Dog potty training. Toilet training. House training. Whatever you call it, it’s one of the most basic, if not the most basic, things your new family member needs to learn. And you should begin with your puppy as soon as you arrive home. Puppies need to go to the bathroom frequently and your success and theirs depends on anticipating their needs — which at first can seem like full time job. But don’t worry, with proper training, puppies learn fast!
We highly recommend crate training your new puppy. Be prepared for a drama show though! Sometime between 16,000 and 32,000 years ago when dogs learned how to live with humans, they also learned how to work our emotions. At first, your dog will whine, beg and cry but be strong! Allowing your puppy to learn how to be alone for a little while and self soothe is a crucial skill, much like for human babies.
Crate training helps with a number of important issues — and gets them ready for one of the most important, life-changing and underused things you can train a pet, Service or Working Dog: tether training.
In the wild, a dog’s den is their home — a cozy place to sleep, hide from danger and raise a family. Your crate is your dog’s den, a place where they can find comfort and solitude instead of tearing up your house while you’re out running errands.
However, today we’re talking about using a crate for house-training since dogs, by their nature, don’t like to “go” where they sleep. Choose a crate that is appropriate for how large your dog will be in about a year, but when they are a puppy you may need to divide their space with a cardboard box so that they only have enough room to turn around and sleep.
- Come up with a command to teach your dog to enter the crate such as “kennel” or “kennel up.”
- Do not use the crate as a punishment. It’s a happy little bedroom for your dog. If you use the crate to punish your dog, they will eventually come to fear it and not want to enter.
- Do not leave your dog in the crate too long and be prepared to arrange your life around this. Puppies need to be taken out to eliminate about every two hours and leaving your dog cooped up too long may cause anxiousness or depression.
- Puppies under six months of age should not stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can’t control their bladders and bowels for that long. The same goes for adult dogs being house-trained. Physically, an older dog can hold it, but they don’t know they’re supposed to.
- Crate your dog only until you can trust them not to destroy the house. After that, it should be a place they go voluntarily.
- When you come home, your puppy will whine excitedly. Resist the urge to rush to them. Calmly enter the room, do not greet your dog and more importantly, ignore their drama show. After about a minute when they have calmed down for a second, let them out. This allows your puppy to learn that whining isn’t the way to get what they want and that they can trust you to let them out.
Let your puppy out every two hours and watch their cues
You can usually tell when a puppy ‘wants to go’ because he or she will look around anxiously, walk in circles and start sniffing in suitable corners looking for a place. Wait no longer, that’s your cue to whisk your pet outside.
Take your dog to the same place to potty every time — and throw a party!
An important key to teaching your dog to go where you want them to is creating a positive connection, and you can use their powerful sense of smell. Dogs are able to connect smells together — so throw a party when your dog goes where you want them to, such as in the grass, on gravel or on indoor dog training pads (dog training pads are an excellent alternative to going outside if you have a small dog and live in an apartment or have physical limitations due to a disability).
In other words, give your dog praise so they learn to associate the smell of whatever surface with their own excrement. As soon as they’re done, point to their poops, act excited, let them know how amazing they are for going where you want!
Teach your dog to go on command
It may seem advanced, but training your dog to go on command isn’t as complicated as some might think. Using a command for potty is extremely important for Service Dogs and other types of Working Dogs, but nobody likes to stand in the rain while their dog makes up their mind. With your dog on a 6 foot leash, walk them to where you want them to do their business. As soon as they begin to go, praise them with the command you wish to use such as, “do your duty.” Praise them repeatedly as they are going by only repeating the command. Once they are done, point out their business to them and use your best acting skills to throw a potty party!
Punishment does not work
Just as you should never hit or yell a child for having a potty accident, the same goes for your furry friend. In fact, if you use force or anger, they may begin to associate going to the bathroom as a bad feeling and you may even increase the likelihood that they will try to hide and go in a quiet corner.
Also, many people believe that rubbing their dog’s nose into his own stools will magically make them understand that it’s bad. The fact is that dogs live in the moment and are unable to connect the physical sensation of needing to poop or pee with your present anger.
Dogs live in the moment and are unable to connect the physical sensation of needing to poop or pee with your present anger.
It’s not easy having a new puppy in the house. Just like with a baby, you’re going to get less sleep, you’re going to be on high-alert for odd noises (such as the sound of chewing in the living room) but it’s worth it. Be positive, realize that if an animal does something you don’t want them to do, it’s most likely not their fault — it’s yours. Take your time, use praise and with a little effort you can certainly expect your dog potty training to have great results over time.