What options other than paper training do I have for my dog’s house training?
There are two ways of effectively, efficiently, and rapidly house training your dog. Paper training is one; the other is something called crate training.
Crate training is based on a dog’s basic dislike of soiling where she sleeps, and involves restricting the dog’s movement (by putting her in a crate, or small indoor kennel) whenever she cannot be actively supervised.
The difference between crate training and house training?
Paper training and crate training aren’t the same thing. Crate training is where you train your dog to only go outside; paper training is where you train your dog to only go on newspapers.
You cannot train your dog to do both at the same time – the two are mutually exclusive. She’ll get confused, and you’ll only prolong the training process.
You can choose to use paper training as an intermediary step for eventually only eliminating outside (although not everyone recommends this: it’s easier on the dog, and more effective all round, to choose one method and stick with it.)
Why should I choose paper training instead of crate training?
Crate training and paper training are both effective ways to house train your dog.
In general, it’s accepted (by most dog trainers and vets) that crate training is the fastest method of house training your dog; but it requires a considerable investment of time and effort, which is not an option for everyone.
Paper training is the best option for you if:
- You don’t have easy access to a yard (for example, you live in a hi-rise apartment block)
- It’s not easy for you to take your dog outside for any other reason (for example, elderly or unwell people)
- You have a full-time job, or other time-consuming commitment which can’t be got around (meaning that you’re not able to spend the large amounts of time supervising your dog that crate training requires)
- You’re planning on training your dog to go outside the house eventually, but not just yet (for example, it’s the dead of winter with four-foot snow drifts outside)
Crate training is the best option for you if:
- You have a medium to big dog
- You are able to spend a lot of time during your puppy’s first weeks of house training in actively supervising her, and are available during the day to let her out of the crate at two- or three-hour intervals
- You want to train your dog to go outside the house right from the start
Paper training isn’t suitable for all dogs: it really only works for small males and small-to-medium females, since a dog larger than these just produces too much waste for the newspaper (and you!) to handle.
How to paper train your dog?
First, pick a convenient area of the house for your dog to use as the elimination area. Because she’s going to be peeing and pooping in this area, it’s best if you can choose somewhere without carpet: most people choose a corner of the kitchen or laundry (since these rooms usually have tiled or linoleum floors, making hygiene a non-issue.)
Spread newspaper thickly in a corner of this room. At first, you’ll need to make the newspaper area pretty big, since your pup has no idea that she’s meant to go on the paper at all.
To make sure that she’s able to eliminate only on the paper, you’ll either need to restrict her movements to the papered area of the floor (which you can do by erecting barriers to keep her in – if the room you’ve chosen is large or busy, this is probably the most user-friendly option for you), or paper the whole floor (which is a viable option if the paper-room is small and there’s not much thoroughfare.)
At first, your puppy will eliminate pretty much at random on the paper. It’s important for the paper-training process that she only gets to go on the paper – you need her to form a strong association between the feeling of paper under her toes, and relieving herself.
After a week or two, you can begin to shrink the papered area of the floor, allowing her more access to unpapered surfaces (leave the barriers where they are for now so she doesn’t get the chance to eliminate anywhere else.)
Do this gradually, a couple of sheets at a time. If you’ve given her enough time to get used to the paper, she should naturally restrict her elimination areas as the papered area shrinks.
NOTE: If at any time she begins to eliminate off the paper, then increase the size of the papered floor surface to the size it was when she was still eliminating only on the paper, and give her more time to get used to it before beginning to reduce the papered area again.
There’s no need to panic: this doesn’t mean that the paper training isn’t working, it just means you’re moving a bit too fast for your puppy’s capabilities.
Most dogs take a couple of months (eight to twelve weeks) to get used to the paper training method. Until she’s reliably going on the papers only, you should restrict her access to the rest of the house unless you’re actively supervising her- which means 100% of your attention is focused on the pup.
In general, a good rule of thumb is that your puppy is confined to the papered area unless she’s sleeping, eating, or being played with/actively supervised.
Things you should do are
- Praise her effusively whenever you see her eliminating on the paper. Wait 'til she’s done (so you don’t distract her!) and praise her, pet her, and give her a treat.
- If you catch her in the act of eliminating off-paper, this is actually a great opportunity for training development. Interrupt her with a clap, loud verbalization (“Ah-ah-aaaah!”), or slap your open palm loudly on the wall. This will startle her – in most cases, she’ll actually stop mid-toilet and hunch down. Scoop her up immediately and put her on the paper. When she finishes, praise her hugely and give her a treat.
- If you come across an accident after the fact (a wet spot or pile on the unpapered floor), you’ve missed your window of opportunity to teach her not to do this. You can’t tell her off in this case, because she won’t understand what she’s done wrong; all you can do is clean it up and supervise her more carefully. If this is happening a lot, you’ve given her too much freedom in the house and not enough supervision: restrict her access to the unpapered floor, and step up the supervision.
- Feed her at specific, scheduled times (for example, a meal at 8 am, 1 pm, and 7 pm) to encourage her to develop an “elimination timetable”.
For further information on house training your dog, including a detailed look at paper training and crate training, check out The Ultimate House Training Guide.
It’s the complete dog-house-training guide. The Ultimate House Training Guide and comes highly recommended.