This article was co-authored by David Levin. David Levin is the Owner of Citizen Hound, a professional dog walking business based in the San Francisco Bay Area. With over 9 years of professional dog walking and training experience, David's business has been voted the "Best Dog Walker SF" by Beast of the Bay for 2019, 2018, and 2017. Citizen Hound has also been ranked #1 Dog Walker by the SF Examiner and A-List in 2017, 2016, 2015. Citizen Hound prides themselves on their customer service, care, skill, and reputation.
One of the easiest ways to prevent accidents is learning to recognize when your puppy needs to go out. Most puppies will sniff the ground when they’re getting ready to potty, but there are many other more signals that happen prior to sniffing. Puppies that pace, seem distracted and walk away from play are subtly signaling that they have to go out. If your puppy tries to sneak out of the room, take a potty break right away.
It’s best not to punish the puppy for making a mistake. Instead, focus on praising appropriate bathroom behavior. If you catch your puppy in the act, interrupt it by saying “No!” in a firm voice or clapping your hands loudly, then take the puppy outside to finish going to the bathroom. Never swat your puppy, yell at it, or try to rub its nose in the mess.
This method is the most effective and flexible. Your pup needs to develop his natural "den instinct" and learn where to eliminate - and where not to. To potty train our puppy we must condition a desire in the pup to avoid soiling the "den" - your house. Confinement and your due diligence in providing access outside the "den" to potty and poop will develop this instinct and eventual desire. When and how to use confinement is described in detail below.
The idea of using treats to train is often equated with bribery. Truthfully, dogs do what works. If using treats gets them to do what you want, then why not? You can also use the world around you as a reinforcement. Every interaction you have with your dog is a learning opportunity, so when you think about it, you probably don’t use food very often except during active training sessions. So why does your dog continue to hang out? Because you reinforce him with praise, touch, games and walks. Just remember, the behavior should produce the treat; the treat should not produce the behavior.
In considering the natural behaviours of specific breeds of dogs, it is possible to train them to perform specialised, highly useful, tasks. For example, Labrador retrievers are the favoured breed for the detection of explosives. This is because of a combination of factors including their food drive which enables them to keep focused on a task despite noise and other distractions. Most working breeds of dogs are able to be trained to find people with their sense of smell (as opposed to their sense of sight). Cocker Spaniels are able to be trained as part of a termite detection team. Their relatively small size enables them to fit into small spaces, and their light weight allows them to walk on areas of ceiling which would be dangerous to anything heavier. In fact, although unusual, termite detection dogs are much more reliable at detecting termites than humans who rely on a basic system of tapping and listening. Because of their ability to learn signals by sight and for their energetic and athletic natures, German Shepherds are able to be trained for work alongside search and rescue teams and human apprehension teams.
Put your puppy in a crate or a safe area whenever you can’t supervise him. Always, always remember to take your puppy to his or her potty spot when they have to go! If they’re going in multiple areas, or a wide range, then A) you are more likely to stumble upon an unpleasant surprise while walking around your yard; and B) it’s easier for your puppy to create another potty spot by creating a habit of eliminating somewhere off-limits.
As your puppy becomes more reliable about using his toilet area and his bowel and bladder control develops, he can begin to spend more time outside his room or pen with you in the rest of your home. Begin by giving him access to one room at a time. Let him eat, sleep and play in this room but only when he can be supervised. When you cannot supervise him, put him back in his room or pen.
When you're potty training a puppy, give the dog ample opportunities to relieve themselves outside and no opportunities to do so indoors. To do this, set a strict schedule of taking them out frequently. You'll also need to be aware of the most common times your puppy might have an accident, like when it's waking from a nap, a short time after it eats or drinks, or if it hasn't gone out for a couple of hours.
There are several medical issues that can interfere with potty training. Dogs with a urinary tract infection (UTI) will urinate frequently in small amounts, and will not have much control. You may also notice excessive licking of their genital region. If you notice a change in the consistency of their stool, the cause could be a gastrointestinal issue. Some common causes in puppies are intestinal parasites, having eaten something not in their normal diet, or a sudden food change. If a food change is necessary, do it gradually over 5 to 7 days. If you suspect any of these issues could be a problem, you should consult with your veterinarian.
Clicker training, a common form of positive reinforcement, is a simple and effective dog training method. Although it is still fine to train your dog without clicker training, many people find it helpful. With clicker training, you can easily and effectively teach your dog all kinds of basic and advanced commands and tricks. It's fast and easy to learn how to clicker train your dog