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,
My now 4-month-old female teacup Yorkie is not very smart when it comes to potty business.
At first, when I brought Emma home at 8-weeks-old, I tried teaching her to go outside. We live in Maine and it was the dead of winter.
My second option was potty pads. I have to put down pads on two different spots because she wonât pee and poop on the same potty pad. Why?
And any chance Emma gets, she will pee on the throw rug by the entrance door. I have been using washable potty pads but they stink and I personally prefer the disposable pads.
I am an âOCD clean and germ-freeâ person. When Emma pees on the floor because she missed her potty pad or poops because she just lets it out wherever she may be, I have to mop the floor with bleach and Mr. Clean. My apartment stinks like a dog and I’m tired of it. My health is not 100 percent and I donât have time to deal with all this puppy is demanding from me.
I am not one to give up; I love Emma very much. But I’m feeling like I live in her potty.
I have been told by other Yorkie parents that they just use diapers. To me that shows laziness. I want to know your opinion on properly training my Emma. She has cost me way too much money thus far for me to just give up.
I have thought of using a low cat box with a pad in it. I will wait to hear back from you as well. Thanks for you time and much needed advice.
Frustrated in Maine,
I know potty training can be frustrating at times, but remember, your puppy is only a baby and you signed up for this. Having difficulty potty training is not an indicator of her intelligence. When puppies struggle with potty training, it’s usually due to something the guardian is or is not doing.
It’s also important to consider your puppy’s age. It’s not realistic to expect a puppy to be potty trained until they are at least 4-months-old, so please revamp your expectations. You wouldnât get upset at a human baby who had an accident when he or she is still potty training.
I always tell my dog behavior clients who live in cold weather states to wait until later winter or early spring to get a puppy. As you discovered, the cold makes potty training more challenging, as both human and puppy want to get back inside. This leads some puppies to not fully empty their bladders, which often results in another accident inside.
The good news is this is a very fixable problem.
First off, get rid of the washable potty pads and get the disposable version. These are inexpensive and much easier to use. No one wants to handle soiled fabric.
Next, be sure to have the rugs professionally cleaned by someone using a cleaning product with enzymes. If you donât use the product with enzymes, you are leaving behind trace amounts your puppy can smell, which will attract her to go there again.
I want to be diplomatic in my next piece of advice. You seem very frustrated with the puppy and some of what you wrote tells me part of you thinks this is intentional. I can assure you it’s not. I can also assure you that if you are visibly frustrated with this problem, you can make it worse.
I have seen people yell at the puppy, glare with hard eyes, walk around with dramatic body movement and language (slamming doors, big exhales, etc.) out of frustration, which the puppy can start to associate with going potty. This can very easily make your issue worse.
The only way to potty train a puppy is with positive reinforcement for successful eliminations, and to repeat that over and over until the puppy is developed enough to have muscle control over the bladder.
Make sure you never rub her nose in an accident or reprimand the puppy if you see her having an accident. These are the two most common things people do that makes things worse. If you catch her mid-accident, stomp on the floor or slap a wall to distract her, then take her outside.
This video will show you how to use positive reinforcement to motivate your puppy to want to go outside.
One last tip: I have found that using a clicker can help for small puppies. They eliminate with such a small volume that it’s sometimes tricky to reward the dog with a treat quick enough.
To use a clicker, you will first need to prime the clicker. Toss a high value treat on the floor in front of Emma. As soon as she licks it up, click once. Do that for a dozen treats three times a day for a couple of days.
On the fourth day, take the clicker outside with you along with a few treats. When you see her start to go potty, click. When she finishes, bow or bend down and extend your arm with your palm up with a treat in it. Say the command word to potty right after you give the treat and be sure to smile. You want your dog to know how pleased you are for going outside.
Good luck and remember â everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.