With more than 25 years of experience, renowned dog behavior expert and New York Times best-selling author Cesar Millan is one of the most sought-after authorities in the field of dog behavior and rehabilitation. In March 2014, Millan brings his unmatched canine abilities to communities terrorized by unruly hounds in Nat Geo WILD's new series "... See full bio »
While your puppy is confined to the bathroom or his pen, he is developing a habit of eliminating on paper because no matter where he goes, it will be on paper. As time goes on, he will start to show a preferred place to do his business. When this place is well established and the rest of the papers remain clean all day, then gradually reduce the area that is papered. Start removing the paper that is furthest away from his chosen location. Eventually you will only need to leave a few sheets down in that place only. If he ever misses the paper, then you've reduced the area too soon. Go back to papering a larger area.
Clicker training is a nickname given to a positive reinforcement training system based on operant conditioning. Clicker training can also be referred to as marker training. The system uses conditioned reinforcers which are able to be delivered more quickly and more precisely than primary reinforcers such as food. The term 'clicker' comes from a small metal cricket adapted from a child's toy that the trainer uses to precisely mark the desired behavior; however, some trainers use a whistle, a word, or even a light as the conditioned reinforcer.[63] The trainer delivers a primary reinforcer, such as a toy or treat, after the noise or signal. A common critique of clicker training is that it is prone to the overjustification effect.[64]
Most people don’t have a problem being very clear about when they are unhappy with their dogs, but, they often ignore the good stuff. Big mistake! Make sure you give your dog lots of attention when he’s doing the right thing. Let him know when he’s been a good boy. That’s the time to be extra generous with your attention and praise. It’s even okay to be a little over the top.
Pups between the ages of 9–12 weeks who were permitted to observe their narcotics-detecting mothers at work generally proved more capable at learning the same skills at six months of age than control puppies the same age who were not previously allowed to watch their mothers working.[56] A 2001 study recorded the behaviour of dogs in detour tests, in which a favorite toy or food was placed behind a V-shaped fence. The demonstration of the detour by humans significantly improved the dogs' performance in the trials. The experiments showed that dogs are able to rely on information provided by human action when confronted with a new task. Significantly, they did not copy the exact path of the human demonstrator, but adopted the detour behavior shown by humans to reach their goal.[57] A 1977 experiment by Adler and Adler found that puppies who watched other puppies learn to pull a food cart into their cages by an attached ribbon proved considerably faster at the task when later given the opportunity themselves. At 38 days of age, the demonstrator puppies took an average of 697 seconds to succeed, while the observers succeeded in an average of 9 seconds.[58]
Potty training seems like a daunting task! It really does. I know people who avoid getting puppies just to skip this process, and in some ways I totally understand that! Puppies really are a LOT of work, and it is not just potty training! It can be varying aspects of housebreaking, teaching your puppy manners, making certain that it is well socialized, addressing early issues like persistent whining or separation anxiety before they become permanent problems, and tons of more areas to make sure that your puppy is on track to being a happy, healthy, well-behaved dog.
Young puppies can’t hold their bowels & bladders for long. If you come home to find that they’ve had an accident in there it’s quite possible that they can’t hold it that long. Generally puppies can hold their bladder for about one hour per month of age. So your 3 month old pup can probably only hold their bladder for about 3 hours. If you’re going to be away at work for long periods of time see if you can get a neighbor, relative or dog sitter to come over to let your pup out during the day.

A Hungarian dog training group called Népszigeti Kutyaiskola use a variation of model-rival training which they describe as the Mirror Method. The mirror method philosophy is that dogs instinctively learn by following the example of others in their social sphere. Core to the program is including the dog in all aspects of the owner's life and positive reinforcement of copying behaviors. Mirror method dog training relies on using a dog's natural instincts and inclinations rather than working against them.[71]


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.
You should always accompany your puppy outside for potty breaks. You’re there not only to ensure that he actually goes, you’re also there to reward your puppy with a treat for going in the proper spot. Wait until your puppy finishes eliminating and immediately give him a tasty reward for a job well done. If you wait until you get back in the house, your puppy won’t make the connection between his elimination and the reward.
Crate training is a vital part of potty training success. As den animals, dogs can appreciate crates as a safe space, and as clean creatures, they’ll often want to keep that sleep space clean. A crate of the proper size is important, as one that is too large may convince the pup they have space to both sleep and eliminate. Puppy pads give dogs the option of relieving themselves in an approved spot indoors. However, these can be tricky to train with if you’re ultimate goal is to get the pup to only potty outside eventually.
One of the biggest mistakes new puppy owners make is expecting their puppy to hold it for longer than he is physically capable. The general guideline for puppy “hold times” is that each month of age equates to an hour of “hold time,” so a two-month-old puppy can hold it for roughly two hours. There are exceptions to the rule; your puppy should be able to hold it for slightly longer period of time at night as he gets older and you pup will need potty breaks more frequently when he’s playing.
César Felipe Millán Favela (/ˈsiːzər mɪˈlɑːn/;[4] Spanish: [ˈsesaɾ miˈʝan]; born August 27, 1969) is a Mexican-American dog trainer[5] with over 25 years of canine experience. He is widely known for his Emmy-nominated television series Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, which was produced from 2004 to 2012 and is broadcast in more than 80 countries worldwide.[6]
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.
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.[39] 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.[40] 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.

Non-associative learning is a change in a response to a stimulus that does not involve associating the presented stimulus with another stimulus or event such as reward or punishment.[48] Habituation is non-associative learning. An example is where a dog that reacts excitedly to a door bell is subjected to repeated ringing without accompanying visitors, and stops reacting to the meaningless stimuli. It becomes habituated to the noise.[49] On the other side of habituation is sensitization. Some dogs' reactions to the stimuli become stronger instead of them habituating to the repeated stimuli or event.[50] Desensitization is the process of pairing positive experiences with an object, person, or situation that causes fear or anxiety.[51] Consistent exposure to the feared object in conjunction with rewards allows the animal to become less stressed, thereby becoming desensitized in the process. This type of training can be effective for dogs who are fearful of fireworks.[52]
Dogs thrive on a predictable schedule, and setting one up for your new puppy will make life easier for both of you. Feed your puppy at the same times each day to help you predict and schedule bathroom breaks. Schedule post-meal walks, as well as hourly trips outside during the initial stages of potty training. Always take your puppy out after crating, even if was only for a short time, and remember that vigorous play should always be interrupted for potty breaks.
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Clean up any accidents in your house completely with an enzyme cleaner. This is very important because you do not want your pup to smell somewhere he has previously marked because he will return to that spot again and again. And on that note… If Fido has an accident in front of you, and you scold, yell or punish, you will only teach Fido not to take his potty breaks in front of you – Do not punish for accidents.
Dogs don’t speak English, and just because we might yell at our dog as we catch him in the middle of peeing on the floor and then rush him outside where he finishes it off… doesn’t mean we did an effective job at telling him that outside was where he was supposed to go. We are usually too focused on getting him NOT to go inside, instead of going outside.
Letting your pup outside every hour or two gets old, but it’s the simplest way to prevent accidents from happening. If you’ve ever wondered why some people choose to get new puppies during the summer or when they’re on vacation it probably has to do with potty training. If you’ve house training a dog before you know how much time & commitment it takes.
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.
Most puppies have to eliminate about every 30-45 minutes except, of course, when sleeping. Their elimination schedule will depend upon when they last ate or drank water; rambunctious physical activity; and the big unknown - personal preference! That's right - every pup has their own inherent elimination schedule. The good news is, puppies sleep alot!

Whether you have a new pup, who is just starting out on his potty training journey, or you have an older dog that you’ve just adopted or rescued, I’m going to teach you about a process called shaping that will teach your dog to think for itself and solve problems on his own. If this is done consistently, I promise the rest of these dog training instructions will be a walk in the park!
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.
Feed your dog a high-quality diet with appropriate amounts of protein. If your dog spends most of his days lounging in your condo, don’t feed him food with a protein level that is ideal for dogs who herd sheep all day. The money that you will spend on feeding an appropriate quality food will often be money that you save in vet bills later on. I recommend you always check with your veterinarian for the right diet for your dog.
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.
You should always accompany your puppy outside for potty breaks. You’re there not only to ensure that he actually goes, you’re also there to reward your puppy with a treat for going in the proper spot. Wait until your puppy finishes eliminating and immediately give him a tasty reward for a job well done. If you wait until you get back in the house, your puppy won’t make the connection between his elimination and the reward.

Based on the principles of social learning, model-rival training uses a model, or a rival for attention, to demonstrate the desired behaviour.[69] The method was used by Irene Pepperberg to train Alex the African Grey Parrot to label a large number of objects. McKinley and Young undertook a pilot study on the applicability of a modified version of the model-rival method to the training of domestic dogs, noting that the dog's origins as a member of large and complex social groups promote observational learning. The model-rival training involved an interaction between the trainer, the dog, and a person acting as a model-rival, that is, a model for desired behaviour and a rival for the trainer's attention. In view of the dog, a dialogue concerning a particular toy commenced between the trainer and the model-rival. The trainer praised or scolded the model-rival depending on whether the model-rival had named the toy correctly. It was found that the performance times for completion of the task were similar for dogs trained with either operant conditioning or the model rival method. In addition, the total training time required for task completion was comparable for both methods.[70]


Be persistent! Make sure the puppy doesn't get the opportunity to pee and poop by using a leash indoors or confining him to a crate when you're out. Depending on the puppies age, pop him outside every 20 - 30 minutes, so there's a greater chance of him toileting outside (by accident at first.) In addition, get rid of any scent markers he's left by peeing or pooping indoors, as these will draw him back to the same spot. This means cleaning the area daily, for 2- 3 weeks after he last pooped there to fully get rid of any lingering odor that the dog can detect.
Dogs thrive on a predictable schedule, and setting one up for your new puppy will make life easier for both of you. Feed your puppy at the same times each day to help you predict and schedule bathroom breaks. Schedule post-meal walks, as well as hourly trips outside during the initial stages of potty training. Always take your puppy out after crating, even if was only for a short time, and remember that vigorous play should always be interrupted for potty breaks.
A satirized version of Millan was portrayed in "Tsst", the May 3, 2006, episode of the Comedy Central animated series South Park. In the episode, Liane Cartman enlists Millan's help in applying his principles to her misbehaving son, Eric Cartman. The principles work and Eric temporarily becomes completely reformed. However, in the end when he refuses to go on an outing with his mother, she caves in to his demands in order to persuade him to go along with her, thus reverting his behavior to its original state. In 2010, when Millan was asked if he was offended at all by the episode, he stated that the creators of the show (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) contacted him to inform him of their intentions beforehand and that he found the episode fantastic.[52] Millan reacted to the episode in a video posted on November 13, 2019 to his YouTube channel.[53]
Accidents will happen, and it’s important to clean them up thoroughly. Dogs are attracted to spots that they’ve used previously, and remember that their sense of smell is way better than ours. Pet urine can be hard to get out, and not all household products will effectively remove odors. If your dog keeps going in the same spot chances are some of that smell has been left behind. You can opt for a product that’s formulated for removing pet urine odors & stains.

A word of advice – DO NOT use potty pads; use an outdoor potty spot right away, instead. Many people are proponents of potty pads, but they can be counterintuitive at times. Yes, if you train your doggy properly, it will go potty on the potty pad when it’s time to eliminate. What happens when you take the potty pad away, though, and your dog has developed this routine of going on the pad?


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.[39] 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.[40] 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.
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