Robin and I were at a Home Dog Training session in Dawsonville on Thursday with a new client and his Irish Setter puppy. Blarney was true to his name with high energy and a playful spirit.  We focused most of our training on establishing good behavior and focus between Blarney and his owners.  That was very important to make sure that they could control and guide him as he grew into his teenage years.  After we gained Blarney’s focus and attention, we guided him through proper behavior scenarios and began to work on simple, puppy obedience exercises.  Even though they said that Blarney was doing pretty well when it came to potty mistakes, Robin and I wanted to review some of the basics. 

Potty training involves always watching your puppy and the proper use of his crate

We first congratulated out clients for having a puppy that is not making many potty mistakes.  This helps to minimize much of the anxiety of getting a new puppy and all the concerns of “doing the right thing”.  We reminded them that potty training is never an exact science.  It is a process that you can never solve, but you can manage.  Unlike many other training procedures where you can get “partial credit”, potty training is only given on a “pass/fail” basis.  Did Blarney make a potty mistake?  No; you pass. Yes; you fail.

Another problem with potty training is that there are so many opinions on how to properly train your puppy.  Many of these opinions are based on conjecture and forcing the puppy’s metabolism to fit with the client’s schedule.  These distract you from focusing on your puppy’s needs, his natural body functions, and your ability to manage those functions.

I like to say that you can’t control your puppy’s potty actions, you can only observe and direct his potty actions.  If your puppy has to go potty, no amount of training is going to have him think “Oh well, I will just hold it until my master says it is time to go potty”.  When you have to go, you have to go.  The same is true of your puppy.  A bladder is a bladder is a bladder is a bladder.

So if potty training isn’t training your puppy when and where to go potty, what is it?  The secret to success is understanding when to encourage and to discourage your puppy from pottying.  This is done by understanding your puppy’s potty training process through observation and finally management.  Robin and I spent the better part of an hour going over the details with our client.  As we were finishing our discussion, we wanted to provide encouragement to our client that his potty training efforts were going to be a success.

After fifteen years and thousands of potty trained puppies, We have observed that there are a few tricks (or procedures) that are most important when it comes to either successfully having a potty trained puppy or having potty all over your house.  We reviewed these with our client as a final “make sure you do this”.  We would like to share them with you.

Always have your puppy in your sight when you are potty training them.  This does not mean “Oh, he is around here somewhere”.  You must always have an eye on him.  We suggest that you put a leash on him during this time.  You don’t need to hold the leash, just let it drag behind your puppy.  This will act as a passive deterrent to his movement and will “slow him down” if he tries to sneak off.  If you are working on the computer or on a business call and can not constantly watch him, you can take the leash and tie it to your chair leg.

There are several reasons why you want to keep your puppy in your sight.  The first reason deals with your puppy’s natural instinct regarding pottying.  Puppies (and dogs) normally do not want to potty in the middle of everybody else.  This comes from their sense of safety and smell.  When they potty, it leaves a smell.  The “bad animals” (Lions, tigers, and bears) will smell the scent and go to that location for their next meal.  Your puppy will naturally want to move away from you so that he keeps the group safe.  If you think about it, most puppies will disappear into the “other room” and do their business behind the chair in the far corner.   When you see your puppy trying to leave the area, that is a good indication that it is potty time.

The next reason why you want to keep your puppy in your sight is to gain information.  If your puppy is near you and you aren’t “picking up on his need to leave the area”, he will eventually potty in front of you.  When this happens, you will learn two things.  First, you will know the time that he needed to go.  That will help you build a schedule and know when to get him out next time.  It will also give you the opportunity to observe his body language.  Was he making any type of a “potty dance”?  Was he whining or barking?  Was he scratching at the door?  These could have been his signals to you that he had to go.  Watching him make these actions and then seeing that he potties will educate you on his signals of “Hey, I have to go potty!”

The crate is a great tool for potty training.  It should be a happy place that your puppy enjoys and is happy to visit.  You should always make sure that it is clean and in an area that is part of the active living section of the house.  The crate should not be in the garage or the back laundry room.  It should be in the family room or other room often frequented by family members.  It should be placed so that your puppy has a clear view of everything going on as well as the doors leaving the room.  It would be better if it were also near a window or french doors so that your puppy can observe what is going on outside.

There are many aspects of crate training, but I only want to address the “potty issue” now.  The crate is part of your puppy’s living space.  As I mentioned earlier, he wants to make sure that it stays safe and secure from “the bad animals”.  This means that your puppy will do whatever he can not to potty in the crate. So, if you can’t watch your puppy (i.e. taking a shower or going out), put him in the crate.

This does not mean that the crate is a “magical no pee zone”.  No. If left in the crate too long, your puppy will make a potty accident in the crate. Don’t leave him in the crate for an inordinate length of time.

We have observed that the highest instances of potty mistakes come from urination.  This is caused by having a bladder bloated with water.  Unfortunately, we normally give our puppies way too much water than their diet requires.  We need to manage their water so that they have enough for hydration and growth, but not too much to simply have a full bladder.  We want them to use the water and not just let it all pass right through them.

We suggest that you allow your puppy a full bowl of water at their meal time.  Once the meal is complete, pick up the water bowl and empty it.  Put about one inch of water in the bowl and put it back down.  This will make sure that they had the needed hydration for their meal and you have now measured and will manage their water intake between meals.  Check the water bowl every two to three hours to see if it is empty.  If it is empty, put another inch of water in the bowl.

If you notice wee-wee mistakes, cut the water down by not filling it quite as fast when you discover the bowl is empty.  If needed, you can limit the water at meal time by cutting a full bowl of water to three quarters of a bowl, etc.

Please take note: My comments about water are based on normal circumstances. Overly active puppies or hot, arid environments may cause the need for additional water.  Health conditions may also require extra water.  When in doubt, please refer to your veterinarian.

As you can see, successful potty training is all about watching and managing.  This makes meal time very important.  This is the time where you put the stuff into your puppy that is going to create the potty.  You need to be in control of this process.  First, measure the food you will give your puppy.  Use a measuring bowl and follow the instructions on the dog food bag.  Their daily allowance is all the food they will get that day. (Please check with your veterinarian if you feel the amount stated on the bag is inappropriate for your puppy.)

Next, feed them at the same time every day.  This will help to build up a daily routine. Finally, pick the bowl up after twenty to thirty minutes.  They will learn to eat when the food is in front of them and will allow you to create a baseline of when they ate.  This will allow you to better understand when they will normally have to go to the bathroom.

As I mentioned earlier, there are many other factors that go into your successful understanding of your puppy’s potty training needs.  The ones that I have mentioned above are the ones that are absolutely necessary for successful potty training.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over fifteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.