Q&A: What Should I Do With My Puppy While I’m At Work?

I have a 5 months old male chihuahua and I currently have the pee pads but he never goes there, he does his business everywhere. I want to try to potty train him outside. When I’m not home (from 7h30 to 5h30), should I leave him in his cage? Do I leave him food and water? Please help!

Thanks, Karine

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What do I do with my puppy when I go to work?Hi Karine,

Congratulations on your puppy! I’m sorry that the pee pads aren’t working for him. They’re a good house training aid for many puppies but dogs are individuals and some methods won’t work for every dog.

Training your puppy to potty outside should not be a problem, especially if you are consistent and put him on a good schedule. Since your puppy is a small Toy breed, he will probably still need some snacks or a small meal during the day at 5 months and some water. He won’t be able to make it through the day while you are at work without a potty break at this age. He’s a small puppy with a small bladder right now.

Instead of a kennel or crate/cage while you are at work, what you might try is an exercise pen in your house or apartment. They don’t have to be large for a small breed. An exercise pen or x-pen has panels and is about 18 or 24 inches tall. It looks like a playpen for dogs but it sits directly on the floor. Dog show exhibitors and people who travel with their dogs often use them to give their dogs some safe exercise. Your puppy would have more room than in a crate/cage. You could also put the pee pads or some newspapers down on the floor inside the pen to encourage him to potty on them. You can also move the pads or newspaper outside later to show your puppy where you would like him to potty.

Using an exercise pen would allow you to leave your puppy some snacks and some water, along with a place to potty, and a place to sleep while you are at work. I think it might be a better solution than using a crate/cage since your puppy won’t be able to hold his pee or bowel movements while you are away all day at this age.

Remember that it will also help your puppy with his house training if you feed him at approximately the same times each day and take him outside to relieve himself often. Give him lots of praise when he gives you any kind of sign he needs to go out or potties outside. And, finally, put away the food after dinner and take your dog for a walk before bedtime to help him make it through the night.

I think the exercise pen helps in cases where someone has to be away for hours and their puppy or dog isn’t completely house trained.

That’s my suggestion. Keep in touch. I hope you’ll let us know how it works.

Carlotta Cooper

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Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper has been breeding and showing dogs for more than 25 years and is the proud owner of five beautiful dogs. She's a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy, as well as other books about pets and other animals.

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  • I leave my 6 year old shih Tzu in his exercise pen with water, snacks, toys and a bed of blankets while I’m at work. Before I leave, he always gets breakfast and a 30 minute walk, so I don’t have a need for pee pads in the pen. He also uses this space as his ‘safe’ space for thunderstorms. It took me longer to get used to leaving him in it than it took him.

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