German Shepherd Dog

Whiskey - 8 weeks old - Golden Retriever Puppy

Puppy Training Issues

by Roger Hild – Tsuro Dog Training



Many new puppy owners make the mistake of assuming that once “Toilet training” is complete they are finished with the much larger task of “House training.” Put quite simply, house training is teaching your puppy how to behave in the house. In addition to toilet training, it includes such things as teaching him the house rules, boundaries and expectations. If you don’t want him eating the furniture, being a nuisance at the front door, stealing from the table or counters, you will have to teach him all these things as part of his house training program. It is also very likely that you will have to remind him of the house rules from time to time.

A basic rule to follow is to never give the puppy too much freedom. Begin by restricting him, when he is unsupervised by a responsible adult, to areas where he cannot get into trouble or learn any “bad habits.” When you are able to watch him, take him with you into these restricted areas, watch him closely and teach him how you want him to behave. You need to be in the position where you can immediately put a stop to any undesirable behaviour. To make this process easier, you can leash him up before taking him into areas he is normally restricted from and as he demonstrates calm and controlled behaviour, you can begin taking the leash off for short periods of time.


The secret to successful toilet training is to focus all your efforts on maintaining his perfect record, preventing him from making that first “accident” for as long as possible. If he already has been going in the house, resolve to keep him from making the next mistake. Decide to follow the principle of confining the dog when you are not able to watch him. By confining the dog you also confine the problem.

Confinement takes two forms: Long term, and Short term. Long term is for periods of time greater than three to four hours during the day. This would be a small, easy to clean, “puppy safe” area. His den/crate would be kept in this area along with chew toys, and food bowl. Confinement overnight and for periods less than 3 or 4 hours should be in his den/crate.

The role confinement plays in training is to help the puppy learn to hold on. This is because he does not want to soil his “den.” Equally important will be rewarding and praising him every time he gets it right. Rewards let him know this is the place you want him to go, he got it right and you are pleased with him.

When you are home and able to keep an eye on him, the puppy can stay with you in whatever room you are in. A good house rule for the whole family to follow is, whoever has the puppy with them in the house is responsible for his direct supervision. If he makes a mess while under your supervision, it’s his accident but it is your mistake. Whoever he is with also has the responsibility to get him outside as soon as he has to go.

The following program usually works quickly and is the standard program we suggest:

  1. Have your veterinarian do a stool check for worms. Parasites not only would effect his health but would completely interfere with his toilet training.
  2. Feed at set times. Remember, what goes in has to come out and if we know when it went in we will have some idea when he will have to go. During this period of toilet training, do not vary his schedule even on weekends, and do not “free feed.”
  3. No food or water for 3 hours prior to bedtime.
  4. Watch the stools — if they are loose, you may be overfeeding.
  5. Take the puppy out on a regular schedule and stay out with him. Praise and reward him when he goes and let him know how pleased you are. Take him out after he eats or drinks, when he first wakes up from a nap, after he has been playing or when he begins to act agitated or sniffs in a circling pattern.
  6. When you take him out, go straight to his toilet area and stand there. Do not walk with him or pay much attention to him until he goes, then praise and reward him. This will teach him that this is the time and place to relieve himself. Once he has relieved himself you can go for a walk together or he can have some house time under your supervision.
  7. If he does not go within ten minutes take him back inside and place him back in the crate for fifteen to thirty minutes then try again. This will help avoid the scenario where you have the pup out for forty-five minutes and he does nothing until you bring him inside and then he promptly uses your carpet as a toilet.
  8. Clean accidents with white vinegar and water or with a cleaner designed for urine odour. Do not use an ammonia-based cleaner. Urine contains ammonia and such a cleaner would attract your dog back to the spot.
  9. If you catch your dog in “the act” in the house say “STOP!!” Do not let him finish but pick him up and carry him straight outside to the proper area. Wait with him until he goes then praise.
  10. Keep a chart of exactly what the dog does, including accidents, and at what time. You should discover a pattern and be better able to plan his schedule.
  11. Under no circumstances should you drag the dog over to the accident to show and scold, punish or rub his nose in it. If you did not catch him in the act, say nothing. Put him in another area where he cannot see you while you clean it up. Remember, you are his leader, not his maid. Do not let him see that your sole purpose is to look after, care for and clean up after him.



By nature, dogs are den animals. We are going to take “a crate” and make it into “his den.” In some ways this might be thought of in the same way we turn a “house” into a “home.” Certainly your puppy will need a den, a home of his own where he can get away from it all and recharge his batteries. Crate training has many advantages. Aside from giving the dog a den, we will use it as:

  • An aid in house-training your dog.
  • A means of solving behaviour problems such as chewing.
  • A safer way of travelling in the car.
  • His home away from home. When staying in a motel, using the crate prevents destruction of property. Many motels will allow dogs only if they are crated.
  • A place for the dog to relax. The crate allows him a place where his privacy will be respected.

The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down in comfort. It should not be so large that he can sleep in one end and use the other end as a bathroom. If you got him a larger crate than he needs right now, you can temporarily block off a portion of it.

Helping The Puppy Adjust To The Crate

If the puppy has already had some crate time prior to leaving the breeder, the adjustment to the crate at your home should be relatively easy. Even if they have not been in a crate before, some puppies will adjust quickly. For those that have never been in a crate before, we suggest the following approach to help the puppy get used to his new den. The following steps can easily be covered in a day or less.

  1. Set the crate up. Then take the puppy to it and let him investigate. Show it to him while talking in a happy excited voice. Rattle it a little to show him that it may make a noise. Have a few treats inside it and reach in to get him one. Take him away from the crate for a short period and then return to the crate and reach in to get him another treat. Repeat until all treats are gone from inside the crate.
  2. Put the puppy in with the command “In your crate” or “In your bed.” Use a happy, excited voice. Once in, praise excitedly and reward him with a treat from your pocket, then let him out. Do this 3 to 5 times.
  3. Command the puppy into the crate, praise, give a treat, and close the door with him inside. Pet him through the side of the crate. Praise and let him out. Do this 5 times.
  4. Command the puppy into the crate, praise, give a treat, close the door, and leave the room for 5 seconds. Return, give him lots of praise and let him out. Do this 5 times.
  5. Repeat step 4, but increase the time out of the room to 10 seconds, then 20 seconds, then 1 minute. Keep increasing the time each time you leave.
  6. Put the puppy in the crate, praise, give him a treat, leave the house for a short period of time. Each time you leave the house it can be for longer periods of time.
  7. The quickest way to accustom the puppy to his crate is to keep it in the bedroom and crate him at night. After he is accustomed to sleeping in the crate, you may move it to the kitchen or another part of the house.

Using The Crate

You should no more allow a young puppy to roam around the house unsupervised than you would allow a toddler to wander in similar circumstances. For reasons of safety, if for no other, you must keep an eye on both. When something demands our attention and we are unable to keep an eye on a toddler we put him briefly in a playpen or we plan things around his nap time while he is in his crib. With a young puppy, we use his crate in a similar manner. Some other suggestions as to how the crate should be used are:

  1. During the training process, always give a treat for getting in the crate. Once trained, the treat is no longer necessary every time.
  2. Do not be apprehensive or apologetic to the puppy for putting him in the crate. Be matter-of-fact about it.
  3. Never let the puppy out of the crate when he is barking. If he is barking in the crate, make him be quiet before letting him out.
  4. If the puppy has an accident in his crate, do not punish him for it. He has been punished enough by having to stay in close-quarters with his accident. Take him outside, then clean the crate.
  5. Do not punish the dog while in his crate.
  6. When your dog is not confined in the crate, leave the door open so he can have access to it at will.
  7. Make it a point to have the puppy spend some quiet time in the crate each day. This should be other than the time he spends sleeping in it at night.

Barking In The Crate

Dogs confined in a crate may bark to be let out. If the dog is let out while he is barking, he is being rewarded for this behaviour and will therefore bark more often. To cope with his barking, teach him to respond to the command “Quiet.”

  1. Tell the dog in a stern voice “QUIET.” If the dog is quiet for 5 seconds, praise and let him out. Slowly increase the time he must be quiet before you let him out gradually working up to a minute.
  2. If he does not be quiet when you tell him, you can use either a spray bottle of water or take ½ glass of water and toss it directly in the dog’s face as you say “Quiet” in a normal voice. Likely he will be startled and will stop. After the dog has been quiet and settled for a brief period, let him out of the crate.
  3. Gradually increase the length of time the dog must be quiet and settled before being let out, initially 5 seconds. After several repetitions he will have to settle down for a minute or longer before being let out.
  4. After a few repetitions with the water, just saying “Quiet” and leaving the glass of water in sight of the dog will be enough.



Many of the problems people have with their pup happen when they are away and he is left alone. While you are away, the puppy needs some way to pass the time, stave off boredom, and some form of “occupational therapy.” Left alone he will find his own way of amusing himself and chances are, you won’t like what he comes up with. Digging, chewing on things, and other forms of “destructive” behaviour are often the result of his creative efforts. To prevent these habits from developing we must teach the puppy how to amuse himself when we are not there.

Toys can be an excellent diversion, giving the puppy both something to play with and something to chew on. “Kongs” or other hollow type toys are wonderful because we can stuff them with some very tasty treats. Use some pieces of kibble, broken pieces of his favourite cookies (with peanut butter smeared on them) small bits of cheese, etc., and stuff it into his toy. The treats should not be too easy to get out; we want the puppy to have to work on this for awhile. The first few times we give the Kong to the puppy we might even put his whole dinner inside and plug the end with some bread! Very quickly, the Kong should become one of his favourite toys. Now, just before you leave, place puppy in his long term confinement area, stuff the Kong with treats and give it to him. Note: For “Long term confinement,” see “Toilet Training.”

As an alternative to hollow toys, we can use hard “nylon bones.” To help turn this into a favourite toy, drill a number of holes through each end and pack the holes with soft cheese or peanut butter. Only let the puppy have this specially stuffed toy when he is in confinement and you are about to go out the door.

It is important to realize dogs do things for a reason. While we might not always be able to figure out what the motivation is for engaging in a certain behaviour, if we can narrow down the cause, we will have a better chance to eliminate the behaviour. In the case of chewing, for example, the dog’s motivation depends upon the cause. If he is teething, exercising his teeth and jaws will feel good to him. If it is to release tension, frustration or energy excess, the release becomes his reward.

  1. Confine the dog when he is alone where he can do no wrong.
  2. When you are at home with him, provide him with one chewable toy of his own. The purpose behind this suggestion is to train him to direct all his chewing toward this one object. Give him no more than this one toy and in this way we can ensure there is no confusion due to too many choices.
  3. Have one or two “special” treat-stuffed toys that he can have only when you are going out and he is being confined.
  4. Keep chewable objects you don’t want him to have out of his reach.
  5. Train him on a regular basis. This gives him an outlet for his energy and gives him a function which makes him a contributing member of the household.
  6. Exercise him regularly.


  • Keep all chewable objects, you don’t want him to have, out of his reach.
  • Do not rush around the house just prior to leaving, trying to stash things away. This kind of behaviour causes anxiety or excitement in the dog.
  • Prior to leaving, sit quietly for five minutes. Have a coffee, read the paper or engage in some other quiet solitary activity, but pay no attention to the dog.
  • When it is time to leave, get up and leave. Be unemotional and simply go.
  • If the dog regresses, go back to the confinement for a short period of time while the possible causes for the relapse are examined.



One of the most important lessons we need to teach all puppies is to be very careful with their mouths around people. If a dog bites, it is a very serious problem and yet when we look at our new puppy playfully chewing on our fingers, we begin to wonder where the puppy stuff ends and the “serious” stuff begins. The reality is the whole process is often part of a continuum starting with puppy using his mouth to explore his world. All puppies mouth and nip as part of this process. The following set of exercises is designed to reduce the force of the bites and then reduce the frequency until you reach the point where there is no more biting.

  1. NO HARD BITES — Let your pup take your hand in his mouth and when he bites too hard, yell “OUCH” in a loud, annoyed voice making it very clear to the puppy that it hurt and you did not like it one bit. Do not make the mistake of squeaking like a wounded littermate or another puppy; you are not another puppy, you are the leader. At this point it is not necessary to punish the pup, simply let him know when it hurts. The severity of the ouch should correspond to the severity of the pain and the dog’s mental make-up. If your “OUCH!” was not enough to startle the puppy, maybe rattle a chair or slap a table top for emphasis and to help startle the puppy. Once puppy lets go, ignore him for a couple minutes (prior to ignoring him you can mutter something to yourself like “that hurt you miserable cur, how dare you”). If the pup ignores your “OUCH” and bites again, put him in his ‘place of confinement’ and close the door. Give him anywhere from fifteen minutes to one half hour to calm down before resuming gentle play with him. If he gets too rough again, repeat the procedure (you yell “OUCH”).
  2. NO PRESSURE AT ALL — You progress from #1 above, gradually tolerating less and less pressure. You still want him to get the message that the mouthing hurt and you are not pleased: you want him to begin seeing human skin as very fragile. Continue to say “ouch” but by now he should know it means he has been too rough so you don’t have to yell as loud.
  3. MOUTHING IS O.K. UNTIL YOU SAY “OFF” — By this point his mouth should be very “soft,” when you want him to stop mouthing tell him “OFF” and he must instantly get his mouth off you or you withdraw all attention. Resume play if he stops immediately when he was told “off.”
  4. DOG MAY NEVER INITIATE MOUTHING — At this stage you will tell him “OFF!” anytime he puts his teeth on you. You can and should occasionally put your hand in his mouth (your initiative not his) to test that he remains gentle.

While the above process is good for dealing with biting puppies, it only looks at one part of the picture. Biting is a serious topic therefore, another article worth reading is “To Bite or Not to Bite“.


In my book I make a number of references to the importance of exercise. Learning to walk on leash is going to be an important part of any exercise program plus the leash will come to play a very important role in your relationship.

Since puppies do not arrive on this planet knowing what a leash is or how to walk with one, we must teach them. When teaching a puppy how to walk on leash, we want it to be a positive experience and not frightening in any way. The following program is for the very young puppy who seems frightened the first time we try putting on a collar or leash.

  1. Put a buckle collar on your puppy until he becomes used to it. This could take two or three days.
  2. Attach three feet of light-weight cord or leash to his collar and let the puppy drag it around. This exercise is to be done only when you are supervising the puppy. Make sure the leash does not get wrapped around anything such as a chair leg or tree.
  3. Once the puppy is ignoring the cord or leash, pick up the end and hold it. DO NOT apply any pressure. Follow the puppy keeping the line slack. Work to a total of 10 minutes on this.
  4. After the puppy is used to being on the end of the leash while you are holding it, coax him in the direction you wish to go. Do not allow the leash to tighten without immediately loosening it up again, and praise the puppy when he comes to you and also when he walks with you.

Once the puppy is walking on leash without fear, you are ready to teach him to walk beside you. It is relatively easy to teach a young puppy to stay with us and this is the best time to start. Do not wait till he is pulling so much that no one wants to take him for a walk anymore.

  1. Start with the puppy on your left side. Speak nicely to him and get him to look at you, and show him a treat. Say his name and say, “Let’s go.”
  2. Use your voice to encourage the puppy along as you start walking.
  3. Get the puppy’s attention with a treat held in your left hand and by calling his name, anytime you lose his attention. Every once in awhile when he is doing really well, give him the treat.
  4. Never let the leash get tight. If the puppy starts to pull ahead, give a warning, “Easy” or “Steady,” then STOP. DO NOT LET THE PUPPY PULL YOU ANOTHER STEP. Get him refocused on you by either turning around and going the other way, backing up or simply waiting him out. PRAISE and reward when he stops pulling and looks at you.

Reproduced with permission from the author, Roger Hild, Tsuro Dog Training

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