Updated: Apr 26, 2022
So glad to see you made your way over to Wine&Whiskers: Potty training 101.
I have to ask, was it my charming wit, or sarcastic and relatable approach?
Maybe you're here because your knees are calloused, or maybe you're simply tired of washing your "tootsies" with the same godly, devout vigor you'd expect from none less than The Pope Francis.
No matter the reason, I'm eager to help you dry off those socks and get your puppy headed towards greener pastures....or yards, really any grassy area will do. First lets make sure we've covered our bases. Before I go any further it's important to know that you can SCROLL ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL THE WAY DOWN TO THE VERY BOTTOM FOR SOME CUT AND DRY DO'S and DON'TS OF POTTY TRAINING. Keep in mind that you'd be robbing yourself of that "charming wit" and sarcastic tone that brought you here in the first place. Your loss!
Wait, you're still here? You really are desperate. Let's begin, shall we? When starting a training plan, I'll always refer back to whats known as the "Humane Hierarchy."
The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants or IAABC describes this as - "The Humane Hierarchy serves to guide professionals in their decision-making process during training and behavior modification. Additionally, it assists owners and animal care professionals in understanding the standard of care to be applied in determining training practices and methodologies and the order of implementation for applying those training practices and methodologies."
- Yes, I know. "Blah, blah, blah, right? I promised you a comprehensive approach, so this really is important, bear with me just a little bit longer.
If you're really that obstinate I suppose you could just skip right through all the "mumbo jumbo" to the DO's and Don'ts, your choice. After all, you're the one with soggy carpeting.
Hierarchy of Procedures for Humane and Effective Practice include:
Health, nutritional, and physical factors: Ensure that any indicators for possible medical, nutritional, or health factors are addressed by a licensed veterinarian. The consultant should also address potential factors in the physical environment.
- So what have we learned here? What's that I hear? You should take your dog to the vet for a check-up? BINGO!!!!! DING, DING, DING, DING!!!! YOU'RE THE WINNER.
Wait, don't say it. I know what you're about to say.... does it go something like this?
"But Miss dog trainer lady, veterinarians are expensive (so is new carpeting, don't shoot the messenger) and my dog is fine, he's just an uncivilized mongrel who enjoys sh*ting on my bathroom rug, purely out of spite."
*Insert me taking a very, very, deep breath here*
- OK, well we won't even dive into how you feel your animal is eliminating themselves out of an emotional urge to seek revenge on you, that's just silly, and definitely more of a Whiskers&Whiskey topic anyway, but I STRONGLY encourage you to have all potential medical concerns ruled out before attempting any behavior modification. It's the responsible thing to do. It's also the right thing to do. Have you ever tried holding your bladder for more than 45 minutes when you have a bladder infection?.......No? That's because you can't, you physically cannot, it would cause you extraordinary discomfort. Just go see your vet, OK? This is especially pertinent if your dog was reliably housebroken in the past, many conditions can cause potty training setbacks.
Antecedents: Redesign setting events, change motivations, and add or remove discriminative stimuli (cues) for the problem behavior.
- Look at all these fancy smanshy words, don’t bother pulling out your dictionary. I mean, you already have a broken, sprinkler head for a puppy, you don't need a headache as well, let me help explain, really, it’s the least I can do. Antecedents prompt behavior. Example: Dog has a full bladder, most likely due to previously having drank water, played or eaten, this is your antecedent. Your dog then relieves themselves and the consequence is that they feel a since of relief, just like you or I would......Although, hopefully you're making it to your commode. If not, please keep that to yourself, and consider purchasing some depends, or maybe limiting your access to areas too far from a bathroom. In the animal training world, we'd call that management, so really, I have enough to focus on right now, and so do you, buy the depends.
To help better manage your dog's behavior, better manage their environment! Implement supervision and restricted access inside the home - especially areas in which they eliminate frequently. Maintain feeding schedules, and keep a log of when they've had accidents or when they have successfully pottied outside. Include when they've last eaten, drank or played. Utilize crates & gates when appropriate and take them out to potty directly after exiting any of these areas. If done successfully, your puppy should be well on their way to creating new and appropriate habits of pottying outside due to your vigilance and detailed documentation, which allows you to better predict their needs.
Positive Reinforcement: Employ approaches that contingently deliver a consequence to increase the probability that the desired behavior will occur.
- Again, skip the dictionary y'all, you won't need it. Positive reinforcement simply means that you ADD something your dog ENJOYS in order to INCREASE the likelihood they'll offer this behavior again.
Example: Dog squirts his golden cocktail outside, perfectly targeted upon your grumpy neighbor Marvin's tree. Deliver your dog an extra special tasty treat, I mean, it was outside...wasn't it? Progress! But seriously, Reward your dog for eliminating outside..... Every. Single. Time. Not when they come back inside..... that is, unless you're goal is to encourage them to simply come back to the house. *Something you may want to encourage separately, and certainly something I’d recommend encouraging your partner to do, unless you want them running around like a dog as well. No judgments here folks.*
Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior: Reinforce an acceptable replacement behavior and remove the maintaining reinforcer for the problem behavior.
- We could talk about Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors here as well, and where crate training or bell training might fall, but let's not split hairs. Let's just focus on getting your puppy headed toward your backdoor.
Negative Punishment, Negative Reinforcement, or Extinction (these are not listed in any order of preference): Negative Punishment - Contingently withdraw a positive reinforcer to reduce the probability that the problem behavior will occur.Negative Reinforcement - Contingently withdraw an aversive antecedent stimulus to increase the probability that the right behavior will occur.Extinction - Permanently remove the maintaining reinforcer to suppress the behavior or reduce it to baseline levels.
- Listen y'all, you really won't require this for effective potty training, so please, move along.
Positive Punishment: Contingently deliver an aversive consequence to reduce the probability that the problem behavior will occur.
- Do all of us a favor and just act like this doesn't exist. No, really, please, I'm begging you. Your dog doesn't need his nose shoved into his urine. Regardless of what you're into, he's not into that, and frankly, you're terrifying him with your peculiar kinks. Positive punishment, applied by ADDING something your dog finds UNDESIRABLE to DECREASE a behavior. Examples may include: yelling, hitting, smacking, kicking, spraying with water, or shaking obnoxiously strident cans of pennies at your dog ...(yes, people really do allllllllll those things) this will do nothing but frustrate, alarm and scare him. Your physical punishments will potentially cause your dog to associate your limbs extending towards them to mean bad things, and your screaming could cause them to continue urinating in your home regardless. The expected, but unpleasant by-product of these methods (often known as the “fall-outs) will likely result in your dog still pee-ing in your home. Instead of doing this out in the open, they'll do their best to impersonate "creepy carl" in the cubicle up the hall at work (you know the one.) Your puppy may now only eliminate on your couch when you're not around, just slinking in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to christen your cushions. All of this will be in an attempt to avoid what they find to be your very confusing, and bizarre consequences. Not to mention the likelihood they start holding their bladder when you take them outside all in an attempt to not anger the crazy human (that's you), who seems to absolutely hate it when they poo. This will make it awfully difficult to reward them in the act, don't you think? At best, you'll only be hurting yourself, at worst and you'll be hurting your puppy too. Not cool, man.
OK, Now for the Do's & Don'ts.
*Notice my color choices there, look familiar?
Consider crate training
Watch the clock & keep a schedule
Log your puppies daytime activities
Log your puppies accidents, attempts & successes
Keep a consistent schedule
Feed a high quality food
Take your puppy immediately outside after exiting their crate, play pen or when waking up throughout the day
Take your puppy outside every 10-15 minutes during play
Take your puppy outside 15-30 minutes after eating
Wake up in the middle of the night, if this is a struggle for your puppy
Pay close attention, your puppy will show you a number of pre-elimination behaviors such as, circling, sniffing, pacing, whining, scratching at the door - think of these as the equivalent to a small child doing the "potty dance."
Use an enzymatic cleaner for any soiled areas
Ensure you have a designated elimination area
Take tasty treats with you outside to reward your puppy
Restrict access to areas of the house your puppy consistently eliminates in
Utilize puppy play pens or gates when you are unable to provide sufficient supervision
Use a "keyword" or phrase such as: "let's go potty."
Leave your puppy unsupervised
Punish your puppy after the fact, what's done is done
Give too much freedom too quickly
Don't paper train - Consider using appropriate dog litter or artificial turf if an inside option is required.
Hit, yell or react aggressively towards your puppy
Rub their nose in their mess
Expect them to know better
Free feed, AKA leaving a full bowl of food for your puppy down at all times
Assume they can hold their bladder for lengthy periods of time
Be a jerk, please be kind to your puppy - They're trying really hard to figure this out, just like you are......cut them a little slack, their teacher is pretty new at this, I mean, they're looking on the internet for advice for pete's sake.
© [Jenny Wyffels], 2020. The materials on this site, (www.CooperativeCanineConcepts.com) may be copied and distributed with written permission of the copyright owner so long as our copyright notice and Website address is included.