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.
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It’s one of those trained behaviors that’s SUPER simple to teach any dog, but really impresses your friends and family. But more importantly, it gives your dog a way to actually tell you he REALLY needs to go potty. This comes in VERY handy when you don’t happen to be in the same room with your dog when nature calls… but with the ringing of the bell, you can hear your dog asking to go outside from any room in your house!
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.
There is only one acceptable methodology for potty training a dog of any age: positive reinforcement. Traditional advice suggested swatting a dog or rubbing his face in his waste for mistakes in the house, but those techniques do nothing to make the potty training process more understandable for your dog and can actually damage your relationship with him. Keep in mind, dogs don’t view their waste the way we do – to them, pee and poo is pretty interesting! Punishing your dog for going in the house won’t help him understand what he should do instead and might make him afraid to go near you at all, inside or out. Successful potty training requires patience, kindness and remembering that your new puppy is just learning the rules.
Training clubs that run the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme - the largest dog training programme in the UK are a sensible place to begin. Here you will learn about every aspect of dog ownership from the Puppy Foundation Courses through to Bronze, Silver and Gold award levels. Go to GCDS Training Clubs in your County to find one near to you or email the GCDS Team ([email protected]) or call 0207 518 1011.