Part 2 – “How to Potty Train Your Puppy” – from your veterinarian in Rockford, Michigan – July14, 2015

“The Good Word” by Dr. Carol Good – Rockford Animal Hospital

     There are three skills that a puppy must master in order to be fully potty trained: 1) A puppy must only eliminate in the area his owner wants him to do so. 2) A puppy must be able to communicate to his owner when he needs to go to that area and eliminate. 3) A puppy must be able to eliminate without being supervised by his owner.

Let’s start with the first two skills as generally we will teach them to the puppy at the same time. This is where the crate, the kitchen timer, the bell on a rope and the bag of treats are needed. Place the puppy’s crate in a room near the door you will be using to go to the elimination area. For now, I’ll assume it’s the back yard. Attach the rope with the bell to the door knob of this door. It should be low enough that the puppy can reach it easily with its mouth or paw. Put the bag of treats in your pocket or in a place you can grab them quickly as you go to the door.

When you want to practice the potty training process, these are the steps: First, you will say his name and the word command that means he should come to the door to go out. For example, we could use the command, “Rover, outside!” Once he comes to the door, we repeat the command as we take his paw and ring the bell. Then we praise him and open the door.

At this point, you should have him on a leash or attach him to a chain or lead that is fixed in the ground. Even though your puppy may stay close to you when he is very young, in no time, he will become a confident, independent teenager eager to explore the world. This could lead to a very dangerous situation if they get into the street. Also, very tiny dogs can attract predatory birds, like hawks, which have been known to swoop down and carry off a puppy.

Once you are in the appropriate area, give a verbal command that will let your puppy know that this is the place to eliminate. For example, we could say, “Rover, potty!” If we’re lucky, your puppy may need to poop or pee and he will take this opportunity to go. Once he has finished going, be ready to immediately give verbal praise and a delicious food treat to reward the behavior you want. Do not wait until you go back indoors to give a treat. Whatever behavior occurs immediately prior to the treat will be what your puppy learns to do.   If you give your puppy a treat once you’re back inside, you are training your dog to come indoors.

How do you know when your puppy needs to go? Well, there are some times that a puppy naturally needs to eliminate: right after a meal, right after waking up from sleep and right after exercise. So, if you establish a meal schedule, have your puppy sleep in a cage with the door closed and remember this when playing with your puppy, you will know some of the times he will need to eliminate and be ready to go through the training steps. These are teachable moments!

Remember, “Practice makes perfect.” So use a kitchen timer to schedule practice times for your puppy.   Set the timer for 15 to 20 minutes and then when the timer goes off, practice the potty training steps. As your puppy grows older, his bladder capacity enlarges and you can gradually increase the amount of time between bathroom breaks. By 9 months of age, he should have his full, bladder capacity. If he is adequately potty trained, he should be able to wait comfortably for 6 hours and not soil indoors.

Never punish your puppy for eliminating in the house. It confuses your puppy and makes your puppy afraid of you. Neither of these things will help your puppy to learn. The fastest way to potty train is to clearly and consistently show your puppy what you want him to do and then reward him lavishly for doing it.

In my next blog, I’ll wrap up the final step in potty training: learning to eliminate without supervision and add a few final thoughts. See you then.

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