Puppy Training: Chews Nips Toilets

Havanese King Charles mix puppyThe couple have had adorable thirteen-week-old Luna for a week now and they don’t know what’s hit them! She is a divine cross between a Havanese and a King Charles Spaniel.

Luna is a totally normal puppy, doing what puppies do – but they’ve not had a puppy before and are finding Luna hard work. When not asleep, she is either ‘on the go’, rushing from chewing skirting or chair legs, to digging the floor, to charging around after a ball, to nipping hands and biting clothes – and toileting.

They are finding the indoor accidents a bit exasperating. She obviously hadn’t had much training where she came from, so they are catching up.  She has messed in her crate each night they have had her.

People have the idea that a puppy must be shown toileting in the house is ‘wrong’. How is it wrong? Would a baby toileting be wrong? When a puppy wees or poos indoors the only possible reasons are insufficient vigilance and trips outside (our  fault), lack of positive reinforcement for going outside (our fault), anxiety (our responsibility), simply too young, unsuitable diet – or perhaps a medical problem.

Luna came to them on Bakers Complete dog food – cheap and tasty – with too many additives and colourings and not enough high quality nutrition. The cheaper the food, the more ‘bulking’ ingredients there are that simply pass through the dog, hence more or larger poos. They have now changed her diet but she still does poo very frequently. She probably went about five in the three hours that I was there.

She consumes too many commercial treats and chews in the evening which the couple give her in order to manage her. This may result in the messing in her crate during the night. What looks like a small treat to us will be the size of a doughnut to little Luna. I personally feel commercial treats are simply money-spinners. What’s wrong with real, nutritious food kept back from her meals, or real chicken or turkey – or tiny bits of cheese so long as the dog isn’t lactose intolerant?

Feeding the last food if the day earlier, making her sleeping space in her crate no bigger than the size of her bed so that she is reluctant to soil her sleeping place and getting up once in the night for just a week or two should cure the night toileting problem.

We covered lots of puppy stuff making sure things are on the right track, preempting any future problems like separation issues, and we made a start with walking her around the house and garden beside them – off lead for now.  Unfortunately she still hasn’t had her second injection which means vital socialisation is limited while they carry her about. We also looked at ways to avoid ‘correcting’ her by teaching her what we do want instead.

People still can be resistant to using food rewards as positive reinforcement. It is scientifically proven beyond all doubt that learning is more efficient when reinforced positively than it ever can be if to avoid punishment or scolding, and food is usually the most potent reinforcer for a puppy in particular.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Luna, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own puppies can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with puppy parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).