Did you know that 96 percent of the time, when a dog is re-homed or surrendered to a shelter, it is due to potty training issues? I hear about potty training problems all the time, yet it really is one of the simplest things to teach a dog.

The following is an outline/breakdown of how to successfully potty train your puppy or dog!

1. The most important thing to understand is that dogs live in the moment, so unless you are there to witness it, you cannot stop unwanted behavior or reward good behavior. If your dog has an accident and you weren’t there to catch it, then there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. If you punish after the fact, the dog will think it is “in trouble” for what it is doing at that moment. The dog REALLY doesn’t even know it is in trouble, for dogs don’t have morals. They just know when you’re angry and when you’re not—they don’t realize they are the reason for your anger.

If you attempt to rub your dog’s nose in the feces or urine, you are just teaching him to fear you and his own feces or urine.

If you do catch the dog in the act, get his attention by saying, “Eh, eh” and redirecting to the appropriate location (outside or pad). Immediately reward with a small, soft treat as soon as he relieves himself in the appropriate location.

Set your dog up for success. If you are unable to watch him 100 percent, you must confine him. This way, he does not have the ability to go throughout your home and make a mistake. Dogs are naturally denning animals, so using a kennel to simulate a den is a great way to potty train. Never ever use the kennel as punishment or as a time out. The kennel/den is your dog’s home within your home, so it must have lots of positive associations. Feeding your dog in his kennel is a great idea, as well.

2. Keep your dog on a strict feeding schedule. Feed him one-two times per day (feeding amounts depend on the dog food—see feeding chart located on bag) and only allow 15 minutes per feeding time for your dog to eat. Whether the dog has eaten or not, after 15 minutes, pick up the food. He may not eat very much for the first few days, but he will not starve himself. After a few days, he will eat immediately when you put the food down. After he eats, go outside with him and bring small, soft treats. AS SOON as he eliminates, reward with lots of praise and treats. If you wait until you go back inside, and then reward, you will teach the dog that he gets a reward for going back inside—not for eliminating outside.

3. Have realistic expectations. It usually takes six months to a year to completely potty train a puppy. If you have an older dog that has never been potty trained, it can take longer than that. For example, if Fido is five years old and he has never been trained, he has had five years of conditioning that his behaviors work for him. So, it will take some time to “unlearn” those old behaviors and learn new behaviors.

Be patient. Take your time and work at his pace. Remember that you did not learn how to crawl, walk and talk in a day, week or even a month. Learning/conditioning/training takes time and patience. Your dog looks to you as a human parent, so treat him or her with respect and compassion.

Happy Training!

Britney Blanchette Pitre, CPDT-KA
Bons Chiens Dog Training, LLC.

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