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House Training

Maltese House Training

Overview

Housebreaking your Maltese will be one of the biggest challenges that you and your Maltese face together, but it does not need to be a stressful one. 

House training is actually not that difficult; but, what can trip many owners up is that there are a lot of elements involved with this. If just one or two are missing, the entire process can take much longer or you may find only partial results.

Therefore, to successfully and quickly potty train your Maltese puppy, this will be a matter of fully preparing, and following all tips and guidelines to a tee. 

Here, we will go over some facts to know,, how to prep for success, and guidelines for fast, effective training.

Maltese Housebreaking Facts

1. Even if a breeder tells you that a puppy has been paper-trained, you will still want to follow through with all of the training.

In most cases, an 8-week-old pup does not have an understanding of what is expected; and if he is 'paper-trained', this is more than likely just a matter of the pup peeing and poo'ing where he happens to be or mimicking the behavior of the dam. 

2. Puppies can only physically hold their bathroom needs for so long, but this does not mean that they will. You may have heard that a 2-month-old puppy can hold his needs for 2 hours, a 3-month-old for 3, and so on.
And this is generally true; however, this does not mean that a puppy automatically will. Most pups will simply release their bladders and bowels when the need arises. It is only through consistent training and the bladder and bowel muscles growing stronger, that a dog will learn to hold on if possible.
3. It takes anywhere from 1 to 4 months to fully house train a Maltese puppy. Much of this depends on how much training is done. If an owner is rarely home, this limits a pup's learning opportunities; however, it can still be done of course, and will just take a bit longer than otherwise. And it also depends on how closely the housebreaking tips are followed. 

Preparing to Housebreak your Maltese

While you may be raring to go and eager for your Maltese puppy to be potty trained, there are some things that you will need to prepare first. If not, this will severely limit your success. These elements are the foundation of effective learning. 
#1 Create an area for your Maltese puppy inside the house. 

If a puppy is allowed free reign in the house, this is one of the fastest routes to housebreaking disaster. 

The pup will pee and poo just about everywhere and not only will this make your house a mess, each act of going in the wrong area is a step in the complete opposite direction of where you want your Maltese to be going. 

So, until your pup is 100% trained, he should be doing his business either outside or inside but contained to pee-pads.

There are several methods that you can use to set up a nice little area for your Maltese, some better than others. 
maltese-outside-on-grass
Louie, photo courtesy of Pat & Joe Albertini
  • Do not use a crate. Metal or plastic crates such as travel crates are terribly confining and can be extremely claustrophobic for a dog of any age. These do not offer enough room to move around and play which can cause a dog both physical and emotional stress. They also do nothing whatsoever to move potty training forward. 
  • Gates are an option. This would include gating off a room or a section of a room. However, there are some downsides to this. 
In many cases, the layout of homes do not allow for the right sized area to be sectioned off. And if a Maltese has a full room to roam around in, this puts you right back to the same issue as allowing a dog free reign. 
  • Indoor canine playpen. This is the #1 recommended method for housebreaking and much more. 
A good sized playpen (also referred to as an exercise pen), allows for plenty of room to rest, move, and play. It will also serve to hold your Maltese's most important belongings such as favorite toys, food, water, and his bed. 

You will find that pens are a great method to help a dog cope with separation anxiety and will be used quite often any time that you need your Maltese safe and in one area. 
female-maltese-dog
Albi, 
photo courtesy of Margaret M.
Tips for setting up the playpen:

1- While these are portable, which is a great aspect to them (you can bring this outside, from room to room, and even when visiting other houses), you will want to choose one main area for the pen.

Since dogs do not like to feel isolated, you will find that the living room or kitchen are good options. 

2 - Be aware of drafts, being too close to heating elements, and sunshine that may come in from windows (particularly during hours that you are not home). 

3 - Within the playpen, have a quality bed, your Maltese's favorite toys, and food and water. Any other areas should be lined with pee-pads. 

Since a puppy will generally avoid urinating or having bowel movements on his own belongings, there is a good chance that messes will be contained to the pads, which are easy to fold up and dispose of. 
Types of playpens: There are several different types. The two most common are heavy molded plastic and nylon/mesh. There are also those with doors and without.

We recommend a molded plastic pen with a door. These are quite sturdy, yet easy for owners to move if needed. 

The door is an important aspect; this is because you want your Maltese to love his area. If you have one with a door, you can leave it open when you are home and able to supervise your pup. This allows a Maltese to enter and exit as he wishes to seek out toys and take naps. This will allow him to become quite accustomed to his area and consider it a nice place to be.

Below are our top recommendations. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. And for mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4 items. 
#2 Choose a designated bathroom area for your Maltese. 

While small toy breeds like the Maltese can be trained to go potty indoors, and your pup may well indeed need to use pee-pads while you are away, outdoor training is often the most successful. This said, if you want to choose the indoor method, you may keep the door to the pen open and use the pads there as 'the spot' or choose another area.

When choosing an outdoor area, give this some thought. It should be easy to walk to no matter the weather. You will also want it to be at least 10 feet away from any family areas such as a barbecue or outside play area for children. 

Once you decide on your Maltese's bathroom area, do not change this unless absolutely necessary. The essence of housebreaking is that the dog will pee and poo in a specific area, not just go when on leash. 

And speaking of this, do not open the door and allow your Maltese to run outside by himself. If so, you will skip over the very important part of praise and reward, which is crucial for effective training. 

In addition, it can be dangerous for small toy breeds to be unsupervised due to other animals, ingestion of plants and weeds, and other outdoor hazards. 
#3 Have specific training treats at the ready. 

While dogs appreciate praise, giving words of affirmation are a part of housebreaking, and many pups will accept any tidbit as a reward, offering specific training treats is often the route to faster success. 

There are a couple of reasons for this:

1-  Dogs have no notion of 'good and bad' areas to pee and poo. Later, the actions of going potty in a certain area will done out of habit. But for now, your puppy needs a very good reason for doing something that really does not make sense to him. And reward is a strong motivating factor when a dog is learning this. 

2- If a certain type of treat is reserved just for good behavior such as housebreaking, it will have more meaning. If a dog receives a piece of food that he normally gets anyway, it does not have as much significance.

So, it is suggested to choose one certain dog treat that will only be given for training, including any additional training that you may do for heeling and/or commands.
You may wish to opt for one certain flavor of a favorite brand. For example, Crispy Bacon and Apple Fruitables Treats, with the other flavors given for regular snacks. 
maltese-dog-outside
Bella, photo courtesy of Silvia McNeil​ 

How Often to Bring a Maltese Out

As we move forward toward the exact steps to use, you will want to keep in mind a loose schedule for when to take your Maltese puppy out for his bathroom needs.

This will be flexible to some extent, since you will take your Maltese to the bathroom spot any time there is a motion to pee or poo.

However, a good rule of thumb for times to also head out there are:
  • Any time that the puppy wakes up (nap or nighttime sleep)
  • About 20 minutes before bedtime
  • About 20 minutes after any meal
  • Every so-many hours, based on age. Every 3 hours for a 3 month old, 4 hours for a 4 month old, etc.
  • Before and after each daily walk. Allowing a dog to pee and poo along the walking route is a missed opportunity. 

Exact Steps to Potty Train a Maltese

Now that you 1) have a good method to keep your Maltese in one area when inside (with a playpen being a great choice) 2) have decided exactly where your Maltese's designated bathroom area will be and 3) have your chosen reward ready, it is time to start house training him. 

#1 The exit from the house must be done quickly, so have your shoes, coat, etc. near the door, and have the training treats in a small zipped plastic bag. 

#2 Follow supervision rules. Pups can pee in the blink of an eye, so close supervision is needed.
  • Any time that you cannot closely monitor your Maltese, have him in his playpen.
  • Any time that you are home and are not busy with other things that would distract you, keep your Maltese right by your side. If you have him on a harness (and not a collar) you can safely keep him tethered to you with his leash. 
#3 Any time that the pup makes a motion to pee, clap your hands loudly to distract him, and immediately bring him to the designated bathroom area.

#4 You will also bring him there according to the schedule as shown earlier. 

#5 As you head to the area, say a chosen phrase that your Maltese will eventually associate with the act of going to the bathroom. "Piddle-paddle', or 'Pee-poo' are some favorite choices; however, choose something that you feel comfortable saying. 

#6 Allow your Maltese to time to choose a spot. Stand in the middle of the designated bathroom area, and allow your Maltese to move around within that area to choose the perfect spot. Keep your retractable leash on a 6 to 8 foot setting. 

It can take puppies anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes to sniff around, pick a spot, and for bladder or bowel muscles to relax, so plan to stay outside long enough.

#7 As soon as your Maltese is done peeing or poo'ing, say 'good' coupled with your chosen phrase to reaffirm the action. So, for example, 'Good pee-poo' in a happy and enthusiastic voice. At the same time, offer the reward treat, with an open palm. 

Dealing with Accidents

Scolding: While you can shout 'No!' as a puppy is peeing and it will startle him enough to stop (at which point you should pick him up and carry him to his designated spot), shouting 'No!' once the deed is done does very little to help the puppy learn. 

It is best to react in a calm manner, clean the mess properly (next point), and do a better job next time in regard to supervising or keeping your Maltese in one area (see #1 Create an Area above).
Cleaning: It is very important that any messes are cleaned properly. If you only use water and soap this usually does not remove trace amounts of urine.. 

And dogs, with their superior sense of smell, will pick up on this. It is metaphorically akin to leaving a sign with a big arrow that says 'Bathroom Area Here'.  

If you use an overly scented product like Pine-Sol, if a dog is peeing due to marking, this can trigger the dog to re-mark to compete against that strong smell.

For these reasons, it is recommended to clean all accidents with an enzyme cleaner like Sunny & Honey's Pet Stain & Odor Miracle Enzyme Cleaner. This works on all types of surfaces (hardwood, carpeting, etc.). 

A Final Word

Potty training is not easy for most puppies, but they are out to please. The way in which you train your puppy and your level of enthusiasm plays a huge role. 

Follow the rules as closely as possible, be sure everyone in the house is on the same page, and prepare for a few hiccups. Before you know it, you and your Maltese will have conquered housebreaking. 
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