The adventures of a veterinarian with lots of practical advice but no practical experience on raising a puppy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Weather Factor

I've cautioned many a client about housebreaking puppies in the winter. I've actually been encouraging some people to paper train this year! It just seems ridiculous to suggest placing a 2# puppy in 6 inches of snow and expecting anything to happen. Walking a tiny puppy outside with -10 windchill while chanting "potty, potty, potty" seems a bit far-fetched.

One of my "go-to" lectures for housebreaking involves the difference in how we think vs. how the puppy thinks. TIP: we think we are teaching a puppy NOT to go to the bathroom inside. Instead, we should be teaching them TO go to the bathroom outside. It may seem a subtle difference but when they feel the urge to potty we want to trigger that "let me get outside" behavior. The development of a substrate preference is a huge milestone and we want that substrate they prefer to be grass! The tricky part comes when the grass is buried in snow and the puppy truly hates being out in the cold.

So after a lot of thought and deliberation I have decided to bring our new puppy home during the longest stretch of bitter cold that I can remember. For an added challenge, I chose a puppy who is acclimated to Florida weather and although is only 11 weeks old, certainly has never seen snow. I'm mentally planning how the whole family will work together and supervise Darcy indoors, take her out frequently and keep her in the crate when unsupervised (sound familiar?). I'm planning on taking her to work everyday and when I get busy I know my dedicated staff will be there to keep the potty breaks on schedule. To be honest I'm hoping the combination of an intelligent breed and older puppy will start me out just an inch ahead of schedule. I sure hope so because all that planning may get lost in the shuffle of life.

We shall see how big of a factor this weather actually is. Lucky for me it hasn't been too balmy in Florida lately! Darcy has gotten a tiny taste of a Mid-Missouri winter down in the Sunshine State. I'll be sure to post a picture of her first experience with snow - it should be interesting for both of us!

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