One of the many frustrations we see among dog owners is in having success with potty training. This is a significant issue as dogs soiling inside, can become a repetitive cycle that can cause damage to flooring and furniture in addition to wreaking havoc on our frustration. Success in potty training can be easily achieved as long as you keep a few items in mind, namely routine, supervision, and management.
The Big Picture Always Matters The first and biggest preventer of success in potty training is not having accountability in other areas of your lifestyle with your dog(s). What this means is, is if your dog runs the show in other areas of your life, or otherwise not receptive to your guidance, then it will be much harder for your dog to practice following your guidance in teaching good potty habits. The big picture of the life we have with our dog involves multiple components which are all interrelated and not mutually exclusive. Attempting to focus on only one component can be an uphill battle with little return on your efforts.
If you want success in potty training, take a look at the big picture and plan to have a little more accountability and structure in the other areas of life with your dog. Your dog will be much more receptive to learning anything from you in any given area if he is already in the habit of following your guidance. One of the quickest and easiest ways create structure and a little more habit in your dog learning from you is to teach him the basic commands and practice them in real life situations day to day. Help your dog remain successful throughout the process. If he makes a mistake, don't correct him but help him get it right instead.
Create a Structured Routine When you first wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you do? We let the dogs out! Instead of letting him out on his own, take him out on a leash to the predetermined area in which you want him to go. Use the same exit door and the specific potty area from this point forward. Wait patiently and when he begins to go potty say the command "go potty,” "get busy," "do your business" or word you prefer to use. When he finishes, praise him a lot and/or give him a reward. Between supervision and using your management system, you should plan to do this periodically throughout the day including and one last time before bed. Plan to use the leash every time in the beginning, even if it is raining or cold out. Feeding your dog at the same times twice a day (three times daily for some puppies) will assist your efforts in routine.
Supervise your dog 100% Supervision is key. If your dog has not yet earned your trust, don't give him more freedom than he can handle. Once back inside, feel free to keep him on a leash as this will allow you to supervise. The leash is one of the best tools to help manage behavior throughout the learning process. It is not just for walking, and it will help you manage other behaviors such as chewing or jumping. Talk about a significant return on one little piece of effort! During this time, you should be looking for signs that your puppy may relieve himself. Sniffing or circling are typical indicators. If you see an indicator or think he may make a mistake, immediately take him to his specific potty area.
If your dog is out of sight, it will be hard to prevent mistakes and help his learning progress. Keep him in sight at all times unless he is in his kennel, crate, or another management system. It is okay to allow your dog supervised free time when you are available. It is always best to let your dog to the bathroom just before any supervised free time as this will mitigate the risk of an accident during that time.
When You are Away Use your management system when you are completely unavailable to help your dog. Kennels and crates are great as dogs like their personal space, also referred to as "den space." Your dog's crate should be big enough for him to stand up and turn around but not too big as your dog may relieve himself inside the crate. If crates are not available, then you could always use a puppy-proofed bathroom or a playpen. You should plan to use your management system whenever you are not available to your dog. This is only a starting point as management systems usually need to be designed for your specific situation, especially if you are away from home for long hours. Whenever you bring your dog out of his crate or management system, take him to his outside area to go potty. Do this first, before any training, playtime, or supervised free time, every single time.
Conclusion Potty training can be very easy as long as you can create a balance between routine, supervision, and the use of your management system. Keep in mind that if your dog has an accident, it is not his fault. It is up to you to teach him and build a routine that will allow your dog's success. Also, do not punish your dog. Rolled up newspapers and rubbing his nose in it are old school methods that were born out of frustration and not much logic. Also, if you correct your dog for having an accident, your dog may not have an accident in that same area, but may very well decide to have his accident elsewhere in the house. Routine and consistency are your best options for teaching bullet-proof bathroom habits. The biggest failures in potty training are born from not finding balance in routine, supervision, and management. Do your best, be proactive, and ultimately, be consistent!