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Monday, September 1, 2014

Ask the Dog Trainer About House Training

by Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA
Good Boy, Tanner!
You Don't Need the Bells

Here’s what I know about potty training dogs, and even young puppies. It can be as simple as we want to make it. It can also be as complicated as we want to make it.

That may seem a bit obvious, but think on that a minute (I’ll wait).

We worry an awful lot about our dog’s behavior when it comes to potty training. He won’t let us know when he wants to go out. He does his business outside when he wants to. Or worse still, he poops and pees in the house when he’s mad at us. My advice: let’s focus more on the behavior we can actually control – our own.

Successful potty training has everything to do with our actions.

  • Let’s show up and notice when the dog poops and pees outside (and reinforce that behavior).
  • Let’s supervise our dog carefully inside so he doesn’t “go” in the wrong place. And let’s set up a safe and comfortable area for him to stay in when we can’t supervise him.
  • If that’s still too complicated, try this. To successfully potty train our dog or puppy, all we have to do is answer one question correctly: Where’s the dog?
Where’s the dog? He’s with me outside. I’m going to praise him and give him three treats right after I see him poop or pee.

Where’s the dog? He’s with me inside. I’m watching him carefully and will take him out regularly for potty breaks.

Where’s the dog? He’s in a safe room without carpet behind a baby gate. I can’t watch him now, but I know he’s not wandering around the house making messes. I’m also working on crate training my dog so he can stay there for short periods of time and maybe even overnight. Dogs who are crate trained have an easier time “holding it” in between potty breaks.

Maybe we get hung up on potty training because it is pretty straightforward and maybe we expect it to be complicated. That said, we could add a little flair to it. We can teach our dog to signal us when he wants to go out. Here’s how:
  • Decide when we want to take our dog out for a potty break (every 1-2 hours in the early stages of training).
  • Walk your dog to the door to exit, but ask him to “sit” before you open the door. (Use the same door every time for best results).
  • When he sits, praise him and open the door. The back yard awaits him to trade in his (eh-hem) “precious products” for puppy treats. Ah, relief and snacks, that’s a good deal.
  • Before long, you’ll notice your dog sitting at the door waiting to make that awesome deal over and over again.
  • Now we have our signal – sitting at the door patiently. Notice when this happens – praise – let him out – treat him for doing his thing outside.
Used with permission
Complicated? I think that’s really up to us. If we pay attention, see our dog potty outside, praise and treat, maybe it’s not so complicated. If we get the whole family onboard and keep asking each other “where’s the dog?”, it can be a delightfully simple team project.

Think on it. In the meantime, let’s take the dog out. Don’t forget the treats and the cleanup bags.

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA helps clients who have fearful and aggressive dogs in Houston, TX.  He learned more than he ever wanted to learn about potty training from his Chihuahua Mix, Stewie.

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Michael's advice does not replace an actual consultation with a qualified trainer.


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