Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dog Gone Problems,
I first want to start off by saying thanks for allowing dog guardians to come to you for advice.
I have a 3-month-old male Chorkie mix. He is super smart. In fact, I have never had a dog so smart before.
But when it comes to potty training, I have tried EVERYTHING â keeping him in a crate with a training pad and placing training pads around the house. I stuck to this method for a month. No progress â except at times he would get out of his bed and pee on the pad, then walk directly on the floor and poop. It’s like he knows but is stubborn.
He is really feisty, which makes it hard to even deal with him. I do not know what the previous owner did, but Lord it is hard! I have tried the outside thing and he wants to play. I sit outside for more than 30 minutes and he will not eliminate outside. When I bring him inside and put him back in the cage, he uses it instantly. If I reach for him after he has used it, he will immediately cry and bark. I am lost! There is so much more and I do not know what to do!
Thanks for reading! Potty training is one of the most common questions I get, and it can sure be a frustrating time for a guardian.
Usually, puppies are taught by their mother that they should not eliminate where they sleep. Sometimes this good work is undone by inattentive breeders or puppy mills who leave puppies in a crate longer than they can hold it. With no other options, the puppy starts to mess in the kennel and this can be a very difficult behavior to change.
Before I share tips to fix your puppy potty training problem, let’s discuss things to never do when potty training.
â First off is to avoid getting upset when your puppy eliminates in the kennel. I know cleaning it up sucks, but getting angry or displaying frustration through your tone, energy or movements can confuse the pup into thinking you are mad at them.
â Rubbing the pups nose in it or yelling when a puppy makes a mistake have both been clinically proven to make potty training take longer. In fact, any punishment-based approach is going to make things harder or backfire â so keep it 100 percent positive.
Now, on to the tips for fixing the potty training problem.
The first thing to do is pick a command word for going potty; I always recommend using fun words. Creating a positive association to the command word is key, so I often recommend people change the word when potty training hasnât been successful. Next, get some high-value training treats with a strong smell. I like using chicken liver. Avoid cookie treats, as they are nowhere near as appealing as meat to a dog.
Take your puppy outside when he is most likely to eliminate â right after waking up, 5 to 10 minutes after eating and 15 minutes after play time. I also take my puppy out on the hour, every hour. Having the puppy in the right place at the right time is huge when it comes to potty training.
When you go out, donât tell the puppy what to do. Follow him around but act like you arenât paying attention. Stay within 10 feet of your puppy as he wanders around. Many dogs sniff the ground while moving in circles in the same area before they go. If your puppy doesnât go within five minutes, take him back inside and pick him up. Hold or stay with your dog for 15 minutes inside before trying again. Staying outside longer than five minutes will not help. If a puppy doesnât need to go within five minutes, the need to eliminate isnât strong enough yet.
After waiting 15 minutes, take the pup out and give him another five minutes to go. Keep repeating this process until the dog eliminates. As soon as this happens, say your new command word one time in a normal tone of voice. Saying something too loud or excited often stops the dog from completing things. When your puppy finishes, crouch down and call your dogâs name. When he comes to you, pop a treat in his mouth, then say the new command word right after. When he finishes chewing, pop in another treat and say the word again. Do this for five treats. You want your puppy saying, âWhat the heck did I just do to get such an impressive reward?â
Make sure to go out with your dog every time for at least two weeks so you donât miss an opportunity to reward successful elimination.
Here are a few extra tips and tricks:
â Start a potty journal. Dogâs digestive tracks are usually pretty consistent. If you feed your puppy at the same times each day and keep track of when he poops, you will find the general times your puppy will need to go.
â Make sure your dog’s crate area is snug. The pup should only have enough room to lay down and stand up, otherwise he’ll go wherever he can move away from. Also, try to keep your puppy out of the kennel as much as possible when he might need to go. Remember, the more your puppy poops in the kennel, they more he will in the future, since he’s practicing this now-established behavior pattern.Â
â Add in warm water to the dogâs kibble. Dogs usually pass liquids in about 45 minutes, so if you give your puppy a cup or so of warm water with his kibble, you’ll know when he needs to go. After he’s finished eating, take the pup outside and wait for five minutes. If he doesn’t go, put him on a leash and take him out for a long walk. Keep walking until he eliminates. When he does, be sure to reward him with five treats as detailed earlier.
â Use clicker training to mark the action of going potty. This is especially helpful for small dogs who potty quickly. Make sure you prime the clicker a few times before using this approach. As soon as your dog starts to potty outside, click once, then wait for him to finish before immediately giving him the five treats as I detailed earlier. This helps ensure the dog understands it’s the act of going potty outside that got the click and the reward.
If you monitor and conduct potty breaks this way consistently for one to two weeks, your pup should start to associate going outside with getting rewarded. When this happens, the pup will start protesting when in the kennel or with you, as he wants to go outside to potty and get those five treats.
Good luck and remember â everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.