Friday, May 11, 2012

Potty training your puppy

Potty training is nothing more than teaching a behavior (just like sit or stay). As with all behaviors, getting what you want requires three things:

PATIENCE. PERSISTENCE. CONSISTENCY

Your puppy requires guidance. He doesn’t speak our language, so he needs a way to communicate his needs to you. The keys to successful potty training are:
  • Give it a name. Call it “go potty”, “outside”, “hurry”, anything you like. But do it consistently.
  • Same place every time. Take puppy outside to go potty on a leash to the same place every time. You have a bathroom. He needs one, too.
  • Reward, reward, reward. Take treats outside with you. When puppy urinates or defecates in the proper place, treat, treat, treat and say “good dog” in a calm, happy voice. But ... please wait until the dog is finished. Praise in the midst of a pee or poo can stop the process.
  • Limited access. Until potty training is complete, limit puppy’s access to your home. If puppy spends most of his time with you in the family room, close doors to all other rooms. Use baby gates at staircases. "Eyes on puppy" at all times will ensure he doesn't wander around a corner and pee under an end table.
  • Communication. Puppy needs a way to tell you he has to go out. Using twine, tie a bell to your potty exit door at puppy nose height. As you are doing this, have puppy on leash near you. Dogs are nosy and will usually “nose” the bell out of curiosity. When this happens and the bell rings, say in a happy voice “let’s go potty”, open the door, and go outside. Have him ring the bell each and every time you approach the door to take him outside and soon he will be ringing it on his own. And yes, you MUST take him outside on leash every time he rings it - even if he's messing with you and just wants to go outside to play.
  • Ignore bad behavior. Reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior. This applies to everything, including potty training. Dogs seek attention and will get it any way that works. If you make a big deal out of puppy going potty in the house, you are in a very strange way rewarding the behavior, i.e., your puppy got your attention. Just clean up the mess with an odor neutralizer and get on with your day.
Basic training early in your dog's life builds a great foundation for the rest of your lives together!

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