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House-Training The "Latch Key" Beagle

by Kristine Kraeuter


          Training your Beagle to behave appropriately is a fundamental part of responsible dog ownership. A well behaved, obedient canine is a pleasure to live with. Through proper training, your Beagle will learn what is expected of him, understand how best to please his human companions, and will become a more welcome and appreciated member of the family.

          The majority of perceived behavioral problems in dogs are the result of perfectly normal canine conduct that has been misdirected, or occurs at an inappropriate time or location. Without proper guidance and supervision, your Beagle will likely behave according to his natural animal instincts and in keeping with the hundreds of years of selective breeding which resulted in this tenacious little hunting hound. Thus manners training is primarily aimed at modifying and redirecting your Beagle's natural behaviors to outlets that are more acceptable in a domestic situation. I frequently receive questions from novice Beagle owners regarding how to correct their hounds’ inappropriate behaviors and improve basic manners. In this series of articles, I will be sharing some of the more interesting, or especially relevant, queries regarding Beagle behaviors and training, and my personal responses. I hope that by sharing these Q&A’s, other Beagle owners may be able to glean some useful information that will aid them in shaping their own well-mannered canine companion.

Question:

Hi Kris,

          I spoke with [the breeder] last night and if all goes well we will bring home a puppy on Sunday.

          First question is where to buy supplies, especially a crate, my information on where to get the best prices on supplies is about ten years out of date, any suggestions? If not, I'll just go to the local pet store.

          Second I would like your opinion on house breaking. Since the pup is eight weeks old I don't want to put expectations too high for the first few weeks, but I also don't want to start some bad habits that may be hard to break later. I have read your book, and reread the section on housebreaking. I have always believed that allowing a pup to paper train first was sending a mixed signal to a puppy. However Caitlin has six more weeks of school and I won't be aloud to go part-time until fall which leaves the pup alone more than I would like the next few weeks. We have a neighbor that will come over daily and let the pup out between 11:00 and 12:00, which will help break up the day. We also have another neighborhood teenager who will stop by directly after school to let the puppy out, but that still leaves the puppy home alone for about 5-6 hours in the morning. My concern is that if I introduce a crate now for such an extended period it will be setting the puppy up for failure and break down the puppies natural instincts not to soil the den. I am wondering if a better approach might be to put the puppy in the laundry room initially with a wee-wee pad on the metal pan from my old crate. This way I have an opportunity to introduce the crate slowly and > not use it until it is more realistic that the pup can hold its urine for five-six hours. What do you think?

Response:

          Congratulations on your soon to be new addition of a family companion beagle puppy!

          If you have a PetsMart, or other large pet supply chain store close by, those are usually good places to pick up supplies at a reasonable price. For anything you don't need to have on hand right away, I like several of the online suppliers. I'll include those links at the end of this email <smiles>.

          I agree that paper training is less than ideal... as at least temporarily you are teaching that it is acceptable for the puppy to eliminate inside the home, and that is a behavior that you then must gradually untrain and reshape later on. But, for those times when you need to leave such a young pup unattended for periods of time which you suspect will exceed her physical ability to hold her urine, you don't want to confine to her crate and force her to use it as a potty area.

          Some of the toughest housebreaking problems I have ever seen are pups that were forced to use their crate as a potty and eventually the behavior becomes habitual; this negates the usefulness of the crate as a house training aid, and also can break down the natural tendency of a dog to want to keep their "den" area clean.

          So... here is what I typically recommend to people who work, as a short term solution until the pup begins to develop better physical control:

  1. When you are home, stick to the typical crate training routine as a means of teaching bladder/bowel control (the body will slowly learn how to hold back elimination, until the pup is in an appropriate location). Supervise closely whenever she is out of the crate and take her to her one and only appropriate outdoor location when she does need to eliminate. Praise and reinforce the desirable behavior and try to prevent the opportunity for accidents to occur. Don't fall into the habit of using papers or pads when you are home and can crate/supervise, as the goal of teaching cleanliness in the home is still the same. You do not want to encourage or reward elimination in the home, on papers, at all.

  2. When you are going to be gone during the day for work... do set up a room or exercise pen area where the pup has her crate with the door left open (or removed) to use as a bed/den. Put down papers or a pad on which she can eliminate if need be. This specific breeder's pups basically are already *self paper trained* from habitually using the papered pen floors as a potty while in the breeder's home, and sleeping in their wooden whelping boxes (which, like a crate, they consider their "den" area and so they do not soil the box). This sort of arrangement still encourages the pup to us their crate as a sleeping quarters during the day, while allowing them to eliminate elsewhere and keep the crate clean. Because you are not encouraging or rewarding the behavior of eliminating on the papers, this is very different than actual paper training (where you would actively teach the pup that you approve of their elimination indoors). You are passively providing an alternative for the pup to be able to avoid soiling the crate when you can not be present to otherwise meet their potty needs.

          If you use the crate at night too, getting up to provide one or two outdoor potty breaks as needed, this will help the pup to develop bladder and bowel control. And if you are very consistent with the crate/house training whenever you are at home, you will still be able to effectively teach the concept that outdoors is the appropriate place for elimination.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).