Adding Structure to Help with Puppy Potty Training

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 1, 2016


Percy is a seven-month-old Shih Tzu / Bichon mix. His guardians set up a puppy behavior training session with me to stop him from having accidents or marking in the house.

Percy was a little bit more reserved than I would’ve liked to of seen during the greeting. He was a little bit stiff, would pause or moving slow movements at times and kept his distance for the first 15 minutes or so.

Because he did not go to a puppy socialization class I suggested that the guardians look for dogs of a similar size and age for him to play with. Many people think a dog is a dog, but putting Percy together with a large or overly animated dog could have a detrimental effect on his development.

Hopefully by posting a cute picture of Percy on Facebook and other social media outlets, his family can find him a couple of suitable dogs to play with. Another option may be for them to take Percy to doggy day care a couple of times a week when his guardians need to be out and about. This will help drain his energy while simultaneously giving him social exposure and experience.

I also recommended that the family’s children take turns teaching Percy new tricks and commands. By teaching him a new trick each week for the next 8-12 weeks, his guardians can help him respect them more while also developing more confidence.

Teaching Percy these new tricks and commands and getting him experience playing with other dogs will help in a number of areas in Percy’s development.

But the biggest problem that his guardian wanted to address was Percy’s accidents in the house.

Because the family has multiple young children, I started that discussion by suggesting that the guardian set up a puppy play area.

You can check out the play pen area that I set up for my Dalmatian puppy Quest by using this link.

Installing a security puppy play area that includes a kennel, appropriate play toys and a puppy pad can be a sanity saver; especially when potty training. Any time that the guardians cannot monitor Percy, he should be placed in the play area until he is housebroken.

Next I went over how the guardians can communicate to Percy that going to the bathroom outside is more desirable than doing it inside as well as a couple of common mistakes that people make when potty training a puppy.

Humans often review previous failures as a way of learning and improving future performance. But because dogs learn through association, what happened in the past doesn’t impact their learning the same way it does for humans. This is why it’s so important to utilize positive puppy training when potty training your new dog.

I often talk about putting a dog in a position to succeed. This is perhaps more the case during potty training than for other areas of the young puppies development.

Frequently, when a dog has an accident it is because the guardians were not paying close enough attention or failing to take the dog out at the times it needed to go. I spent the next couple of minutes going over the activities and times where a puppy is most likely to need to potty.

Potty training can be a very frustrating time for guardians, but it doesn’t need to be.

Linking the act with the command word with a positive reinforcer will help Percy understand that going potty outside is rewarded where eliminating inside is not. If they miss the signs and the pup starts to have an accident, it will be important they simply pick the pup up or make a sound to distract him without any punishment.

Punishing a dog for having an accident seems logical to humans, but it will backfire when potty training your puppy. Most pups interpret it as being punished for going potty, not for going potty inside. Believe it when I say that potty training a pup who thinks you get mad for going potty is a very difficult challenge you don’t want to face.

Setting up a puppy playpen will give Percy’s guardian’s a tool that will help them manage his behavior and stop accidents in unwanted areas. Combined with positive reinforcement, frequent trips outside (at least once an hour) and during the three times that a dog is most likely to need to go potty, Percy’s guardians will put him in a position to succeed and learn to only go potty outside.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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