I’m not going to lie. Potty Training a puppy is one of the most daunting tasks you will undertake with your dog. Most things that you train your dog to do can be done on your time. But when it comes to house breaking a puppy everything is on their time, to an extent.
I remember the way my parents used to teach dogs not to go in the house. Any time they would find a puddle or a pile, they would stick the dog’s nose in it and give it a swat with the newspaper before throwing him outside. Sound familiar? This is most people’s idea of house training a puppy. The problem is that the dog has no clue what he has done to deserve punishment. What if you were punished for something that came natural to you? For instance, what if every time you ate a meal a giant came along, shoved your face in the plate and exiled you from the premises? Seems absurd right? But to your dog you are doing the same thing to him! You’re punishing him for something his instincts tell him are perfectly fine, and you are never offering him guidance about what he should do! Just like it would take you a while to figure out what it is the giant wants you to do different it’s going to take your dog a while to understand what it is you want him to do. And please don’t forget a puppy is just like a human child in that it doesn’t have bowel and bladder control. These usually do not fully develop until 3 to 6 months of age. You can start house breaking a puppy before that but don’t expect him to master the skills until he is old enough to hold it!
OK I'm done telling you what not to do. Now let’s discuss the proper way for potty training puppies! First we have to decide where exactly you want your dog to use the toilet. Do you have a fenced in yard where he can do his business without fear of wandering off? Or do you live in an apartment? Do you want to have to take him for a walk every time he needs to go? Or do you want to just lay down some paper in the corner of a designated room and know he will always use that spot?
Let’s start with the back yard analogy. As with all training you need to have both a punishment and reward depending on the dogs success. But remember dogs have very short attention spans so the punishment or reward should come at the same time that the action occurs not when you discover that it happened. Let’s assume you see your new puppy sniffing around in the corner like he is trying to find a good place to dispose of his lunch, as soon as you see this you should punish him with just a stern “NO!” then gather him up and bring him outside. Wait until he’s had a chance to do his business, then reward him with a pat and soft-spoken words of encouragement. This will help them figure out that going in the house is bad but going in the yard is good! Doesn’t it make more sense to explain to them what they’re doing wrong and what they should do? Dogs may not understand our words but they understand our body language just fine. And this is the best way to express your wish not to have to mop the floor on an hourly basis! (Also if you don’t want your entire yard covered in doggie land mines you can combine this technique with the next to train them to go in one particular area. Perhaps in the corner of the yard? Or by those bush’s that could use the extra fertilizer?)
But how to house train a puppy to go inside on the pad or paper? Well this method would still work given that you have a way of keeping the dog on the paper. I recommend a childs play pen (the ones that look like a small fence). Once you feel your puppy is accustomed to this designated bathroom area, try taking the fence away and see if he will automatically go to it. If not put the fence back up and continue the training.
As for getting them to go while on a walk, you could use the same method but it does have to be modified a bit. For this method make sure you have a collar on them at all times so that you can easily connect a leash. Then when you see them starting to go, you can rush over saying “NO!”, snap the leash on and lead him out the door and begin your walk. I definitely recommend the walking method to anyone who has a hyper dog or just a breed known for being hyper. The nice long walk will help burn off some of their extra energy!
Now all three methods for house training a puppy could be simplified if you’re willing to take the time to make some observations and keep track of the time. Most puppies are going to need to use the bathroom within a half hour of eating. Just see how long it usually takes and move them to the designated area a little before that. However since you have no punishment for going outside of the designated area you should give an extra reward every time they go where you want them to. This way you drive the point home. Of course once you feel like they have the hang of things you can start to wean them off of the reward. Try not to stop it cold turkey though, your dog might take it as you’re no longer happy with him behaving this way and go back to his old bathroom habits.
Well that’s how to house train a puppy. Hope these techniques help! If you have a better way than by all means let me know!