What is Potty Training? (Repost from November 2009)
It is teaching dogs that your entire house is their den! Dogs in general are considered very clean animals, and do not want to soil in their den. The potty problem arises when the dog does not consider your entire home their den. In the wild dogs have no concept of holding it! It’s like the old joke what does a bear do in the woods 🙂 The same thing as a dog does…they pee and poop on or next to the closest tree.
So for me, the first thing to teach a dog when potty training is how to hold their bladder and bowels. The easiest way to achieve this is to crate train. We know that dogs are den animals and that they don’t want to soil in their home. This is the key to step one. By crate training we will use their clean nature to teach them to “hold it”. Let me be clear here; if you are dealing with a puppy and stick them in a crate, they will hold it only as long as they physically can. So don’t just throw your dog in a crate and consider your job done. A good rule of thumb is one hour for every month they are old plus one hour. So an eight week old puppy should be able to hold it for approximately three hours (2 months = 2 hours plus1 additional). If you leave your puppy in the crate any longer than that, then expect an accident and possibly the side effect of teaching the dog it is OK to soil in the crate. Now that we know a basic timeline, we have to take the dog out every three hours, at least, to prevent accidents and to begin teaching good potty habits.
I look at potty training a little different from others by considering only one spot as the correct area to go to the bathroom and all others as new options where our dogs can go. Let’s say the dog has had 12 accidents since you brought them home, the dog now sees life as having 13 spots which are correct places to go to the bathroom. Hopefully this statement alone solves the riddle of why this process can be so difficult. The key is to use their clean nature as a spring board along with crate training to eliminate mistakes and give the dogs only one choice of where to relieve themselves. With people you have all heard that 21 times makes a habit, well the same is true for dogs but probably closer to 30 to 40 times make a habit. So if you become fanatical the first month you own a dog making sure you take them out regularly to the appropriate potty spot and eliminate the option of making a mistake, then the dog learns through their own choices that there is only one place where he can do his business!
Keep in mind, just as we don’t give kids 100% freedom right off the bat, neither do we with dogs. We start first by teaching don’t soil your crate, then don’t soil in the kitchen and then the living room and so on. Take things slow and build on successes and before you know it your dog will consider your entire house their den and will only go in the appropriate place. As a side note, dogs are also very polite animals, they think as do we “it would be quite rude” to just take a dump at your feet. So don’t think for a moment that if they slink off the back bedroom to do their business that they know what they are doing is wrong. The fact of the matter is, YOU waited too long to take them out or missed their signal telling you they had to go. So they just went as far away from their “home” as they could and did what they had to do!
Next week I will go over how to pick the appropriate place outside and how to get them to go! (Step 2)
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