Here is an area where a little sacrifice and deliberate effort pays a dividend for a lifetime. We take it seriously pretty much from day one here at Two Gun. We have a house full of Drents and despite having the word “kennel” in our name, our kennel is our home. Having our home smell like urine and feces is for sure a full-stop-no-go around here. It is unpleasant, unsanitary and embarrassing to have guests over.
Potty training isn’t difficult, but it does take some diligence and we strive to set you up for success before pup even goes home. I’m not saying you have no work to do, but it is on you if your pup decides the inside is the place to go…let me explain.
We use wee-wee pads, and in a pinch will use fresh news print. Keeping the puppies’ area clean, dry and sanity is of the utmost importance for a number of reasons. One of them being for potty training, so from the earliest days we begin encouraging the pups to use the pads to do their business away from where they spend their time resting, nursing and playing. Once they become just mobile enough the pads are placed into rabbit trays to set a boundary on the potty area, and this is set back and away from where we greet and care for them, and like has been said where they nurse, rest and play which begins to reinforce the use of the potty zone.
This all goes to build the preference and habit of eliminating away from the desirable areas, and we will then begin to use this preference/habit to help transition them to using the great outdoors.
It has been said in just about every forum of dog training and ownership, lack of house training is one of the top deal-breakers for many...and learning to quickly house train your dog is a top priority for most dog owners – but they too often struggle with this task.
Once pups are getting more mobile, we will introduce the bell to help them associate and give them a way to tell us when they want to go out. This is fiendishly simple, and many dogs will learn the association very rapidly – it will become your job to be Johnny on the Spot with getting them out and praising them when “it” happens.
But before I give you the secret to the door bell, I need you to understand a few things about puppy plumbing and when they will need to go potty. This will help you to get out in front of them and get as close to a 100% success rate as possible. Pups will want to eliminate within a few moments of waking from a nap, after finishing a meal or a play session. The younger they are, the shorter this duration is. You need a Potty Diary. Write down when they did what and what time is was. This really helps you key in on what pup’s cycle is, how many times a day they do what and when they do it. Once you know Spot poop’s three times a day and it happens at 10, 2, and 6…and he’s only done two of the three and it’s 6:30PM, you my friend are on borrowed time. You then need to know your tolerance for risk, are you a gambler? When it comes to poop on my carpet the answer is: not at all – let’s get him outside on a leash and be ready to praise him when it happens.
Why the leash, and why praise? Well, here is the deal, your dog needs to be comfortable doing his thing near you. Do you travel? You will need to collect a sample for the vet eventually. Also, unless you have the ability to correct a puppy within 1/3rd of a second whatever you do to scold him will be lost on him. His ability to associate his punishment with what he did just isn’t there. All you are doing is damaging the trust you are trying to build. So, once YOU have missed the boat, put pup outside, or in his kennel and get your carpet cleaner out and get to work – it’s on all on you my friend.
Okay, back to getting pup on a leash and getting him out. Keep a slip lead around, or really keep a few around in areas you allow the pup, or better yet don’t let pup in an area you aren’t in. When you hustle to the door, with pup trotting by your side or tucked under your arm as the situation may dictate – give the bell a quick jingle on the way out. No fuss no muss, a simple quick jingle every time pup goes out to go potty. That will be seven to ten times a day for a while. My oldest Paxson learned this in barely two weeks, Booker in less than a week. Pup will ring that bell when he wants out. This is a huge help! However, if you are too slow, you will have a wet spot by the door. I can guarantee it. So, don’t let your guard down once the bell in in play. Once in a while a dog will abuse the bell having you be his butler letting him out at will…and that is a different conversation for a different day.
What else can you do to help set the stage? Well before pup ever comes home…
This one may sound obvious, but it’s one most likely the biggest one every dog owner has totally missed. Unless your home has new virgin carpet, deep-clean all accident spots in your home with an enzyme-based cleaner. I strongly recommend knuckling down and purchasing an upright Bissell, any of their pet cleaners really. It is a purchase you will not regret. They do way better than just surface cleaning, you can cycle water and or cleaning fluid through trouble spots and extract excess water and cleaner for rapid drying. Remember wee soaks in and can even penetrate the carpet padding and even the subflooring – and why blotting and other surface cleaning methods just don’t work. Surface cleaning a carpet still leaves odor in the carpet pad and on the sub-floor. If you have trouble spots like this consider using a product like Nature’s Miracle which works well. You should use enough cleaner to fully saturate everywhere urine penetrated – this can be quite a lot of fluid. Remember, a dog’s nose is thousands of times more sensitive than yours, and if he can smell any remnants, he will be tempted to return to that spot to eliminate.
It bears repeating, unless you catch your dog in the act of eliminating indoors and can make an effective correction within 1/3rd of a second (that’s quick pardner), just clean the mess and blame yourself for not managing him closely enough. Some people think, err ah rather, anthropomorphize a dog’s “guilty look” indicates he understands what he did wrong, most likely the dog is reading your hostile demeanor and trying to appease you.
Moving on to the next point, and why it is critically important for you to praise young Spot for doing his business outdoors. Chastising your dog “after the fact” (outside of the 1/3rd of a second window) can produce some negative side-effects. If your dog associates your harshness with his accident, he may become afraid to eliminate in your presence. Not only may he try to hide his accidents from you indoors, but he may not eliminate in your presence when you take him for a walk or go into the back yard with him which then opens the door to having other problems you will need to solve – let’s head those all off at the pass and not allow then to manifest in the first place.
I’ve mentioned it several times already, let’s say you are right there when it happens, and you have the opportunity to make a correction in that split-second window, what is appropriate? Simply interrupt the behavior with a finger-snap and a “no” and get the dog outside to finish his business. When he finishes, praise and reward him.
Another pro-tip is remembering pups rarely have all their stuff together and are easily distracted, so when you get him outside and he’s down one thing and you have praised him. Be sure to give him 5-10 more minutes to sniff around. Dogs often do not empty their bladders/bowels the first time. If he eliminates again, give him 5-10 more minutes if time allows, if not, then he should be kenneled and or closely monitored. Then again, if you have been up on your Potty Diary you may know your pup is fully done and might be up for a gamble – just remember if you lose it’s on you.
Another reason to not to quickly return pup inside right away after he’s done his business is it could begin to teach him that eliminating causes his outdoor fun to end, which could cause him to hold his elimination for longer than necessary periods of time. After his final elimination, keep him outside for a few more minutes before returning indoors.
When your dog is in the process of eliminating, quietly repeat a cue word you would like to use to tell your dog you want him to eliminate. I like to use: “Hurry up. Hurry up. Hurry up.” Later, you can use the cue word/phase to help encourage your dog to get down to business, which can be helpful when traveling or if it is cold out.
A great way to help win all the bets is to get your all your pup’s eating and drinking on a tight schedule. If you can control his input, you can predict his output. If you can predict his output, you can accumulate outdoor successes. And outdoor successes will lead to creating the habit of eliminating outdoors. This also includes getting him through the night without needing to wee at 0230… pick that water up a few hours before you go to bed and be sure to give pup ample opportunity to get it all worked out before putting him down for the night.
Be sure to restrict pup’s movements indoors. They cannot be allowed to have free run. I have an article on teething and this applies there too. You may need to tether pup to you or something initially, and has he becomes more trustworthy allow his area to increase. But out of sight is a recipe for getting acquainted with that new Bissell. Crates and play pens are also valuable tools in helping you to control the battle space, don’t be afraid to use them to your advantage.
The key to quick success with house training is managing the dog’s activity closely and rewarding successes consistently. It is not uncommon for dogs to have regressions once they’ve been completely house trained. If it happens, just take a few liberties away and rebuild from there.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Forty some years later this is what you get.