There is only one acceptable methodology for potty training a dog of any age: positive reinforcement. Traditional advice suggested swatting a dog or rubbing his face in his waste for mistakes in the house, but those techniques do nothing to make the potty training process more understandable for your dog and can actually damage your relationship with him. Keep in mind, dogs don’t view their waste the way we do – to them, pee and poo is pretty interesting! Punishing your dog for going in the house won’t help him understand what he should do instead and might make him afraid to go near you at all, inside or out. Successful potty training requires patience, kindness and remembering that your new puppy is just learning the rules.
Sometimes, despite all of your hard work, your puppy might slip up and eliminate in the house. If you catch him in the act, make an abrupt noise to stop him then quickly bring him outside and give him a reward for finishing in the right spot (it’s okay if you take him out and he doesn’t go). Don’t punish your dog for the accident; simply clean it up with an appropriate odor eliminator and vow to watch him more diligently in the future.
If your toddler was repeatedly sticking her fingers into open electrical outlets, what would you do? Would you sit her down and try to explain why that’s not a good idea? Would you smack her every time she did it? Nope, you’d probably buy some outlet covers. Voilà! Problem solved. Prevention is sometimes the best solution. When training a dog, the easiest way to deal with a behavior problem might be to simply prevent the undesired behavior from happening. If your dog raids the kitchen trash can, you could spend weeks training a perfect down-stay in another room-or you could move the trash can to a place where your dog can’t get to it. Prevention is also important if you’re trying to train your dog to do one thing instead of another. For example, if you want to house train your dog, she’ll learn fastest if you use a crate to prevent her from making mistakes inside while you focus on training her to eliminate outside.
Use real rewards Be sure to reward your dog with things she truly finds rewarding. Some dogs will happily work for dry kibble when training in your living room but ignore it if you’re training in the park. Because the park’s a more distracting environment, paying attention there is a harder job for your dog. Pay her accordingly by using a reward worth working for, like small pieces of chicken or cheese, or a chance to run off-leash at the dog park with her buddies. Also keep in mind that what your dog considers rewarding at any given time may change. If she’s just eaten a big meal, a scratch behind the ears or a game of tug might be most rewarding. If she hasn’t eaten in a while, she’ll probably work enthusiastically for tasty treats.
If you’d like to learn how to train your dog or if your dog has a behavior problem you’d like to resolve, don’t hesitate get help from a qualified professional trainer or behaviorist. To learn more about locating the right expert for you and your dog, please see our article, Finding Professional Help. Many Certified Pet Dog Trainers (CPDTs) and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs or ACAABs) offer telephone consultations, in-home private consultations and training sessions, and group classes.
It’s easy to reward good behavior if you focus on teaching your dog to do specific things you like. Dogs can learn an impressive array of obedience skills and entertaining tricks. Deciding what you’d like your dog to learn will depend on your interests and lifestyle. If you want your dog to behave politely, you can focus on skills like sit, down, wait at doors, leave it, come when called and stay. If you want to enhance your enjoyment of outings with your dog, you can train her to walk politely on leash, without pulling. If you have a high-energy dog and would like outlets for her exuberance, you can teach her how to play fetch, play tug-of-war or participate in dog sports, such as agility, rally obedience, freestyle and flyball. If you’d like to impress your friends or just spend some quality time with your dog, you can take her to clicker training or trick-training classes. The possibilities are endless! Please see the following articles to find out more about what you and your dog can learn to do together: Teaching Your Dog Not to Jump Up on People, Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called, Teaching Your Dog Not to Pull on Leash, Teaching Your Dog to Play Tug-of-War, and Teaching Your Dog to Play Fetch.
Success is usually attained in small steps. Training sessions with your dog should last 10 to 15 minutes, two to three times per day. This is especially true for puppies because of their very short attention spans. Longer sessions can cause an adult dog to become bored. Start by teaching basic commands. Try to stick with one action per training session so your dog does not get confused.
It's not so much the dog doesn't listen, more that he doesn't understand what you want him to do. Go back to basics and don't punish him when he toilets indoors. Double your vigilance and take every opportunity to put him outside to toilet. The crucial thing is to be present when he does toilet in the correct place, so that you can reward him. This makes him keener to repeat the performance to get another treat. Conversely, if you have been telling him off for indoor accidents he may already feel inhibited about going to the toilet in your presence, including when he goes outdoors. This is one reason why it's important not to punish for inappropriate toileting. Can dog aggression be trained out?