Potty training, in many cases, is a simple process that when broken down into steps and repeated for 2 weeks, can easily be achieved. While not every dog is the same, for most if you avoid the common pitfalls listed below, you will be well on your way to accident free dog. Should you have any difficulty or a more challenging case, it’s always a good idea to consult with a trainer!
- Not Using a Crate: Many pet owners just don’t’ understand the necessity for using a crate in potty training. The way I typically explain it to our clients is that holding going potty is not a natural experience for an animal. In the wild, a dog or wolf would go potty whenever they felt the urge. It’s up to us to teach them that holding it is necessary. To do that, we have to motivate them to hold going potty. The easiest way to do so is to use a dog’s natural instinct to keep their den space clean. When confined to a smaller space, most dogs will attempt to keep that area clean by not soiling there. You can turn a crate or kennel into that den space and utilize that instinct to your benefit! Don’t forget that the crate is not a punishment. It’s simply a tool and it’s best to introduce it in a positive fashion by giving your dog or puppy treats or meals in their to keep in mind if the crate is too large, puppies in particular often feel that they have enough space to potty and still have room for their den so if you run into problems ensure that the crate is large enough for them to turn around and comfortably lay down but not much bigger.
- Free Feeding: If you free feed your dog, meaning they have access to food whenever they choose, it will be very difficult to get your dog on a schedule for going potty as well as to predict when they will need to go. Start setting a consistent time for feeding. I prefer to feed my dogs their meals in their kennels while they are in potty training mode. This ensures that they like their kennels, don’t exercise on a full stomach which isn’t good for them, and that they are confined until I’m ready to take them out to go potty. Make sure to take your dog directly from their crate to their potty area and repeat your “go potty” phrase. If your dog doesn’t go, that’s ok…simply return them to their crate and try again in 15 to 20 minutes.
- Over Correcting: The truth about potty training is that if your dog has an accident in the house, it’s usually the humans fault! During potty training your dog should only have directly supervised time in the house. When you aren’t able to watch them, they should be in their crate or outside so they aren’t capable of having an accident. If you do happen to catch your dog in the act, simply interrupt them with a NO and then take them outside and encourage them to go there. If you don’t catch them in the act, forget about punishing them. They won’t know they are being punished even if they do give you the guilty look!
- Realistic Expectations: Remember that it’s important to go at your dog’s pace. Puppies for example, are often not physically capable of holding going potty all night long. So yes you may have to do a middle of the night potty break for a few weeks. On average I would say around 12 weeks of age is when a puppy can hold going potty all night long. But each dog is different so it’s critical that you have realistic expectations and are setting your dog up for success.
- Potty Pads: If your goal is to have your dog potty outside, we find that it adds a lot more clarity to potty training to never use newspaper or potty pads inside. Why bother training your dog that it’s ok to go inside sometimes? If you start right from the get go with taking them outside, they will learn that routine faster. You may use potty pads for apartment dogs or small dogs that will be allowed to use them into adulthood.
- Inconsistency: Just like in other areas of dog training, consistency is key. Use the same phrase, the same schedule, and take the dog to the same general area to go potty. The repetition helps your dog learn as well as helps you pick up on your dog’s patterns for when they need to go!
- Earning Free Time: Never just bring your puppy or a new dog home and assume they know the rules! We are big fans of having dogs earn free time in the house through good behavior. You can ensure not only that your dog potties outside, but also that they don’t go through the trash can, pull food off counters, and engage in destructive chewing all by actively supervising your dog when you first bring them home. Dogs who are allowed to get away with naughty behavior or much more likely to continue to repeat it as they reward themselves (for example if your dog eats something tasty out of the garbage can, they will train themselves that it’s a rewarding experience to do so and will keep doing it!). With you actively supervising your dog will instead learn good habits and as they demonstrate good house manners, you can increase their freedom in the house.
- Not Rewarding: Effective potty training should include rewards! Find out what motivates your dog, whether its play, treats, or toys. Don’t give those away for free when you’re in potty training mode. Take your dog out to potty and when they are successful, reward the heck out of them for it! Dogs who learn they can trade going potty in a certain area for a tasty treat often learn the fastest!
- Removing Smells: Old potty accident smells can confuse your dog. Use an enzyme cleaner or vinegar to make sure that all smells (including scents from other animals potty accidents) aren’t sending mixed signals to your pup!
- Watch and Adjust: In all of dog training it’s critical to remember that each dog is an individual and sometimes you have to make minor adjustments to be successful. Watch your dog and adjust their schedule, rewards, and training as needed.
Potty training can be achieved at any age with just about any dog that is healthy with a willing owner! Avoid these common mistakes and you will be well on your way to a house broken dog.
For information on potty training board and train packages or general training assistance, visit the Puppy Love Dogs Sacramento website at: www.puppylovedogs.com