Bootcamp 1: Potty

Potty Training

Dog training tip: you must be direct with your dog. Ignoring him, saying long sentences to explain “why” or “why not” will never work. You must stick with very basic commands and say them the same way every time, using emotion in your voice to convey approval or disapproval.

Potty training (housebreaking) begins the day you bring your dog home and is one of the most important things you can do. You will need much patience and understanding for potty training, but know that your dog really really wants to please you. It is really important to not become angry at your dog, since your dog will know immediately and think you are just angry at her. She will not get your intent. Do Not do it.

Dogs need to be ‘potty’ -trained, and most people think of potty training as teaching the dog to let the handler know when he or she has to go so that the dog goes outdoors. This scenario does not work in a variety of situations, especially for disabled people. For this website, we are discussing disabilities and how to train a dog to help a disabled person. There are just times when the handler cannot get out of bed, or otherwise cannot move, to help the dog, or just cannot do it for a variety of reasons. Reality is that disabled handlers just cannot always be responsive to a dog who has to use the potty. Other ‘caveats’ to this process include apartment living (no yard to go in) or having to walk a dog when the handler has any mobility issues (like me). Again, the dog’s needs and yours may not mesh when the handler has a disability. I take puppy pads with me when I travel, and Lenny uses them in the restrooms at airports. At home, he and my other dogs always have puppy pads to use. They rarely go outside for potty purposes.

What did I do when I adopted Lennie? I adopted Lennie when he was a little over 3 months old, and when I brought him home, I spread newspapers all over the floor of one room, a room I used frequently, and put  him in there. Of course he chewed some of the newspapers, but there were so many, he had no choice but to use them to do his business. After a few days, I replaced them with scented puppy pads (the scent was dog urine), and did the same thing–put them everywhere so he had no choice but to use them. That only lasted a couple of days, and I began withdrawing the puppy pads, and he still went to the ones that were there. He did not go on the floor because of the scent on the pads. Within a week or so, I was down to one pad, and he reliably used it. The dog is drawn to the scent and knows what to do, making it easy to train the dog or dogs. I have 3 dogs using puppy pads, and change them at least once per day, sometimes twice. If he had too many mistakes, I would have once again put them everywhere, then gradually withdraw them. I would keep that up until he reliably used the puppy pad that he was supposed to use.

One caveat: expect occasional accidents. Whether the dog just gets mixed up or for another reason often unknown to the handler, the dog may either miss the puppy pad or go somewhere else in the house. If that happens, you show the dog the mess by holding the dog near the mess and pointing to it (DO NOT SHOVE YOUR DOG’S NOSE INTO IT), and using your stern voice, say “no-no-no!” Then take the dog to the desired place (the puppy pad) and using your happy, soothing voice, say “go here!” The key is your tone of voice. Most dogs will then resume the use of puppy pads, but may have another accident again some time in the future. Sometimes my dogs miss the pads.

I therefore highly recommend using puppy pads and placing them where they are accessible to your dog. The bathroom is a really good option, but they can be placed anywhere, and try to put them somewhere that is not carpeted. If you only have carpeting, obtain a large piece of linoleum or something else much larger than the area of the puppy pads, and use that for the pads. Some people put the pads in the bathtub. Puppy pads can be ordered online with no shipping charges, and you can obtain very large pads. I use pads that are 27.5″ X 44″ for very large dogs, for Lennie. He does not go outside for all the reasons listed above. Also, I cannot shop in a store (I crash if I do) so online shopping is really important for me.

Even if you can let your dog out to go in the back yard, you still need to train her or him to puppy pads. There will be times when you cannot respond to your dog to let him or her out and you will get messes from that, not to mention that you will be training your dog to once again go anywhere. My advice: train your dog initially to puppy pads and later on you can have him or her go outside when feasible.

Another option is to buy pads that are washable, especially if you have easy access to laundry. That involves only a minimal investment initially, and over the long run, is less expensive than the disposable ones.

Dr. Marcie

© 2018 Dr. Marcie Zinn, Chicago Illinois. All rights reserved.