• Ellen Nieslanik

The Transition from living with litter-mates to independent living in forever homes.

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

The transition from sleeping/living with litter-mates to independent living can be a trying time for both puppy and new owner,and is a two pronged issue of security and potty training. I’m passing along what’s worked for me, and what I’ve done with puppies in hopes it may help with your own puppy’s transition. Your plan may not look anything like this, and that’s okay too, but here’s what works for me and my thought process…....


The first few nights with your new puppy don’t have to be sleepless. There may be some whining from separation anxiety, and there is the issue of letting them out to potty (see next paragraph) I’ll send the puppies with bedding and toys that smell like their litter/mom, and I’ll also send some pheromones which you should spray on their bedding. Belle naturally releases pheromones which are calming to the puppies, but without her, I can send a bottle of the same that does help. Its good to have around anyway for stressful situations. Just spray a little in the area and it will soothe the puppy. Of course a smooch and short snuggle with you helps too, but I believe puppies need to learn to comfort themselves, and to be peaceful and quiet when they are left. They love people and initially whined every time they saw someone from their playpen. They whining doesn’t last long and when I put them back in their pen they know that’s just how it is.

At night, the question of how long to leave a puppy crated or locked in is a changing equation as they mature. Puppies don’t want to soil their bedding, and will always leave their bed to potty if given the option. To reinforce this and instill good hygiene I’ve locked Polly and puppies in a small pen at night which is mostly bed with a small papered area (pea pads). The bed is always clean in the morning and the paper are used. There are special “puppy apartment” crates that have 2 compartments so the puppy can leave the bed to potty, but a small area/pen and an open crate or bed works too. Here’s a short video on the puppy apartment concept, I think it’s a valid theory and here an example there are several options, this is just one good explanation. https://youtu.be/jGWaL2YpLcs

A common mistake is to leave the puppy locked in too long, beyond their physiological capacity to hold it forcing them to soil their bedding. This happens a lot with pet store or puppy mill puppies and why they so difficult to potty train because they become accustomed to sleeping in a soiled bed. The other thing I try to remember is that disciplining a puppy for soiling their bed is like disciplining a baby for going in their diaper. The old school of rubbing their nose in it is confusing for the puppy. Patience and consistency are the better option, and if you start by not giving your any option, but being right (with a completely papered area outside the bed it’s a lot less painful transition for everyone).


During the day I have a bigger playpen with a bed/open crate and a papered area. Initially the whole playpen was papered so their only option was to be right and potty on the paper. Over time I’ve decreased the papered area leaving open floor space and they just use the paper for potty. Eventually there will just be a small area for pea pad, but this evolution instills good hygiene and seems a natural progression in potty training for them.

Along these lines it’s important to understand puppies can only “hold it” for a limited amount of time, which gets longer with maturity. The general rule is the number of months in age plus 45-60 min. Example an 8 week old puppy can hold it for 2 to 3hr (2 mo + 45-60 min); a 12 week old puppy can hold it or be crated for 3-4 hr (3 mo +45-60 min); and so on.

*After waking or eating I always wait until the puppies potty before letting them out and then frequently return them to the pen so they can potty. Now I leave the playpen open when I have them out and they are starting to return to the papered area of the playpen to do their business on their own.

My last thought on this is I do think it’s a good idea to get your puppy used to being locked in a crate for short periods of time, as they’ll need those skills. I start this training by moving them around the house during nap time in a closed crate. The big thing is that the crate is home and a safe spot for your puppy. If you plan on traveling or taking your puppy with you during your day, get them used to that crate. I start with a open crate, hide some tiny treats or put a toy in the crate. This litter loves the crate and retreats there in the day by choice.

#transitiontoforeverhomes #pottytraining #cratetraining #independentliving

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