Ask An Expert: How To Potty Train Your Dog
Potty training a dog of any age can be overwhelming, frustrating, and emotional for both you AND your pup. When you add living in an apartment as a factor, potty training can be downright stressful. We talked to Kish from Down Dog Studios, a dog training center in Fargo that focuses on positive reinforcement to help dogs and dog owners live a happier life together.
We asked Kish a few questions about potty training and some tips and tricks she’s learned (and taught) over the years.
WHY DO DOGS HAVE ACCIDENTS?
A new puppy or dog doesn’t inherently know where it is expected to potty. It is up to the humans to monitor the pup or new dog at all times and take the pup out to the designated potty spot on a frequent and predictable schedule.
Even dogs you’ve had in your family for awhile can become confused when you move to a new home or apartment. A little retraining might be necessary to let your pup know when and where they need to go.
WHERE TO START WITH POTTY TRAINING?
Step one is prevention of the potty accident. This means keep your doggo in a confined, yet comfortable area or kennel when you can not fully supervise the dog. Even if it is just for a minute.
At first, this requires a lot of time and patience, but it will all pay off! The more consistent and predictable you are, the faster and easier potty training will go!
Keeping the pup on a consistent feeding, potty, and exercise schedule will help you predict when the dog has to go to the bathroom, and help the puppy get used to when and where it is supposed to potty.
WHEN AND HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO TAKE MY DOG OUTSIDE?
A pup can hold their bladder/bowels for one hour per month of life, plus one. For example, a two month old dog can “hold it” for at most 2-3 hours. However, if a dog is very active, they will need to go potty sooner. An active body means an active bladder.
Young pups often don’t know their bladder is full until it is too late. So happily interrupt a play session and get your pup outside for a potty break instead of waiting and wondering if they need to go. When they wake up from a nap, even if it was a short nap, quickly take them outside for a potty break.
If you notice any body language indicating your pup is looking for a place to potty (sniffing the ground, circling, leaving the room), praise them for these indications as you quickly encourage them outside.
If your dog routinely comes inside after going to the bathroom and has an accident a few minutes later, do not take them off leash or let them out of your sight after you come inside. Take them back out a few minutes later and offer another potty break.
HOW LONG DOES POTTY TRAINING NORMALLY TAKE?
Puppies are not normally 100% potty trained before 6-8 months of age. Each week, you should see progress, but expect some potty accidents.
Potty training regression happens when the humans become more relaxed with monitoring of the pup’s feeding and potty schedule. If potty training takes a step backward, don’t panic! Go back to the basics of strict monitoring and frequent and regular potty breaks.
If there is still no improvement consult with a Veterinarian to rule out medical concerns that may be causing issues.
Also consider when the accidents are happening. Stress, fear and over excitement can cause pups to have accidents.
DO YOU AND HOW DO YOU DISCIPLINE A DOG THAT HAS POTTIED INSIDE?
Punishing a dog for having an accident inside does not help the pup understand where and when it is supposed to go. In fact, this can hurt your potty training progress and relationship with your dog. It most likely will make the dog fearful of the person reprimanding them. This can cause the dog to be scared of going to the bathroom in front of the human, no matter where they are.
Punishment does not help teach the pup what the SHOULD be doing. We want our pups to trust us so they feel comfortable communicating with us. If a dog is scolded for a potty accident the dog may try to hide the next time it has to relieve themselves, instead of trying to tell you that it has to go potty.
It’s always best monitor the pup and happily cue them outside of you see any signs that they need to potty. If a pup starts to potty in front of you, simply make an upbeat, interrupting sound, “oopsie”, as you direct the pup outside.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PRAISE A DOG THAT POTTIES OUTSIDE?
Take your pup outside and monitor them so you can see if they potty or not.
Be “boring” and limit the amount you are talking to them so you don’t distract them.
Once they start to potty, remain quiet and calm until they are completely done, and then immediately praise them and offer them a treat.
Praise and treat timing is important. Praise as soon as the pup has done their business. If they like to romp outside, give them some time to play after they potty. Some people quickly direct the dog inside but this can be a punishment for some pups who want more time outside. Dogs then might start to hold their potty longer because they know when they potty they have to go right inside. For those pups celebrate a few more minutes outside and then happily call them in.
WHAT BOOKS DO YOU RECOMMEND?
Puppy Primer by Patricia B. McConnell
How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Sophia Yin
DOG TRAINING AND CLASSES
If you have other behaviors you want to focus on, or need help correcting, Down Dog Studios offers individual and group classes on topics ranging from leash training, public setting behavior, and basic manners. You can visit them online at www.fmdowndog.com, or call 701-367-8217