Operant conditioning (or instrumental conditioning) is a form of learning in which an individual's behavior is modified by its consequences. Two complementary motivations drive instrumental learning: the maximization of positive outcomes and minimization of aversive ones. There are two ways in which behavior is reinforced or strengthened: positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior is strengthened by producing some desirable consequence; negative reinforcement occurs when a behavior is strengthened by avoiding some undesirable consequence. There are two ways in which behavior is decreased or weakened: negative punishment occurs when a behavior is weakened by not producing a reinforcing consequence; and positive punishment occurs when a behavior is weakened by producing a consequence that is a disincentive. In combination, these basic reinforcing and punishing contingencies provide four ways for modifying behavior. Reinforcement increases the relative probability or frequency of the behavior it follows, while punishment decreases the relative probability or frequency of the behaviour it follows.
On a side note, a puppy’s mother can actually do a lot of the potty training for your dog. I know of several reputable breeders who tell me that the mother dog trains their pups not to eliminate in their nests. From the moment a puppy is born its mother is teaching it that the NEST is the place where it eats & sleeps. One of the first rules Mama Dog starts to teach her pups is NO peeing or pooping in the family nest – That’s Disgusting! And she makes them follow her outside.
Electronic training involves the use of an electric shock as an aversive. Common forms are collars which can be triggered remotely, or that are triggered by barking, fencing that delivers a shock when a dog wearing a special collar crosses a buried wire, and mats that can be placed on furniture to deliver a shock. Some aids deliver an aversive such as a spray of citronella when triggered. The use of electric shock aversives for training dogs is the subject of considerable controversy. Supporters claim that the use of electronic devices allows training at a distance and the potential to eliminate self-rewarding behaviour, and point out that properly used, they have less risk of stress and injury than mechanical devices, such as choke chains. Opponents cite the risks of physical and psychological trauma associated with incorrect or abusive use.
Don't allow your puppy freedom outside of his room or pen unless you know absolutely for sure that his bladder and bowels are completely empty. When you do let him out, don't let him out of your sight. It is a good idea to have him on leash when he is exploring your home. He can't get into trouble if you are attached to the other end of the leash. Never, ever tie the puppy's leash to something and leave the puppy unattended.
If your dog isn’t giving you an obvious signal that they need to go out (like whining at the door) I suggest teaching them to ring a bell when they need to go outside. Some of the other signs dogs give that they need to go out such as pacing around or circling can be easy to miss if they’re in another room, which is why a noise based signal such as ringing a bell can make things easier.
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.
If your dog exhibits a behavior you don’t like, there is a strong likelihood that it’s something that has been reinforced before. A great example is when your dog brings you a toy and barks to entice you to throw it. You throw the toy. Your dog has just learned that barking gets you to do what he wants. You say “no,” and he barks even more. Heaven forbid you give in and throw the toy now! Why? Because you will have taught him persistence pays off. Before you know it you’ll have a dog that barks and barks every time he wants something. The solution? Ignore his barking or ask him to do something for you (like “sit”) before you throw his toy.
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.
It’s human nature to look for what’s wrong and take what’s right for granted. But we need to do the complete opposite with our puppies. Always reward and praise good behavior and ignore the things that go wrong. This is especially true with potty training process accidents. Bathroom mistakes are inevitable with puppies, so please don’t overreact and frighten or punish your pup.
Puppies would much rather play with leaves and bugs than go potty, if you aren’t there to see that you won’t know your pup needs to go back into his crate and come out again 5-10 minutes later! He will learn to sneak away, and have accidents inside. If you leave him outside for an extended period of time, chances are when you bring him back in he will need to go outside again soon or have an accident.
The process is the exactly same for older dogs as it is for puppies; prevent accidents from happening by using baby gates and a crate if possible, create a predictable schedule, learn to recognize your dog’s potty signals, accompany your dog outside and immediately reward for all outdoor elimination, properly clean any accidents and supervise your dog until you’re sure that he understands the rules.
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.
Lindsay says of this study, "Schilder and Van der Borg (2004) have published a report of disturbing findings regarding the short-term and long- term effects of shock used in the context of working dogs that is destined to become a source of significant controversy ... The absence of reduced drive or behavioral suppression with respect to critical activities associated with shock (e.g., bite work) makes one skeptical about the lasting adverse effects the authors claim to document. Although they offer no substantive evidence of trauma or harm to dogs, they provide loads of speculation, anecdotes, insinuations of gender and educational inadequacies, and derogatory comments regarding the motivation and competence of IPO trainers in its place." 
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 very important to put your puppy on a regular and timely feeding schedule; What goes in on a regular schedule will come out on a regular schedule. Every pup is different; some poop immediately after eating; with others it may be 30 minutes to an hour after eating. Unless advised by your vet for some medical reason, do not free-feed. That is, do not leave food out all the time. For two reasons: First, your pup's elimination schedule will be random at best. And second, she will not necessarily associate you as the provider of her food (see our article on being a pack leader and winning a puppy's respect and trust).
Researchers have described several reasons why the dominance model is a poor choice for dog training. First, a relationship based on dominance is established to gain priority access to scarce resources, not to impose particular behaviors on the less dominant animal, so the dominance model is irrelevant for most of the behaviors that people want from their dogs, such as coming when called or walking calmly on a leash. Second dominance-submission relationships, once established, are constantly tested and must be regularly reinforced. Thus people, particularly children and the elderly, may not be able to retain their rank and are at risk of being injured if they attempt to do so. Third, dominant individuals gain priority access to resources, but only while they are present, establishing dominance over a dog does not guarantee its behavior when the dominant individual is distant or absent.
You can use potty training pads to give a puppy a place to go inside. They are usually scented in order attract dogs to urinate on them. This can be an aid in potty training and may seem necessary depending on your situation. But, it can also cause some problems that may prolong the training period and make it more difficult. Using pads can confuse a puppy into thinking that it is OK to go inside.
Prior to the 1980s, Karen Pryor was a marine-mammal trainer who used Skinner's operant principles to teach dolphins and develop marine-mammal shows. In 1984, she published her book, Don't Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training, an explanation of operant-conditioning procedures written for the general public. In the book Pryor explains why punishment as a way to get people to change often fails, and describes specific positive methods for changing the behaviour of husbands, children and pets. Pryor's dog training materials and seminars showed how operant procedures can be used to provide training based on positive reinforcement of good behavior. Pryor and Gary Wilkes introduced clicker training to dog trainers with a series of seminars in 1992 and 1993. Wilkes used aversives as well as rewards, and the philosophical differences soon ended the partnership.