How do I Potty Train My Puppy?

How do I Potty Train My Puppy?

Housetraining is simple, but it is a big commitment for several months. The golden rule is to prevent the pup to make mistakes in the house by following these 3 concepts:

1. Timing. Effective housetraining depends entirely on your ability to predict when your puppy needs to eliminate so you can direct him/her to an appropriate toilet area and reward for doing so.

2. Supervision. The puppy is either going to be in his crate, in a confined area, under constant supervision or out side. In a matter of weeks they will learn how to hold it and they will be on schedule.”

3. Rewards. Every time your pup eliminates in an appropriate area reward by praising or with a treat.

Divided into two stages:

1. At the first stage puppies don’t know how to hold it yet so you need to take them out very frequently until they develop the muscle that holds the bladder.

2. Progressively teach the puppy to hold it for longer periods of time and create a schedule

Both stages involve simple scheduling. Lets start with the first stage.

First Stage

-Take your pup outside frequently, specially after eating, naps, long confinements, trips, or play sessions. Be observant so you can predict when they are going to go.

-Reward every time he/she goes on the right spot.

-Don’t allow the pup to make mistakes. For this is key use a confined space in the house with baby gates or a crate with stuffed and chew toys. They normally don’t go in the same place where they spend a lot of time.

-Do not let them wonder freely around the house without constant supervision, this is when they make mistakes.

– The puppy is either going to be in his crate, in a confined area or under constant supervision.

– Follow a consistent schedule. (Puppies usually get fed three times a day).

-If you take the pup outside and he/she doesn’t go, take him/her back to the crate or sit him/her on your lap for a while. Wait and try later. Repeat this until they go outside.

-If you catch your puppy making a mistake for the first week or so don’t say or do anything. Make sure he /she is comfortable peeing or pooping in front of you.

Once he /she is comfortable you can clap your hands and pick him/her up. Usually they stop. Take him/her out to finish the job. Then reward. If you stay passive the pup might learn that it’s OK to make a mistake. So it’s important that they know that you disagree and that you are not happy about it. Do not yell at them or get angry, is not a crime is just an accident.

-Punishment or yelling is not a good idea, by doing this there are good chances that your pup will understand that he/she is not suppose to do it in front of you, they will hide and probably will refuse to pee in front of you. So stay calm and be patient. Disagreeing with something is different than getting angry or yelling. The difference is teaching versus punishing.

-Always clean up accidents with an odor neutralizer if they do occur. This extremely important

-You can use the cue ¨go pee ¨ or ¨go potty¨ every time he/she does it where they are supposed to and reward by praising or with a treat. This will help you with the schedule.

-If you say the cue once or twice and the pup doesn’t go, means that he/she doesn’t know the cue or doesn’t need to go. DON´T repeat it. Wait and say the cue while they are doing it until they learn the cue.

Second Stage.

-To teach them to hold it is essential to use a crate or a confined area where they are not going to go.

– Puppies, especially when they are 3 to 8 months old, usually do not go to the bathroom where they sleep, where they eat or spend a lot of time.

– Using the crate as the place where they sleep is a good way to associate the crate with relaxation, comfort and security. You can use it during the day as a tool to teach the pup to hold it.

-Do not use the crate for more than 3 hours at a time, during the day.

– If you don’t have a crate, a kitchen with baby gates is a good place for them to spend time without supervision. Make sure the kitchen is puppy proofed!

-Set up a schedule where they can go three or four times a day always at the same time windows.

© Gabriel Riesco, NYC 2017

Leash Aggression Case Study: A new found freedom, Cathy and Opus

Leash Aggression Case Study: A new found freedom, Cathy and Opus

A new found freedom: Cathy and Opus


My dog is aggressive to other dogs especially on leash. According to other trainers he is a lost case. He needs to walk on his own and be isolated from other dogs for life. Can he be socialized?

Cathy and Opus are one of my favorite success stories. Opus, a Dalmatian mix had very bad leash aggression and would go into lunging and barking fits when any dog came close to him. It was pretty bad and very embarrassing for Cathy. For two years Opus was completely isolated from other dogs. After trying multiple trainers who told Cathy that Opus was hopeless, she was desperate to find someone who could help her. Cathy was recommended by a friend to try working with me.

When I first met Opus I knew immediately that he could be socialized in a matter of a day. I knew this because he was simply over excited and anxious and I could see that he was not properly being walked.

Opus had two main problems. He had leash aggression, he would lunge and bark while on leash at other dogs. (By the way, leash aggression is always caused by humans, whether its conscious or unconscious.) Next, he was never able to be socialized with other dogs because he wasn’t trusted by the humans. This is a very common problem and sad because they are isolated from other dogs and they become liability. (BTW, Liability is a human problem not a dog problem!)

There are three things that I always use when working with dogs. The first is the relationship. I take control of the situation by acting calmly and confidently to build up their trust and respect with me. Second, I work on leash communication, I make sure I’m relaxed and the leash is relaxed. The third is acknowledging the dogs state of mind and making sure they are always calm and collected. Once I accomplish these three things and  the dog and I are confident I introduce the dog to other dogs and walked them together. This is exactly what I did with Opus.

Within minutes Opus trusted me, almost as if I acted as a bridge to allow him to trust other dogs.The first time is always the trickiest and the most difficult. You need to have good skills, energy, control and very good timing. After the first time, it´s much easier for the dog to do it the second time. At this point I brought Cathy into the equation and guided her through the process.

Within one session Cathy was walking Opus with other dogs. Almost immediately she was able to take Opus to the off leash dog run in Prospect Park and with some practice and consistency the leash aggression started to fade out slowly but surely.

The one thing to learn in dog training is that if you want to change your dog´s behavior, you need to start to change your own behavior first.

Thank you for joining me for Cathy and Opus´story.

8 Things You MUST Know For Puppy Training

8 Things You MUST Know For Puppy Training

1.  Difference between training and behavior. Knowing when and how to use this two different approaches is key in order to create and to maintain a harmonious relationship with your puppy. Applying this two concepts correctly will allow you to teach your puppy what he/she can do and what he/she can´t do.

2. Socialization 

a. Socializing with people Your puppy needs to meet as many people as possible and get used and confortable with all kinds of humans: men, women and children in different environments:.

b. Socializing with other dogs. Your puppy is been removed from his littermates. Playing with other puppies is simply natural to them. They exercise, learn social skills, boundaries, bite inhibition and a whole lot of other things that we don’t even know. Make sure you provide that puppy playtime.

Your puppy is been removed from his/her mother. Getting structure and guidance from the  mother and from adult dogs is very important to learn social cues and boundaries in a very natural way. This also makes you his/her new parent. Good parenting simply does not exist without boundaries, structure and play time.

3. Teach your puppy to be left alone. Dogs are social animals by nature, so it’s not natural for them to be alone. We need to teach them to be left alone if not they can develop separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can turn to be a very serious problem. It can result in non stop barking /whining, destructive behavior and even peeing.

4. House training:  House training relies on mastering this 3 simple concepts:

  1. Timing. Your ability to predict when your puppy needs to eliminate
  2. Supervision. The puppy is either going to be in his crate, in a confined area, under constant supervision or out side.

       3. Rewards. Every time your pup eliminates in an appropriate area reward

5. Long term confinement area (Penn) and short term confinement area (Crate).

Using a confinement area wether is a penn or crate will teach your puppy to want to chew on appropriate toys, enjoy it’s own company and will prepare him/her for those times when he/she will be left alone.

6. Biting or mouthing.  Biting and mouthing is completely normal behavior in a puppy. Knowing when to ignore, when to address and how to teach them bite inhibition is vital in order to prevent future problems.

7. Feeding.  Food aggression is something that you can easily prevent if you do the right things from the beginning. Teaching your puppy how to eat in a calm sate of mind and getting use to your presence and  hands will prevent future problems

8. Leash. How you present a leash to a puppy for the first few times is going to make a lasting impact on your puppy. Creating a good and calm association with the leash will prevent biting, pulling and fighting against it. 

© Gabriel Riesco, NYC 2017. Revised in 2022

Do you talk to your Dog?

Do you talk to your Dog?

 I do. Actually I do it quite a lot. I love doing it because I know that Ralphie is never gonna argue with me. He is the best listener! His answer is always a cute face with that look saying: ¨I know, I get it.¨ It´s amazing how much this little he can take on. It just doesn’t affect him. 

The best part is that he doesn’t judge me. He doesn’t give me any bad advice or tells me what to do or how to do it. He just sits there and do nothing. 

 Sometimes I even get emotional and change my tone of voice. When this happens he pulls his ears up, he looks at me and slightly turn his head to the side. He is asking me: ¨Really, please tell me more about that¨. So I keep going. Eventually something really amazing happens. All of a sudden I just realize how simple the answer is. Then I looked at Ralphie and he always looks back at me saying: ¨you’re welcome¨

After this sessions, sometimes he just stays where he is, laying down and with his head resting on a pillow thinking:  ¨you humans need so much help¨.  Sometimes if the session was a little more intense he stands up, looks back checking on me and walks towards the terrace to sun bathe for a little while. He is thinking: “I’m done working for the day, you’re a piece of work, take it easy buddy¨.   

Ralhie is the best the psychologist in the world and it´s free!

Now, does he understand me? Hmm well, when I ask a question he never replies back, not even with a bark. Although that doesn’t prove he doesn’t understand. Pshychilogist doesn’t answer either! And he does have that look that says: ¨Really, please tell me more that.¨ which is the favorite phrase of psychologists. On top of that he doesn’t ask me weird and uncomfortable questions about my mom, which I highly appreciate. Sometimes I wonder how much this little guy takes in. So does he really understand me?

I’m sorry to bust your bubble if I tell you that  I’m convinced he doesn’t understand my words or the reasoning behind them. That’s just my opinion. Call me crazy!  But I always learn a great lesson. Listening is an art. 

PS: Here is a little whispering secret: I use it with my wife and it works!!

If you think your dog understands you please let me know and email me! I LOVE those stories!!!

© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT,  May 16, 2018


Case Study: Can you have a high energy dog in the city? Sabrina and Clem

Case Study: Can you have a high energy dog in the city? Sabrina and Clem

Sabrina and her pup Clem are an endearing example of an amazing and fun relationship full of challenges and full of victories.

When I first met Clem he was a little Catahoula Hound puppy. He had a lot of different challenges including pulling on the leash, jumping on people, not listening to any command, potty training, house training, destructive behavior and separation anxiety. And those were not all of them.

Sabrina back then was living in an apartment in Brooklyn and had another roommate with another dog. So things were getting pretty rough.

As soon as I entered the door I knew Clem was a sweet little puppy, but full of energy and overexcitement. This is a classic example were trainers and dog professionals will recommend to either send him to a farm or use him as a working dog, unless you can provide at least 3 to 4  hours a day of exercise. The reality is that very few people in the city can dedicate this amount of time to their dog on a daily basis. I knew that Sabrina had long day work hours, but getting rid of him was not even a question.

This brings up this question: Can you have this type of dog in the city? The answer is Yes. You can if you know how to fulfill their needs. Do you need to run and exercise him 3 hours a day? it would be great if you could, but there are other ways. How?

The answer is by teaching him self control and making sure he is in the right state of mind. A dog that is nervous, overexcited, anxious and lacks self control will NEVER get tired no matter how much you exercise him/her. And I knew this was true about Clem. I´ve heard too many times this story, “I started running my dog for an hour, then I went for two hours and then I even tried three for a while and he wouldn´t get tired. I don’t know what else to do”

The reason why this happens is because is not about what they do is about how they do it. Meaning what sate of mind are they in while they are doing whatever they are doing. Let me give you an example so you can understand it better. If you go to work every day in a stressed state of mind. No matter how many hours you work, you will not come back home tired. You will come home restless. Probably in a bad mood and not being able to sleep.

Well this happens to dogs too. That´s why when they are out of control or they have lack of self control they can bark for seven hours, seven days a week. That´s right! And they will not get tired. They will get restless and they will continue doing it. When you walk or even run your high energy dog with tension on the leash, your dog will not get tired. He/she will get probably crazier. They actually fitter at getting crazy.

Anyways going back to Clem. Once I explained this to Sabrina and we talked  about the importance of knowing how to do a nice structured walk and on having a good relationship based on trust and respect, things starting to change dramatically.

I recently visited both of them and I was amazed about the big transformation. Clem was a pro. Not only there was no pulling on the leash, jumping or all that crazy behavior, but Clem was a happy City dog that loved, trusted and respected Sabrina.

Way to go Sabrina!! You did not had it easy and you´ve came a long way through.

By Gabriel Riesco