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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Potty Training Basics

Potty Training Resistant Dog

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Tip for
Boarding Dogs

Take dogs out to an elimination area and give a "cue word" such as "go potty.  Praise the dog during the elimination in a soothing voice. After the elimination, continue praise in an excited voice and offer a treat.

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Where's the potty?

The most important concept to remember when teaching your dog where to "go potty" is to prevent accidental learning. Accidental learning is when your dog goes potty in the house when no one is watching. As far as the dog knows, he or she has just established an acceptable dog toileting area. Remember, you don't get a second chance to make a good first impression. It is much easier to teach than to re-teach.

The key to preventing accidents in the house is to confine the dog in a small area when you are not able to supervise. This confinement needs be established as the dog's very special safe haven, a comforting place to be when you are not around. Positive kennel training and close tether training are essential prerequisites to establishing contented confinement for your dog. Contented confinement is the best strategy for teaching acceptable toileting habits and preventing household accidents.

Click here for Kennel Training Steps

The first major project with any new puppy or adopted dog is teaching your new friend how to find the "doggie toilet" area.

The dog should ALWAYS be under your supervision when he or she is close tethered. However, it is acceptable to leave a puppy in a portable kennel for up to one hour longer than his or her age in months. For example, a 2 month old puppy can be left in a kennel for 3 hours, a 3 month old puppy can be left in a kennel for 4 hours, and so on. As a general guideline, no dog, no matter what his or her age, should be confined for much longer than 8 hours without being given the opportunity to eliminate.

Teaching proper toileting habits

First read and review both kennel and close tether training topics by clicking on the article titles in blue letters above. It is crucial that both the kennel and close tethering are introduced correctly to assure a positive result. During confinement, praise and reward the dog for being quiet and relaxed. It is important to ignore the dog if he or she is having a temper tantrum. The best time to let the dog out of the kennel is when the dog is showing quiet, relaxed behavior and/or chewing on something you provided.

During your "elimination teaching phase", take the dog out of confinement every couple hours to your designated toilet area while on leash and give the opportunity to eliminate in that spot. Give the same cue word each time such as "go potty" or "get busy".  Don't stare at the dog since this makes some dogs nervous. If the dog begins to eliminate, say, "good dog" in a soft, cooing voice tone. Excited praise can interrupt and disrupt the process. Just after the dog finishes eliminating in the right place, praise in an excited, happy tone and give a small food treat to reinforce a job well done!  Right after the eliminates is the BEST time to supervise freedom indoors. As your dog begins using the toilet area regularly, gradually extend the period of freedom after the elimination and vary the rewards such as going for a walk, playing indoors with toys, etc. The more confidence you have in what the dog has learned, the more freedom the dog gets.

It helps some dogs if you can place some of the urine or feces in the toilet area to help designate it for the dog. Make sure you clean any indoor "accidents" with an enzyme cleaner that is specifically formulated to break down urine odor. Normal household cleaners can mask but do not remove the odor.

If the dog does NOT eliminate, return him or her back to confinement for about 10 to 20 minutes. If the dog has an accident during this time, then take the dog out more frequently. The goal is no accidents in the house or in the kennel.
Crime and punishment

Dogs live in the present moment. What's past is gone from their immediate memory as it pertains to learning right from wrong. So, timing is the key in teaching your dog what is an accident versus what is a home run!  NEVER hit or punish your dog in such a way that harms him or her physically or emotionally.  A human's idea of punishment usually confuses the lesson and compromises the bond between pet and family. If you catch your pup in the act, interrupt by picking up the pup or by making a startling noise and then take the pup out to the designated toilet area. You may be more successful by carrying the pup outside.

Input and output

During elimination training, feed and water your dog twice daily. Get up early to reward quiet, overnight behavior with an opportunity to eliminate.  Give an early dinner with an opportunity before bedtime to eliminate for a more comfortable sleep.  Ideally, you need to take your pup out 10 to 20 minutes after feeding, and then every few hours throughout the day and evening.  If you stay consistent during the teaching phase, most pups will learn within one to two weeks how to please you by using the correct toilet area.

The buck stops here

Supervise or provide a safe place for contented confinement. Be consistent. Establish a routine. Lavishly praise and reward quiet, happy confinement and appropriate elimination. And...make sure that during any teaching phase, you put your pup into "boot camp". This means the pup must earn every valued resource you have to offer. Boot camp means reinforcing your position as teacher and pack leader by asking the pup to sit for permission to eat, play, have a toy or chew, go inside or out, or simply to have precious time with you.

Adobe Presenter - Reward Based Elimination Training

*Video - Confinement and Input/Output Scheduling

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