Ahh, the potty training problem… Aside from socialization issues, this is the next most frequent problem I get calls for. But before we fully explore the basic principles for potty training, let’s talk about why we have such problems to begin with.
As times change I am seeing an increase of smaller and smaller breed dogs living in smaller and smaller spaces with parents with very busy lifestyles. Gone are the days where everyone has a house with a yard and someone is home all day long tending to the family (able to let the dog out). Now the norm is everyone is living bunched up one onl top of one another and all the members of our family live on a tight schedule of activities. Space for dogs to roam is a rarity, and time for training can be hard to schedule in. Combine that with a tiny breed dog and you have a recipie for potty training disaster.
You see dogs are naturally a letrining animal. They like to relieve themselves far away from their nest or den. If given the opportunity they will choose to go as far away as possible to do their business. This is one of the reason why dogs make such great companions. Unfortunately due to our busy schedules many young dogs don’t get enough opportunities to go away from their nest to relieve themselves. Instead they may be confined for to many hours and put in a situation where they learn to live with their own waste. This destroys that natural instinct to keep your home clean.
The other issue is that as our dogs get smaller and smaller our square footage appears larger. To a small breed dog a 1 bedroom apartment can be a lot of space. Certainly enough to urinate in one spot and return to play in another. The guest bedroom, or fancy living room may even appear to not be part of our nest at all, people rarely go in there. So to a dog that is having frequent “accidents” in these areas it may seem to him like this is the apropriate place to go.
The other most common issue I see when folks call me about potty training problems, is too much freedom and not enough direction. A young dog cannot be trusted to manage its own bladder and bowels, much the same way you would not trust a crawling baby without a diaper. Giving your dog the run of the house when it’s under 1-year-old is risky at best.
So what’s a good puppy parent to do? Right now you might be feeling very confused. Thinking to yourself, “Melissa, you told me not to confine my dog a minute ago! Now your telling me I can’t let him run free! What the heck am I supposed to do!”
The solution is balance and direction. I don’t mean to get philosophical, but isn’t that the solution to all our problems in life?! Every puppy should have a space to call their own: a crate, a pen, a washroom, a kitchen with a baby gate. It all starts here. This is the first place your dog learns to keep clean because it is where his food, his bed, his toys, are located; and he doesn’t want to soil his area any more than you want him to soil yours. But as I stated earlier if you want this instinct to continue you need to give him frequent, and I mean frequent, opportunities to relieve himself elsewhere. I encourage you to pick a place, somewhere easily accessible to your dog and take him there every time. Preferably through the same exit so he learns the path, this will help him later for signaling that he needs to go out. So in the beginning, it lots of trips from his space to the bathroom and vice versa. If you feel like a slave to your dogs bladder and bowels you’re doing it right! The secret here is setting them up for success. Do not wait for your dog to fail and then correct, that is not fair! You wouldn’t wait for your toddler to wet his pants and then punish him as a way of teaching him. It is the same thing.
If things are going well, you will start seeing that your dogs area is staying cleaner. Your dog is realizing that you will give him the chance to relieve himself elsewhere and is learning how to hold it until you let him out. As he ages he will be able to hold it for longer and longer. I encourage you to put him on a schedule during the hours that he is awake. Dogs are great anticipators, that paired with vigorous praise when he goes in the right place will help things move along quickly.
So now your dog has learned how to keep his space clean what about yours? Once again balance and direction. If your dog never spends any time loose in your house he is never going to learn how to behave in that area. I recommend you practice in small doses. Also set yourself up for success, let your dog have freedom only after you are POSITIVE they are empty, only for a short while, and only in the room that you are in so you can keep an eye on him. Use freedom in your house as the reward for relieving himself in the right place. As things progress you will see your dog spending more and more time out of the pen and longer and longer between bathroom breaks.
It is a tedious process but one that goes quickly if you are very consistent. I promise you can do it!
Licks and Wags,
P.S. Need more one-on-one help to potty train your dog? Or want some advice on how to set-up your environment for your new pup? Call (866) 412-PAWS and setup a Puppy Consultation. Melissa is happy to help!