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Basic House Potty Training
by Peggy, aka "buttonbutt"

 This article will explain the basics of house training your dog.  If after reading, you still have questions about this, please feel free to ask them in the original discussion thread for this information, right here.

  1. Fixed Feeding Times
  2. Walking After Eating
  3. Pre-Emptive Walking
  4. Crate Training
  5. Dealing With Accidents
  6. Moving: New Homes With Strange Scents
  7. Pee Pads & Litter Boxes


Fixed Feeding Times

This is a must, it is necessary if you want rapid success with potty training your dog or puppy.  If desired, you can switch to free-feeding after the puppy is totally housetrained. Puppies have a strong gastro-colo-rectal response & tend to uncontrollably have to poop within 3-10 minutes of eating (varies with each dog). Use that fact to to your advantage in your training efforts!

Walking After Eating

Cardinal Rule:  Walk your dog  immediately after eating, sleeping, and playing!  These are the times when puppies tend to get urges to go potty.  After playing is a bit tricky with young pups as sometime that means after only 5 minutes of playing.

Walking your dogWhen its time to go, hide a treat in your pocket and walk them out on a leash to the yard, always to the same spot  Don’t just let them out unattended.  If its raining, suck it up, get wet yourself and carry them out to the farthest spot from the door possible.  They often will go before they can make it that far!   This also helps them not be so fearful of rain.  Using the same spot every time is very important because prior pee/poop smells remind the pup what to do!  

The first week or so, after they finish, praise your puppy with a treat (you have one in your pocket, right?) and exhuberant verbal praise like “Good Potty” or whatever trigger word you plan to use.  Do this immediately after poop/pee.  Let ‘em know you’re pleased!  Soon you can just give random treats and eventually, just verbal praise.  For now, bring them right back inside. 

It is very important to bring them right back inside after poop/pee.  Why?  If you allow them to play afterwards, they will confuse two important concepts:  OUTSIDE = POTTY; INDOORS = PLAY.  Restrict play to indoors until they're fully potty-trained lest they get these two ideas reversed!  We see this happen time and time again.  The logic here: if they play outside after doing business & then you let them in "after you're done playing with them" the cardinal rule (after play) kicks in again and they immediately squat to pee!  There are many posts on www.rat-terrier.com forums that will attest to this behavior.  There'll be time enough to play outside when they have got those two basic elimination concepts firm in their wee widdle heads.  Eventually you can stop using that leash, but do not do so until pup consistently goes to the right spot automatically, performs quickly, and seems to understand what you want him/her to do when they are taken out.

Pre-Emptive Walking

Beat them to the urge!  In addition to the Cardinal Rule, walk them hourly the first week, then every 2 hours the second week, then every three the third week, and so on (except at night, when you walk the minute they wake). Increase the time intervals when you see your pup is holding it that long with no accidents.  Some have to stay on an interval longer than others.  Back up to the previous hourly interval if the pup is has an accident inside.  Most puppies give a quick signal they are about to poop, like circling, rapid pacing, moving to a corner.  Watch for these and “scoop & run) them outside.  Some will even put puppies on a short leash/cord to their waist so they can better watch the puppy for these signals.

Crate Training

Crate Train Advantage: Dogs will try very hard to not soil their "den".  Crate training, therefore, speeds up & reinforces potty training.  In other words, it forces them to try to “hold it” for a while.  Use this well-known canine behavior to your advantage.  Keep your puppy's crate within hearing distance of your bed.  Be sure the dog crate isn't too large or they'll make a spot to go inside the crate!  You want it just big enough to turn around in or they’ll sleep at one end and use the other end for a toilet. When they wake up at night, walk them immediately to "the designated spot".  When done, praise, treat, and bring them right back to crate to sleep (do not be tempted to play with them at night.  Ride out any whining they do when they come back inside).

Yes, you will lose some sleep week 1 and 2, but believe me, the fast results will be worth it.  If they go potty in the crate (because you slept through their wake up whimper), just clean it up in the morning with no correction. 

There is an excellent crate training thread in the rat-terrier.com training forum you should read if you're new to crates.  Crate training has so many advantages besides facilitating potty training. Crates are very useful when traveling, for safe car travel, illness/surgery recovery, when you’re at work, repairmen in the house, when visiting family/other houses, etc.

Dealing With Accidents

If you catch your puppy in the act, don’t yell at them. Just scoop the dog up (they usually startle into stopping the poop), say "Nooooo, potty outside" in a firm voice and take them outside to the usual spot (this teaches the concept of "outside" quickly by the way).  Set them down on the ground in “the spot” and again say "potty outside". They'll usually go on & finish the interrupted task.  Praise for finishing the task outside, & just clean up when you get back inside.

Before you know it, you’ll have them understanding “outside” and you can just ask the puppy “Wanna go outside?” and they’ll be racing to the back door when they need to go.  That is usually quickly followed by them going to the back door and asking to go out.  Some have suggested (and had success with) a bell tied to the back door handle and teaching the dog to ring the bell to indicate they need out to go potty.  Be warned that ratties are very smart and quickly learn to ring the bell to go out just to chase a visible squirrel or bird.  This can get annoying fast!       

If you find that your puppy has done his/her business inside, but you did not catch them in the act, do not scold them.  Instead, let them passively watch you clean up the urine spot with Nature's Miracle Stain & Odor Remover (or similar product) saying "potty outside" in a normal tone as you do so.  If it's a poop, I pick up the poop in a paper towel with the pup watching (pups learn watching mom clean the den in the wild), carry it outside (with pup following).  Drop the poop out of the paper onto the ground in the designated area of the yard & say "potty outside" in a normal tone.  That's it.  Don't make a big deal of it!   No harsh voice.   Above all, never EVER rub your dog’s nose in urine or poop.  By doing that, you teach the dog that eliminating itself is bad.  This usually results in dogs that learn to hide their poop under or behind furniture, or eat their poop, which makes the problem much worse!   Remember, dogs live in the moment and don't connect delayed corrections with the act/evidence that happened in the past (15 minutes ago is “past” to a dog).  But they do learn and change from watching mom & litter mates do it right.

Moving:  New Homes With Strange Scents

When you move to a new home, well-trained dogs can completely forget their training.  This is because dogs often relate learning with a particular location.  If this happens, go back to square one and train just like you did when they were a puppy.  If you suspect/know another dog lived in the house/apartment and has left stains/scents in carpet, you MUST clean these up with Nature's Miracle  (or similar product) or your dog may start marking those spots and going inside, too (especially if your dog is a male or aggressive female).

Pee Pads & Litter Boxes

Puppy Taking a RestThere are some people who believe (and have great success) in the use of pee pads and litter boxes, and others that don’t.  Often pee pads will become playthings for puppies.  Just remember, if you eventually want the dog to start doing his/her potty outside, starting out with pee pads or litter boxes will only confuse them when you try to make the transition to outside.  Think about it.  You’re first saying it’s OK to go inside in/on these and then one day you’re saying it’s NOT OK to eliminate indoors!  Totally confusing to a puppy!  Puppies can be trained to go outside from day one successfully if crate training is also used.  As a rule of thumb, they can hold it 1 hour for each month they are old.  We strongly recommend only using pee pads if, due to circumstances, you do not ever plan on making the transition to outdoor pottying. In using them, do not move them around.  Always keep it in the same place.  



Thats it!  Following these guidelines will produce the desired results in just 1 month.  Even rescue dogs that are used to going whenever and wherever, can be trained in just 1 month if all humans in the household get involved and help.

Successful potty training takes consistent effort on the part of every member of your household. Nobody said owning/training a dog was easy.  In fact, most would say the opposite. Without “team” effort, potty training will take much longer or even worse, may never be accomplished at all. 

Questions?  Comments?

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