Puppy Potty Training: How to Deal with Accidents

photoWhen toilet training your puppy, the most important rule that you need to remember is this: If you don’t catch him in the act, don’t punish him for it!

Should you come across a mess that was left while you were gone, just clean it up and let it go. Discipline is useless because unless you catch your pup doing it, he will not know what he is being punished for. He has peed and pooped many times before he met you, and nobody has ever made a fuss over it before. Therefore, he will not be able to associate the punishment with something that he has done without incident hundreds of times before, especially if he did it over 30 seconds ago!

Like children, puppies are not thinking about what they did before, unless it was really fun. They are thinking about what they can do next. Young puppies have very poor memory.

Moreover, you have to admit that it was your fault and not your pup’s. Had you been keeping an eye on him, you would have noticed that he suddenly started walking or running around in circles, sniffing for the right spot. Your puppy will display the same behavior every time he needs to go to the bathroom. The act may vary a bit from pup to pup, but they will always show their pre-potty pattern.

If you do catch your puppy in the act, don’t get mad. Again, it was your fault, as you were not paying attention to the signals. Quickly but calmly pick him up, and firmly say “no” without raising your voice. Carry him outside or to his papers. You can push his tail down while you are carrying your pup to keep him from peeing or pooping any more. He will get excited when you take him outside or to his papers, but stay with him for some time. If he finishes his business, reward him with simple praise such as “good boy.”

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction (remember Newton?), and this applies to dog potty training as well. If you overreact and harshly scold or scare your puppy for making what is in your mind a mistake, you will not be able to make much progress.

Some people believe that rubbing a puppy’s nose into his mess will teach him a lesson, but this isn’t the case. In the puppy’s mind, there is no difference between rubbing his nose in the accident he left in your living room an hour ago and rubbing his nose in the pile the neighbor’s dog left in the park a week ago.

Peeing and pooping are natural instincts, and punishment seldom speeds up the potty training process. Instead, it makes the dog nervous or fearful every time he has to relieve himself.

Punishing your puppy can cause long-term relationship problems. If you discipline your puppy for making a mess while you were away, he isn’t thinking about what he might have done a couple of hours ago. He isn’t thinking that he should not relieve himself inside the house. He isn’t even thinking about the messes.

If you get home and your puppy runs off and hides, he’s not doing it because he has had an accident. Instead, he has learned that when you first come home, you are always in a bad mood and he gets punished. Hence, your pup has decided to avoid you for a while and goes into hiding. Because discipline was misunderstood, your puppy becomes afraid of you, and this can have a lifelong impact on your relationship.

Regardless of the method you use, spend as much time as possible with your pup if you want to accelerate the housebreaking process. Always keep an eye on your puppy and be there when you’re needed. You’ll be surprised at how much progress can be made in just one week.

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The Four Key Elements of Successful Dog Potty Training

photoPuppies make wonderful companions, but they’re not so cute when they do their business in the middle of your living room. Accidents are certainly frustrating, but you need to understand how your pet thinks. “If I have to do it, then I’ll do it!” is what’s in your pup’s head, and this applies to eating, playing, exploring, sleeping, and of course, eliminating. Since your puppy does not understand anything more than that, it’s your job to teach him where and when it is appropriate to pee and poop. Remember, they’re not the ones with the requirements – we are!

There are four key components in most effective housebreaking methods:

* Confinement
* Training
* Praise
* Timing

Confinement

The easiest way to potty train a puppy (or a dog that has yet to be housebroken) is to confine him in a crate or cage. At the start of toilet training, don’t place anything on the bottom of the crate (e.g. newspaper, blanket, etc.); your puppy will only destroy it. Most dogs do not want to eliminate where they live, so the crate should just be large enough for your pup to turn around and lay down. If it’s too big, your puppy will do his business at one end and sleep at the other. For puppies that will grow considerably in size, get an adult sized crate and partition it with an divider.

Training and Praise

Personally, I always use a leash when potty training. This allows me to keep my dog close to me so I can watch him and control everything that happens. Puppies in particular get distracted easily, and a gentle tug on the leash can get their attention back. Leashes are also good for teaching an area to eliminate; with a leash, you simply take your pup there each time.

I use verbal cues as well, so once the puppy understands what the words mean, he will know what I want when I want it to happen. I say “go potty” for peeing and “go poop” for defecation. You can choose any word or phrase you want, just remember that you will be repeating it a lot.

Whenever you take your dog out, say the word “outside” again and again. “Do you want to go outside? Let’s go outside! Outside, outside!” Eventually, he will learn that the word “outside” is connected to going to the bathroom. You will be able to ask him if he has to go outside and receive a response such as tail wagging, barking, or running to the door.

When he goes to the bathroom properly, praise him in a happy voice. I prefer to use words because treats or petting can interrupt the act. Remember, you should praise your puppy while he’s peeing or pooping, not after.

Reward your pup with freedom when he does a good job. The best time for him to be out of his crate is after he has eliminated properly outside, but this free time still has to be supervised. You can use baby gates to restrict your pup’s area of freedom or a leash to quickly catch him (without grabbing him, which can make him fearful) when he is about to do something inappropriate.

Timing

It is best to always anticipate your pet’s need to eliminate. As a general rule, the length of time that a puppy can be left in his crate without going outside is more or less equivalent to his age in months:

* 2 months old – 2 hours of confinement without a bathroom break
* 3 months old – 3 hours of confinement without a bathroom break
* And so on, up to around 6 to 8 months old.

Your puppy must be taken outside anytime there is a change in activity. He will also give signs whenever he has to do his business. It can be sniffing, circling, suddenly stopping in the middle of play, running out of a room, or a certain look on his face. You will learn how to read these hints sooner or later.

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