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Mendo Lake Family Life

10 Puppy-Training Tips

By Christina Katz

Nothing makes a house feel like a home and bonds a family better than a scampering little bundle of fur, grrs, and face-licks. 

But your sweet, helpless buddy is also an animal, whose instincts need to be channeled, pronto, before your cutie pie morphs into a weapon of mass home destruction. 

Here’s what to do to keep your home puppy-safe.

1. Get a puppy-training crate. Because puppies have endless energy and you don’t, your dog is going to need a safe haven. So don’t wait. Get the right size dog crate so your pup can stand up easily with a little room to grow. Until your pup is done teething, an old towel is all that it needs for a bed. Best part: When the puppy is in the crate, you can leave the room or the house without the fear of having your stuff destroyed.

2. Go straight to the vet. Any animal brought into the home needs a clean bill of health and several rounds of inoculations to keep it and your family safe. Use the crate to safely transport your pup to the vet. Resist the urge to let your puppy be loose or on your lap in the car. Puppies are usually unfazed by quick trips to the vet for multiple shots in the shoulder, and they often sleep longer after they receive their vaccinations.

3. Set up a gate. If you let your dog run loose throughout your home, you are asking for trouble. Designate puppy-safe areas, which can be cordoned off, and make sure electrical cords and other shock or choking hazards are inaccessible. Kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, and laundry rooms work best for a young pup. Think puppy-proof instead of baby-proof.

4. Schedule potty alarms. Eventually your pup will be able to make it all the way through the night without any potty breaks. Until then, set an alarm for the amount of time you know your pup can hold it. Otherwise, you are teaching it how to wake you whenever it wants. When the alarm goes off, scoot that pup straight outside, give the command to go, and praise the results. Then, in the future, every time your pup comes out of its crate, it’ll remember where it’s supposed to go.

5. Meet your best friend’s best friend. Every dog trainer has a magic treat that can get a puppy to do anything. Believe it or not, for most trainers, this treat is freeze-dried liver. You may as well buy a large tub of the beige, chalky stuff. 

6. Buy best quality. If you eat quality food, offer the same to your pup. It may cost a little more, but think of it as an investment. Just like an apple a day keeps the doctor away, a couple scoops of high-quality food keep the vet away. Two feedings a day, at daylight and dusk, work well for most families. Your new puppy will also need constant access to fresh, clean water except when it’s asleep in the crate.

7. Go natural. Dogs prefer natural bones and chew-things that come from digestible, dehydrated animal parts. Bonus: Your pup is unlikely to confuse real bones and animal parts with everyday household items like slippers, shoes, and stuffed animals. Be especially leery of rawhide chews, no matter how rampant in pet stores, because they do not digest easily. Tip: During teething time, apply Bitter Apple spray to furniture legs, upholstery, or any chewable surfaces.

8. Be ready for anything. In terms of pee and poop, that is. If you are prepared for an accident before it occurs, you will be less likely to freak out if and when it does. If the unthinkable happens, try not to over-react. Keep clean-up supplies and enzyme spray at the ready to remove the pee-hither scent from the scene of the crime.

9. Keep cool. You would never hit or scold your child harshly for making a mistake during potty training, right? So when your little buddy has a whoopsie, redirect without scolding. Never use physical punishment or yell. Just calmly take your puppy outside to finish the job and then calmly put it in the crate. Clean up the mess without grumbling, and spray the spot with enzyme neutralizer to eliminate the likelihood of a repeat.

10. Get ready to play. Make sure your pup gets enough time outside and plenty of exercise—it’ll mean less wear and tear on your home and belongings. And your pup will sleep better, too.  

Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz knows that sweet puppies turn into even sweeter dogs.