Teaching a puppy where you expect him or her to go to the bathroom is a critical part of training. The best and most reliable way to house train any puppy is to provide frequent opportunities to eliminate in an appropriate place and to reward this behavior immediately as it occurs. To do this, the "rules" must be clearly established and every member of the family must commit to the training process. It is not fair to expect a puppy to know "right" from "wrong" if the human members of the family are constantly changing what is acceptable behavior.
The best method of training is to take the puppy out within several minutes after each meal, after each nap, and after playing. It is also imperative to get the puppy outside first thing every morning.
Physiologically, a wave of rhythmic contractions along the length of the digestive tract (the gastrocolic reflex) begins when food or water is swallowed. The contractions are particularly strong after eating, which explains why a bowel movement is so likely after a puppy eats. Feeding a puppy at scheduled mealtimes and avoiding snacks between feedings helps to determine when he will need to "go potty".
It is best to leash walk or take the puppy outside in the yard within 15 minutes of each meal. Remember, this is NOT playtime. When the puppy prepares to eliminate, start using a key word or phrase which he will soon associate with elimination ("get busy" or "hurry up" are two commonly used phrases). Use a happy and light tone of voice. This teaches the pup to void on command so that you won't freeze on cold winter nights while the pup leisurely looks for just the right spot. Praise immediately once the task is completed ... even if the neighbors are puzzled by your sudden exuberance!
When used in conjunction with a crate, housebreaking can be accomplished fairly easily. If you are certain that your puppy should be ready to go to the bathroom, take him outside and tell him to "get busy." If he shows no interest, bring him back inside and put him calmly in his crate. This is not punishment. Crates are happy places! Leave the puppy alone for 10 or 15 minutes while you carry on your daily routine ... and then take him back outside. Repeat this process as often as it takes ... but never let the pup loose in the room while your attention is diverted.
This process may seem time consuming and cumbersome at first, but once your puppy realizes that "potty time" and "play time" are two different things, he will hurry to get his "business" out of the way so that playtime can begin.
Getting back to the "crate" part of training, it is impossible to overestimate the advantages of getting your Norfolk used to spending time in a crate. To introduce your dog to the crate, make sure it is associated with positive things such as food and toys. Leave the door open and let the pup explore. Cover a section of the floor with comfortable and easily laundered bedding, such as a towel or blanket. Play with your puppy, tossing favorite toys and treats inside the crate. Say "crate" or "kennel" every time you put the puppy in the crate.
At mealtime, feed the puppy in a crate. Gently close the door while he eats and keep the door closed for gradually longer periods. Let the puppy out when he is calm and quiet.
As a house training aid, carry your Norfolk directly outside when you open the crate. Carry him to the place where he is expected to eliminate, and use your happy voice to praise him. If he doesn't cooperate, don't start to play with him. Bring the puppy back inside and put him in his crate. It won't be long before he figures things out.
And, don't give up! Sometimes, it seems that small dogs including Norfolks take an inordinately long time to house train. Part of the problem arises when our attention is diverted and the little dog manages to squat and eliminate in a flash! So keep focused. Be consistent. Have a plan. And be patient.
Adapted from "New Puppy Training" HomeVet Natural Pet Care
ANTIC, March, 2005
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