“The Good Word” by Dr. Carol Good – Rockford Animal Hospital

*Part 1 – How to Potty Train Your Puppy*

     Now that school is done and the (relatively?) warm weather of a West Michigan summer is upon us, many people decide the time is right to bring a new puppy into the family. Puppies are wonderful, but there is a lot of work involved in transforming that frisky pup into a well behaved adult. I want to help you with two of the issues you will need to work on first: Potty Training and Socialization. I’ll start with Potty Training today and we’ll talk about Socialization another time.

Before we get any further, we need to talk about the time commitment that it takes to potty train a puppy. Potty training is not a part time job. You can’t work on potty training on the weekends or just in the evenings. If someone in your family can’t be home with your puppy during the day for the first nine months of its life, you are setting your puppy up for failure and yourself for frustration. If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to think of creative solutions to get you through this time.

If you work close to home, maybe you could come home on your lunch hour to let your puppy eliminate and work on potty training. If you can’t come home during work hours, perhaps you can enlist the help of a neighbor, friend or relative to stop at your home or take the puppy to their house to do the same thing. Another option is to use the services of a “Doggy Day Care” until your puppy is trained and old enough to wait to eliminate until you are home from work. The Day Care staff can socialize and potty train your puppy while you are at work so training doesn’t stall or regress.

Now that we understand the time commitment necessary to potty train, let’s make sure that your puppy is getting a consistent message when different people are potty training. Everyone must use the same words, techniques and rewards so that the process is exactly the same no matter who is potty training your puppy. This will help your puppy to learn very quickly what you want him/her to do.

I recommend having a family meeting so that you can talk over the process and how you are going to do potty training in your house. First, pick a word or phrase that will be used to communicate to your puppy that it’s time to go to the door and go outside. At my house, it’s “Outside”. Then, pick a different word/phrase that will be used to tell your puppy that this is the correct place to eliminate. Again, at my house, it’s “Do it”.   Please note: these two words don’t sound alike and are short.

Other tools you will need are: a bell (to hang from the door knob of the door that leads outside); a leash; a kitchen timer; a dog crate big enough that your puppy can stand up and lay down comfortably as he/she grows; a supply of potty training, absorbent pads; a bag containing small pieces of treats that your puppy is wild about eating; and lastly, a shovel or bag to pick up the poo.

We are just getting started here, so stay tuned for the next installment in a couple days. I’ll explain the three stages of potty training and why punishment doesn’t help when training your puppy.

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