Um. I know you’re excited to adopt me, your new puppy — and don’t get me wrong, I’m excited too, but I’m also a pretty big responsibility (and I’ll probably take a fair degree of pleasure making this fact well known). I’m gunna love you as long as you keep feeding me, but all I ask is that you play with me and, when training me, have a little patience—you catch more flies with honey, as you humans say. And I’ll learn a lot faster with lots of praise…or honey! Oooh, or bacon! BACON!
First and foremost we should get something out in the clear. Please do not hit me. I’m young and excited and just unable to hold it in. There are going to be accidents—and I will be sorry about it, but you just need to give me a firm “No” or “bad dog” me for a bit and I’ll understand. After all, I just want to please you!
Also, if the fur and overall cuteness doesn’t clue you in, I’m a dog. If you don’t catch me in the act of poopin’ or peein’ on your new shag carpet (what are you doing getting a puppy right after getting new carpets, anyway?) then it won’t do you any good “bad dogging” me for it. My mind has already forgotten it and I’m already thinking about squirrels and bacon and life’s more important questions, like where can I find a squirrel? And where can I get some bacon? —You know, big deal, meaning-of-life sorta things. If you “bad dog” me long after the fact my doggy brain is going to correlate (how my doggy brain knows the word “correlate” I can’t say) the “bad dogging” with the ordure itself, and not the act. Now I will get the learned behavior that my poop is evil and I will not understand that it is the pooping in the house that you dislike. And then I’ll find all sorts of interesting and clever places in your home to hide my poo…and when it comes to hiding poo, I can really show my smarts!
Instead, keep your cool and pick up the poo or clean up the pee and forget about it (because I already have!). If you do catch me in the act, and I will probably telegraph my intent to poop pretty clearly, just hustle over to me, pick me up, and carry me to the newspapers, potty pad, or outside. What’s my tell? I, like most dogs, will start sniffing and circling, looking for that perfect spot to relieve myself. Get me to where you want me relieving myself and then praise and praise and praise! I like that.
Now that begs the question — NO BEGGING! (sorry…reflex): just where do you want me relieving myself?
There are three basic ways to potty train us puppies. 1) Crate Training, which despite us not always loving being caged up, is really quite effective; 2) paper or potty-pad training, which is effective but is a little riskier; and 3) the ol’ eagle eye approach, but I only recommend that option if you can keep constant watch over me.
Crate training is a very good way to potty train me, and it will also teach me how to behave and relax when you are out of the house. What you want to do is a get a cage (if you don’t want to have to upgrade cages when I grow up, get one with dividers so you can simulate a smaller cage while I’m a baby), one that is just a little bigger than me. I will quickly learn that cage is my home (and I will like that!) and I don’t want to poop in my home…but I will if I have the space to poop on one side of the cage and sleep on the other. Oh, I will.
If my movement is limited, I will quickly learn to hold it until I’m let out. Just take me out of the cage and get me outside right away (bring the bacon) and then when I go outside, praise my pants off (please don’t actually put pants on me…or a sweater). This will immediately click with me. Crate training will also teach me security and independence and I won’t be all whiney when you leave…promise!
Paper/Potty Pad Training
The premise behind paper or potty pads is to get me accustomed to pooing and peeing where you want me to, in the house, on old newspapers or potty pads. Once I get into that habit—and special-made scented potty pads will expedite things—I will be very easy to train to start going outside. Just place the papers or potty pads out of the way and when you see my body-language saying “Yo, stuff’s about to come out of me!” hurry and rush me to the pad or paper and I’ll catch on (accompanied with praise, of course…and bacon!).
I will be much more likely to do my business (and business is good when I’m young—I will usually go six or so times a day) on spots that smell like business has been done there before. This can be utilized for your benefit in controlling where I go, but you should also be cognizant of this fact when cleaning up places where I had accidents—because I will go there again if the scent isn’t eradicated…Oh, I will.
Get me going on the pads and then take those pads outside and I’ll start going on those. After a few weeks of going outside, I will understand that you want me going outside and not in the house.
I recommend trying this one only when you can spend every moment with me. And it’s pretty simple…just watch for me to begin showing those tell-tail signs of an impending accident (we may not have thumbs, but dogs can still make puns) and then grab me and rush me outside. I will get it fast. But if you look away for even a moment, you may have quite the mess to clean up!
The most important things you should remember while potty training me is to use positive reinforcement, to have patience and to stick to a schedule. Most of us dogs will go to the bathroom in the morning, after naps, after meals, and before bed. If you keep a go-outside-schedule as a preemptive measure, I’ll learn a lot faster.
Finally, when you take me outside, make sure we are all business while we wait for me to do my business. Don’t distract me! If you start playing with me I’m going to associate our outside time with playing and not pooping. And when I’m going, you can use a consistent word cue that will resonate, like “go potty” or “do your business”.
In no time I will learn to hold it in until you can get me out into the grass and then we can move onto other tricks…like shaking hands, speaking, or rolling over. Bring the bacon.