One of the most important foundations you can teach your puppy is a consistent relieving verbal cue and routine. To be a guide dog your puppy must learn to relieve on verbal cue, on leash, and on a hard surface.
As you know, your job as a puppy raiser is to teach your puppy verbal cues and behaviors that will be the foundation for their guide dog training. Your puppy needs to learn how to busy on verbal cue and control their relieving while they are working.
Focus on teaching your puppy when and where to relieve so a negative pattern is not created by letting your puppy decide indiscriminately when to relieve. It is important that your puppy only relieves themselves when told to do. Provide plenty of positive opportunities to relieve in their designated spot. Creating a pattern and routine will build a foundation for correct relieving habits.
When your puppy is in public keep the exposures short and close to an exit. Always have cleanup supplies in case an accident does occur. A puppy should not establish the habit of relieving in stores or public areas. If your puppy did not relieve at home they should not be taken in public.
Never use neighborhood walks or off-leash playtimes as an opportunity for relieving. Your puppy should busy before and after walks and playtime so they don’t get in the habit of relieving indiscriminately.
Any time a puppy relieves themselves without being given the verbal cue to do so is an accident – in stores, on neighborhood walks, even pulling off to the side as an indication is an accident. An accident is any unplanned relieving.
The verbal cue Busy should be given to teach your puppy to relieve when you ask them to relieve themselves. It’s important that your puppy learns to relieve themselves only where and when you ask them to when they are on leash.
Set up for success
- Always have your puppy in their crate when you cannot supervise them.
- Make sure the crate is not too large that they can soil in one area and still be comfortable.
- A crate divider or a box to take up space should prevent your puppy from soiling their crate.
- Supervise and watch your puppy’s body language. If they are in their crate or supervised there will be less opportunity for accidents.
- Always take your puppy to the same area to relieve themselves.
- If you catch your puppy relieving inside the house gently correct them.
- Do not correct your puppy after the accident has already occurred.
- If you catch them relieving, take the puppy outside to finish relieving.
- Do not scold or hit your puppy. Do not rub their nose in the accident.
- Praise your puppy if they finish relieving outside.
If your puppy has an accident in the house it is important to clean the area as soon as possible. Puppies will be drawn to the area where they have already relieved. Most grocery and pet stores have effective cleaners that will deodorize the area and prevent staining.
Teaching your puppy the Busy verbal cue
- To teach this verbal cue most effectively, pick a designated busy spot at your home and take your pup to the designated area every time early in their training. Using the same door to exit your home will also help establish a consistent busy routine.
- At a young age many puppies will need to be carried to their busy area to prevent them from relieving themselves before given the verbal cue or having an accident in the house.
- Remember that your busy area should be a dry, hard surface like asphalt.
- When your dog is in training and with their partner they will be expected to relieve only on hard surfaces. The reason for this is the ease of cleanup and to prevent dogs from pulling their partners over to or relieving on grass.
- Once your puppy is in their busy area, give the verbal cue Busy and allow them to sniff while walking around you.
- As the handler you should stay stationary and allow your puppy to circle around you. There is no need to move to a “new” spot or allow your puppy to drag you to sniff.
- When your puppy starts to relieve themselves say Busy followed by praise. Wait until they are done urinating or defecating to praise them, but quietly tell them Good Busy. It may take several weeks for your puppy to correlate relieving with the Busy verbal cue.
- Once your puppy seems to understand the busy verbal cue start saying Busy right before they start to relieve. As before, praise your pup once they have urinated or defecated.
- Once you have done this for several days and the connection seems to be understood, start saying the verbal cue as your pup indicates they are about to busy but hasn’t started yet.
- Then, start saying the verbal cue when you get to the area where they normally relieve themselves.
- Use the Relieving Log to track the pattern your pup so you can set them up for success!
- Follow a consistent routine and be patient. Always relieve your pup on leash on a hard surface and praise them when they are done!
Duration with Distance
After the pup is on a set routine and not having accidents start focusing on duration. Duration means how long the dog can be comfortable without a relieving break in time and distance.
The dog can be relieved before and after an outing that requires a lot of walking or movement, but we don't want any accidents or indication.
By the time the dog comes IFT, they should comfortably walk two miles without needing to relieve.
Follow these guidelines to build duration into the dog's relieving schedule:
- Take the dog on a walk in your neighborhood. You might only go a couple blocks and then turn around to keep the pup success without an accident.
- If needed, the dog can relieve when you get back home. We're trying to create duration with the distance they can be walking without a break.
- The next week, add half a block's distance to the walk before turning back around to your house.
- If needed, the dog can relieve before and after the walk at home.
- Continue adding distance in small increments until you reach about two miles.
- If the dog has an accident or is indicating they need to relieve, shorten the distance of the walk for another week.
Duration with time between relieving breaks
As you start eliminating lunch, think about what break you can eliminate and the pup can still be comfortable. Be conscious of maintaining their relieving routine and schedule. Start adding duration between opportunities to relieve.
- If you're running errands give an opportunity to relieve before going into one store, but not until after you leave the second store.
- If you work in an office setting and the dog is stationary throughout the day, eliminate relieving breaks as needed.
Remember, every dog is different and you will have days that don't fit into your "normal" schedule. During warmer months, the dog might be drinking more and need to relieve more than often.
If there are changes to the environment and excitement added to the dog's routine, be accommodating to prevent accidents.
If you have any questions about relieving, please contact your advisor or area coordinator.