimate reason why the cat is not using the litter box. Try thinking about the problem from your cat’s point of view. Ask yourself if you were presented with the same problem, what would you do?