Robin and I were in Decatur last Wednesday with a new Home Dog Training client and his newly arrived Irish Setter puppy named Conan. Like most puppies, Conan was full of vigor, always moving at lightning speed, and highly inquisitive regarding the world around him. The first thing that we knew we had to accomplish was to have Conan understand that he needed to obey and pay attention to his owner.  That was the lynchpin in having him become a great puppy and wonderful family member.

Potty train your new puppy 

We initially worked on simple focus using natural canine communication techniques.  Once we were able to easily gain Conan’s thoughtful and calm focus on command, we moved on to simple obedience lessons.  Conan quickly picked up on the classic obedience exercises of Come, Sit, and Walk.  From there, we reviewed the “Basics of Potty”.

Our client told us that, for the short time that Conan had been with him, Conan hadn’t made a lot of potty accidents.  We told them that was great news, but that it was still important to understand what to do when “things start to go awry”.  Just like our mothers would “remind us”, “potty training is not an exact science”.  It is something that he will constantly be managing with Conan.

When potty training Conan, I told my client that he is really working with Conan’s bladder.  No matter what schedule he tries to place him on, it is Conan’s bladder that will ultimately say “Time to go!”. My client can not force Conan’s bladder to “go or to hold it”.  As I mentioned earlier, it is all based on appropriately managing his bladder in such a way that will allow us to understand when that “go time” will occur.

All this is coming down to the fact that my client cannot control Conan’s potty actions.  His goal in the potty process is to have the ability to observe and direct Conan’s potty actions.  Just like us, if Conan “has to go”, no amount of “potty training” will stop him from going.

So, it appears that I just told my client that potty training wasn’t about telling Conan when and where to go potty.  If this is true, what does he need to accomplish to be successful in potty training Conan? The secret is that he isn’t “telling Conan” when to go potty.  He is understanding “when conan has to go potty”.

Understanding the “when of potty training” is based on observation and the ability to establish consistent and managed scenarios. My client must understand how to encourage a wanted action and discourage an unwanted action. Robin and I went over this process in great detail with our client.  Our client was surprised at how simple and intuitive potty training really was.

After nineteen years and thousands of potty-trained puppies, Robin and I have discovered several excellent procedures that are key with successful potty training and a “poopy-free house”. These procedures were part of our review with our client.  We would like to share them with you.

It is critical that you always keep your puppy in your sight during the potty-training process. This does not mean “I think he is just over there”.  Your eyes must always be on him.  We recommend that you keep in on a leash.  If you don’t want to always be holding the leash, you can let it “drag behind him”.  The passive weight of the leash will encourage him to stay in one place.  If nothing else, it will “slow him down” if he does decide to run out of sight.  If you don’t have the ability to watch him and can’t hold the leash, place it under your chair leg as you are working on the computer or talking on the phone.

Why don’t you want to let your puppy get out of your sight?  You first need to be aware of your puppy’s instinct to locate a “potty place”.  It is normally the case that they don’t want to potty around us.  This is because “potty leaves a smell”.  That smell gives off a signal of “Hey, I am here!”.

Although Conan is a “house puppy”, he is still a dog and still has “canine instincts of safety”.  His ancestors had to protect themselves from larger and stronger animals.  They did not want to tell the “bad animals” where they were.  It is that ingrained sense of safety that causes Conan to find “another place to potty”.  I told my client that if he noticed Conan starting to “wander off”, it could quite possibly be an indication that he needs to potty.

My client also needs to watch Conan so that he can gain valuable information regarding Conan’s natural potty times and triggers.  If he has Conan on a leash, the only thing Conan can do is to go to the bathroom right in front of him.  This will allow him to see that Conan went potty at a specific time.   That is a good indication that he should be sure to take him out for potty at about that time tomorrow.

Conan also could have been providing triggers regarding his potty need.  He might have been barking in a high pitch.  He may have been pulling towards the door.  He may have been spinning around in circles.  Although my client may have had no idea what those actions meant at the time, his seeing them and then seeing Conan potty are strong indicators that when he observes Conan doing them that Conan is saying “Time to potty! Let’s go!”

Robin and I find that the crate is an essential tool in the potty-training process.  The crate should always be a “happy place” for Conan and a place in which he enjoys spending time.  The crate should be placed in a part of the house that is normally filled with family members so that Conan feels like “he is part of the group” when he is inside the crate.  Always make sure that it is clean so that it is an enjoyable environment for Conan.  It would also be quite helpful to have it near some windows or a glass door so that Conan can “watch what is going outside” to help him pass the time.

As I alluded to above, it is important to establish that the crate is part of Conan’s “living space”.  Because it is his “living space”, being in there will deter his pottying in the crate.  This means that if you must leave him out of sight for a short time (i.e., taking a shower), you can leave him in the crate with a high level of confidence that he won’t potty during your absence.

Most potty mistakes are based on your puppy peeing on the floor.  They pee on the floor because their bladder is full of water.  We all love our puppies and, in wanting to be great puppy owners, we always make sure that they have bowls overflowing with water. The problem is that “too much water” leads to “too much peeing”.  We need to manage our puppy’s water so that they have enough water for healthy hydration and natural growth.  We don’t want to give them so much water so that they are bloated and have to constantly pee.

Robin and I recommend that you provide your puppy with a full bowl of water at their mealtime.  Just like “clearing the table”, pick the bowl up after your puppy has finished his meal.  Since he is a puppy and needs additional hydration to sustain his rapid growth, place about one inch of water in his bowl and place it down between meals.  Check the bowl about every hour. If it is empty, place another inch of water in the bowl.  If there is still water in the bowl, wait and check later.

By now you should be aware that successful potty training is based on management and observation.  This makes your puppy’s mealtime a critical “cog in the machine”.  To put it quite simply, the food makes the poop which is the potty we are trying to manage.  If we don’t manage everything about the food, everything becomes a variable with success impossible.

Don’t just throw some food in your puppy’s bowl. Carefully measure the amount of food you are giving your puppy.  The best way to accomplish this is to use a standard food measuring bowl and follow the instructions on the dog food bag.  Look at the chart on the bag to determine Conan’s daily allowance.  (If you feel that Conan may need a different amount, please call Conan’s vet for assistance.)

Make sure that feeding time is the same every day. Your puppy’s consistent mealtime will assist you in determining his consistent potty times. Understand that you are feeding your puppy a meal and not serving him a buffet. Pick up his food and water (see above) after fifteen to twenty minutes. (Don’t worry, if he hasn’t eaten all his food the first few times you have done this, he quickly will.)  A short, targeted food consumption period will greatly assist you in determining your puppy’s standard potty times.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.