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

*Part 3 – How to Potty Train Your Puppy*

     If you have been reading these blogs on potty training as they originally appeared, you know that it has taken a few weeks for me to complete this series of articles. Thanks for sticking with me!

The last stage of potty training that a puppy needs to learn is being able to go outdoors to eliminate without any supervision. As you first start teaching your puppy, it is very important that you always be close by when you take them out to eliminate. There are two reasons for this. First, you can’t train your puppy if you are not with them. You need to be able to see if your puppy pees or poops so you can immediately praise and reward him for the correct action. This is the essence of teaching.

Secondly, your puppy will experience separation anxiety if he is left alone outdoors. He will cry and pace and not think about elimination. If you want your puppy to focus on learning, he can’t be fearful or anxious because these emotions cause chemicals to be released in the brain that block the learning process. Instead, we want to create an environment where your puppy is ready to learn.

Once your puppy has learned everything involved in potty training and is doing it consistently, then you can begin to separate from them gradually over time. Begin by taking him out and then moving back a few steps toward the house. By now, your puppy has learned that you will give him a reward for eliminating.   So, as soon as he is done, he will look for you and run over to get his reward. If your puppy continues to perform well, then every few days, move another step back. In a couple weeks, you will eventually be able to let your puppy out to potty and he will return to the door to be rewarded and let back inside.

At this point I would recommend teaching your puppy to sit at the door to be let inside. This will be less damaging to the screen and trim than letting him jump or scratch at the door.

Once your puppy is going out, eliminating and coming back indoors with no accidents in the house for a month, you can gradually stop giving food treats as a reward for eliminating. Verbal praise will usually be enough once your puppy knows what you want him to do.

However, there is benefit to intermittently giving a food reward for correct behavior. If you give your puppy a food reward once in a while for correct behavior once it is learned, it will ingrain the behavior into their mind. Since they never know when the food reward will come, they will continue to do the activity correctly in the hope of getting the reward.   I call this the “Slot Machine Effect” because it is the same behavior human’s exhibit when playing the slot machines at a gambling casino. We put money in a machine over and over in the hope of getting cash reward. If we win, once in a while (or see someone else win), we will continue to do the behavior even though we don’t win every time.

This concludes my potty training advice. The main points are: 1) Be there to do it. 2) Be consistent, clear and patient. 3) Reward the behavior you want and do not use punishment. If you would like more advice on how to train you puppy in other areas, check out our library of articles on our website at www.rockfordanimalhospital.com   Use the search engine to find a specific topic.

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