Question: We're bringing a new puppy home next week. How do we get through the potty training in the most expeditious way?
Answer: The most important aspect of potty training is the reward your puppy gets within 2 seconds of completing her task. So we'll start there.
I advise having a word to cue your dog to go to the bathroom when she's outside. It can be anything, like "potty" or "hurry up" or "get busy" but choose something. This is the command your dog will come to know as "I need to do my business now."
When you take your puppy outside for this purpose for the first time and give her the cue, will she have any idea what it means? Of course not. But after hearing the cue, going to the bathroom, and then being rewarded for the final result, she will come to know exactly what it means.
Have a treat the size of a pencil eraser at the ready. She doesn't need to know you have it. Take her outside to an area you designate, tell her "potty!" and then wait. Now it's just a matter of following her around until she squats. Repeating the cue over and over isn't going to make this go faster, even when she's older and she absolutely knows what it means.
We give this cue one time. When she squats, get a little closer to her but don't say anything. You don't want to distract her. The second she finishes, that's when you put a treat in her mouth, and give her over-the-top love, affection and praise. As you're praising her, say "good girl, potty!" You need to make this very exciting. She needs to know something amazing has just happened. Repeating the cue as you praise her helps get the word into her head.
Is a crate a good idea for potty training? You bet it is. Being first cousin to the gray wolf, dogs are den animals, and have a natural tendency to "go to den." Often, dogs that don't have crates find something else to get under. A desk, a chair, your bed ... or they may get in a corner. The mother wolf keeps her pups in the den until they learn certain ground rules so it's the most natural thing in the world for your puppy.
Furthermore, dogs have an aversion to soiling their den, so it's the perfect tool for potty training, if it's sized properly. And by "sized properly," I mean it should be just big enough for your dog to lay down in and turn around. She doesn't need a luxurious condominium. Later, when she's older and fully potty trained, a bigger crate would be fine.
Even though dogs are den animals, ideally you want to leave the gate open to the crate and give your puppy a day of going in and out as she pleases to eat or get toys. Feeding her in there the first day or so is a good idea. That first night, the crate should be in your bedroom. That way she can hear and smell you ... and you can hear her when she whimpers at 4 a.m. because she needs to go to the bathroom. When that happens, hop up, take her out of the crate, take her to the spot outside, give her the cue and wait. If you don't have any treats with you, that's fine. Just love her up when she finishes. Then back to bed.
The final piece to potty training,is keeping an eye on your puppy. Taking her out after she eats, after she plays, and after she naps, is a good idea. And you should probably take her out every hour and a half or so at first, hopefully to have an opportunity to reward her because it's the reward aspect that teaches her. That, and not giving her an opportunity to go to the bathroom in the house.
By doing this, you set her up for success. If you can't watch her, crate her (more on this next week).
Originally from Louisiana, Gregg Flowers is a local dog trainer who “teaches dogs and trains people.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or dogsbestfriendflorida.com.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: GREGG FLOWERS: New puppy? Be sure to make potty training exciting