By Karen A. Soukiasian
The first thing you must remember is puppies, like babies, have no control over their bladder or bowel reflexes. You have to be patient, fair, firm and consistent. The easier and more consistent you make the association that they must relieve themselves outside, the faster they will learn.
Senior dogs sometimes begin to have “accidents” because they too cannot control the needed muscles. Be patient…they are not doing it on purpose! Most know it’s wrong, but it is out of their control. Provide puppy pads for them.
Certain breeds, especially smaller ones, are notorious for being harder to house train than others.
Dogs on certain medications, especially diuretics and steroids also have control problems. Usually, once off the medication, they are back on track.
Puppies and dogs from puppy mills, pet stores, flea markets and shoddy backyard breeders are not potty trained early on because they are confined in kennels and cages all the time. Even as adults, they have not learned the association of eliminating outside their confined space.
This is also a problem with dogs that have been in shelters too long. They were once house trained, but because they have been confined in a kennel, they have reverted back to bad habits.
The seven most common potty training problems
Before you come down on your puppy or dog, where do you fit into the problem? Here are the most common reasons for problems with potty training:
1. Lack of feeding schedule – Food left out for the puppy or dog to nosh on at will, creates potty problems. Leave food down for only 10-15 minutes. If you don’t know what time it went in, you’re not going to know what time it comes out!
2. Inconsistency on the part of the owner. Puppies and dogs need and respond to routine schedules. Are you guilty of no regular: feeding schedule, inconsistent potty schedule, no scheduled walks? Lack of routine hinders a puppy/dog’s sense of security and well-being.
3. Lack of communication. Most dogs will let you know when they have to go out. You have to be aware of what they are telling you! Learn to read their signs! Most common, they will put their head down, sniff around on the floor, and walk nervously, usually in circles. Or they may become anxious, start whimpering/ barking and begin pacing.
4. Lack of exercise. Running around playing, either inside or outside gets things moving. If your puppy or dog has been playing hard inside, get them out as soon as possible. If they have been playing hard outside, wait before you bring them inside. Give them a few minutes to see if they have to make a deposit.
5. Possible infections. Have your puppy or dog checked for bladder or bowel infections. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) and parasites can cause potty training tribulations.
6. Confusion. Some dogs, puppies especially, forget what they are out there for. Do not use it as playtime. Make it a mission. Have a designated area where the business at hand has to be done. They will smell what they are out there for. That association should stimulate the reflexes.
7. Lack of bonding. Walk your puppy! It’s the best way to bond and usually stimulates their bladder and bowels. They learn relieving themselves while on those special walks with you, makes you very happy! It’s a positive association.
Make potty-training easier
For puppies, follow a scheduled routine:
Get them out the door, the first thing in the morning. Carry them if you have to!
Even after they have done “something” outside, give them another 10 minutes. Or, let them return to the house, then within 5 to 10 minutes, return them outside.
Continue to take them to the same spot outside that they have previously used.
Some dogs must urinate first thing in the morning, but it takes the bowels a bit of time to start moving. Within 10-20 minutes after feedings, get them back outside again.
Give them 10 – 15 minutes to eat. Pick up the bowl! Puppies that “graze” all day are almost impossible to potty train. If you don’t know what time it goes in, you won’t know what time it comes out!
When they wake up from a nap, immediately get them out the door.
After they have played “hard” in the house, immediately get them out the door.
Use one word consistently to cue going outside. You can say a “key” word, such as “outside,” “potty, “out”…whatever you decide, but be consistent, and immediately lead them out the door.
After they hit the water bowl and drink more than usual, get them outside immediately.
Be consistent about the time of “last call,” that final trip outside, just before bedtime.
For most puppies and some dogs, pick up the water bowl by 7 pm. You can always give them a few ice cubes after that, but they aren’t going to dehydrate over night!
Chart your puppy’s schedules. We had one for in-house training, that no matter what you did, it took at least 4 hours before she would eliminate. By charting feeding and elimination times, we came up with that 4-hour figure!
During the training of your puppy, get them outside every hour if possible. Each month, add another 10 minutes. Don’t rely on yourself to remember. Set a timer.
PRAISE! PRAISE! PRAISE! your puppy or dog only when they are finished. Some get so easily distracted, even speaking to them while they are in “the mood," will shut off the works! When they take care of business outside, make them feel very special. Dogs learn by association. They will associate doing what they have to do outside makes you happy. That is a good thing!
When you are not there to supervise, crate or confine them. Most puppies or dogs will not soil where they sleep or eat. If you are confining them in a larger space or room for any length of time over an hour, provide a few puppy pads. Puppies have to earn the privilege of having unsupervised access to the entire house.
Bottom line: Fact is, usually it is the owner, not the puppy or dog who is at fault with potty training problems. It’s all about association and consistency. The simpler and more consistent you make the task, the quicker your puppy will make the association. Be patient, fair, firm and consistent, and everything should go smoothly.
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