In our previous blog post, Potty Training Pitfalls, we discussed some common issues that might make potty training difficult. Now we will share some training tips that will not only have you avoiding those pitfalls, they should have your dog avoiding going inside the house altogether!
Don’t Forget the Health Check:
Previously, two key factors were discussed that are of utmost importance, the physical health of your pup or adult dog, and their behavioral health. These are still key factors. If you are facing house training problems, make sure you discuss your dog’s physical exam results, diagnostic testing results, as well as their behavior with your veterinarian. Potty training attempts with a pup with parasites or an older dog with an ailment aren’t going to go so well. We want you to be able to succeed in potty training your dog. No dog is ever too old to learn to eliminate outside, and no puppy is too young to start learning the basics of what is expected of them, though a puppy’s age must be taken into consideration. Physically, most puppies will not be able to have control over urine and bowels for several months. Don’t expect too much too soon from very young or very small breed puppies. The same goes for very old dogs. Sometimes as senility sets in, they may forget to go outside, but accidents in the house may also be a sign an older dog is not well. So remember, the first step to solving elimination issues, is to schedule an appointment for a check up with your veterinarian.
Now, onward for TIPS FOR SUCCESS!
Your dog is not going to learn to eliminate outside overnight. It is a behavior they will learn, so be patient. Accidents will happen, so don’t have a freakout when they do occur. Just clean them up, and move on with life. No sense in crying over spilled milk, and no sense in yelling over accidents on the floor. Be patient, and following the pitfalls to avoid with the tips this week, we’ll have your on your way to potty training success!
Dogs, like people, do better when they know what is expected of them. A dog is less likely to have an accident if they have a good idea of how long they are going to have to hold it. So, CONSISTENCY is important in training. A dog is less likely to soil indoors if they know they will be let out soon. Take them out at the same times every day. Over time, dogs will learn to adjust as they know they will not suffer the pain of a bursting bladder by being forced to hold it all day. Some pups are very good and CAN hold it all day; the point is, they SHOULD NOT have to hold it all day.
If you work 8 hours a day, imagine not going to the bathroom from the moment you leave for work in the morning until you get home. That is the exact same thing you are requesting of your dog! They shouldn’t have to hold it all day, nor should you. You probably CAN, but from a medical perspective, it isn’t good for bladder, kidneys, or bowels to hold it that long. And, containing it for long periods actually can become physically PAINFUL to a pet. Your dog may be in pain from trying to hold it, and may have an accident simply to avoid a painful situation.
We recommend you schedule a mid day walk, either from a pet sitter or other source. Your dog will thank you, AND it will make house breaking easier.
If a dog KNOWS they are going to be forced to hold it all day, they may simply GO hen they have to as they will want to avoid the pain and/or discomfort from holding it all day; However, dogs who KNOW they will get that middle of the day break will be more apt to try to contain it because they KNOW they won’t have to hold it all day.
As for puppies, there is NO QUESTION they will be unable to hold it all day, and probably should have several scheduled breaks for elimination during the day. So, if you work outside of the home, get those pet sitters or dog walkers lined up. It is unrealistic to ask a puppy to contain urine/bowel movements for an entire work day.
Scheduling is related to consistency; they go hand in hand. A regular schedule is of utmost important when it comes to effective potty training. What goes in must come out, and for dogs that timing is predictable.
Put your dog on a regular feeding schedule, feeding at exact time(s) every day. Leave the food down for ten minutes then pick it up until the next scheduled feeding time. For puppies, after they eat, take them immediately outside to eliminate. For older dogs it may take up to ten minutes to get the urge to go.
As for water, you must monitor when your dog drinks. Puppies will have to urinate within ten minutes of drinking, and adult dogs within 20 minutes. You can measure how long it takes until your dog “has to go” by monitoring when they drank some water and when they had to eliminate. After a few days, you should start noticing patterns in your dog’s elimination patterns, and, with proper monitoring you will notice pre-elimination behaviors, such as circling, intense sniffing, or hiding behavior if they’ve had a bad experience from voiding in the house.
This can be a hot button topic for pet owners, because for a lot of people when they think of confinement, the first thing that pops into their head is PRISON, and no one wants to imprison their puppy. But a potty training pitfall is giving a dog or puppy too much freedom too soon. Dogs are den animals, and WILL NOT object to their own den. It is a natural behavior for them to seek out a cozy, quiet spot to relax. Once a dog is used to their crate (and yes, we will have a blog on crate training as well!) it is a simple matter of utilizing the crate for house training. This may NOT be an option for some dogs, or some owners, so let’s examine the pros, cons, and alternatives.
- Crates: If you chose to use a crate, it should only be large enough for the dog to turn around for house/potty training time. You can also feed and water the dog with bowls that hang inside the crate, as it is even more unlikely for a dog to eliminate where they eat/drink. If the dog must be in the crate, make sure you give him something to do, like a large nylabone or Kong stuffed with stuffing to chew on. When we go over crate training, there will lots of tips to keep your pet entertained while crated. Crating, as awesome as it is, is NOT an option for all dogs. Highly stressed dogs, dogs with anxiety, or dogs who have been abused or neglected often have bad association with crates and cages, and can never be crated.
- Leashes indoors: Leashing is simply having the dog on the leash indoors to keep them with you, so where you go, they go. Tight monitoring of the pet is accomplished because they are literally attached to you at all times with the leash. This allows you to spend time with the dog outside of the crate or their designated small potty free zone without worrying about them slipping off to void in the house. NEVER tether the dog to something as the object of leashing indoors is to have them monitored and in your sight. They need to be close enough for you to monitor their every move.
- Small room/Potty free zone: If a crate is not an option, a small enclosed area with an easy to clean floor may work. You may need to invest in baby gates and/or exercise pens to accomplish creating an area that is puppy proof and easily cleaned in the event of an accident. Avoid rooms with carpet or those with possibly unsafe items, such as garage or storage room. The room should be safe for dogs – perhaps a small powder room or bathroom that is devoid of anything a pet may get into. Offering food at scheduled meal times and water in this designated room can help, as again, dogs are less likely to soil areas where they eat and drink.
When fostering dogs, I often keep the dog on the leash while indoors. It keeps them within eyesight, and I can socialize them and spend time with them out of their crate all while I can get some work done. For me, a super productive day is spent solving pet and pet parent woes on my laptop, all at the same time as potty training a rescue, foster, or my own dog/puppy. I simply put a dog bed with some toys next to my work area. I attach the leash to my trainee, and the handle end of leash I tuck under a leg or behind me so I can feel it if the dog gets up and I’m engrossed in something, like making potty training blogs 😉 I keep them within eyesight, and I keep the leash on so I don’t miss anything if they get up unnoticed. Win win!
ALL dogs can be potty trained, but not all potty trained dogs can avoid accidents if they suffer anxiety.
If your dog is suffering from anxiety, and is having elimination accidents because of anxiety, be advised it is NOT a potty training issue. It is a physical manifestation of a more deep rooted medical/behavior issue. Speak to your vet about anxiety as your dog will not be able to avoid accidents if they are anxiety related. Anxiety can be helped with behavior modification though some dogs are so bad they may need medications.
We will have a blog on KEEPIN’ CALM with pointers and tips to help dogs with anxiety! But some dogs may need more. Again, this is NOT a training issue, but a much more insidious condition in which potty training cannot commence until it is remedied.
Keep following our blog to hear more tips and tricks from Wendi (our favorite receptionist and puppy trainer) on potty training and other training tips for your puppies and newly adopted pets.
If you want to learn more about why a mobile veterinary service could be your and your pets’ next favorite thing, learn more about us at Blue Door Veterinary Services here.