Potty Training: Other Tools
In the previous sections of this potty training unit, we discussed a general overview of the tools and how to use the first two most important tools: your eyes and ears. Now, let's focus on the other tools we can use to help puppy be successful when learning where to potty.
I would like to start by saying that in order to be truly housebroken, puppy needs to understand a few very important things. Your puppy doesn't come with this knowledge, so it must be taught through consistency.Puppies must grasp the following:
- The x-pen area is not a place to potty and when puppy needs to go potty it can ask for help and human will understand its needs.
- The crate where it sleeps at night is not a place to potty and that if it needs to go potty it can ask for help and human will wake up from sleep to help it.
- On a tether in the house, no matter where inside the house, puppy must wait to go potty until the human takes it to the potty spot.
- When the urge to potty happens, puppy must learn to control its bowels until help arrives.
- Nighttime is for sleeping and puppy should hold its urges for as long as possible.
We help puppy learn these things by using our eyes and ears to stay alert, but we also use the other tools in such a way to make it easier for puppy and human to communicate well with one another. The easier we, humans, can communicate with our puppies and they can communicate to us, the better potty training will be. The tools we use help us accomplish that.
The x-pen is one of those great tools for potty training. Place the x-pen in an area that is easily seen from lots of different places in the house. Try to have the door of the x-pen facing the door to outside with a straight path. Do not allow too much space inside the x-pen. The less space, the more puppy will feel uncomfortable to use the space as a toilet.
Place one or two toys and one or two chews inside the x-pen, keeping the other toys put away for now. Rotate them around once a day for variety. Toys and chews allow puppy to have something to do while you are busy doing other things. It also teaches puppy that it can enjoy itself without constant interaction from its human.
I keep a harness on a young puppy between the ages of 8 - 16 weeks. A harness is a way to direct puppy without necessarily using the neck at this time. I use it to teach the puppy to respond to counter pressure. Instinctively, dogs move into pressure. It takes training for a dog to understand how to move away from pressure. Try this with your young puppy: push it away from you using both hands on its chest, then comment below what your young puppy does. The instinct that a dog has to move into pressure is the very reason dogs pull on the leash. If a dog is pulling, it is because it has not understood how to move away from pressure, the very opposite of its instinct. So, I use a harness to teach a puppy that nothing happens when it moves into pressure, but a lot of good happens when it moves away from pressure. Here's an example:
When I clip the leash onto the harness at the top back middle of the harness and then walk, no sound, no command, just walk away from puppy. If puppy comes along without any tightness on the leash, fine. Then, we walk together. If puppy does not follow, however, then I walk to the end of the leash until it is JUST taunt. Not too much so that puppy isn scared of the strange pressure around it coming from nowhere, but just enough to feel the puppy resist, per its instinct. Then, I wait. No noise, no sound, no calling, nothing. Just wait with the leash slightly taunt. The very MOMENT that pressure is slightly released by the puppy, I mark and reward the behavior. (Mark and Reward is a separate unit, if you want to learn about it.) Then, I repeat. The puppy quickly learns that when pressure is felt, the pressure is released when it moves away from the pressure instead of into it, thereby using counter pressure to resolve the dilemma I set up for the puppy to solve.
So, what does this have to do with potty training, right?
When a puppy can walk with you on the leash, understanding the counter pressure concept, it will not tug or pull, then you can use the leash to have the puppy tethered to you wherever you go in the house. This allows you to flow from room to room without having to move puppy to a new x-pen or space, especially if you are constantly moving about, such as for cleaning the house or picking up items to put them away. An x-pen is for when you are stable in one room, a tether using a leash and harness, is for when you are walking about the house.
Using a harness for this gives the puppy the ability to feel the pressure without using the neck at this young age. As Lois points out, a harness was created for pulling and without teaching counter pressure, your puppy will pull on a harness. Again, it is instinctual. So, remember that when using a harness, you must also teach counter pressure to your puppy.
But, why use a leash inside the house? Because you are busy and you want to give yourself as best chance as you can to watch your puppy at all times. If you were to just have puppy follow you, it could wander off or linger in an area and remember, squatting to pee only takes half a second. When puppy is on a tether, you are free to move around, puppy learns valuable skills and has something to do, and you can continue to watch your puppy every minute, using the most valuable tool you have at your disposal.
Lastly, you want to use an appropriate sized crate placed near your bed for sleeping puppy at night. When you close your eyes, you have lost the use of your most valuable tool. Give yourself some help by placing your puppy in a small space right next to your bed where it can only turn around and lie down. You want a crate that is small enough so that your puppy will HAVE to sleep in wetness if it goes potty in the crate. Remember your puppy's instinct is to NOT go potty in the space where it sleeps. This is a very strong instinct in most puppies. When the crate is small enough, puppy will be extremely uncomfortable going potty in its crate. So uncomfortable that it will work hard to communicate its needs before it will go potty in this spot. This creates the situation to where puppy will become desperate to call out for help if it has to go. Hopefully, this desperate plea will wake you up so that you can take puppy outside. Remember to carry puppy from this area to outside, especially if it is a ways to travel. You do not want to give puppy any opportunity to go potty on the floor at any time, if you can help it.
Calculate how often you need to wake up during the night for puppy's needs. This will help gauge if you are doing the right things to make sure puppy is comfortable to sleep as long as possible before having to get up to use the potty.Do not feed puppy after about 6pm. Take puppy's water up around 7-8pm. Take puppy outside to potty before placing puppy in crate for the night. Make sure it goes potty before you go to bed. Having the crate near your bed means that you can comfort puppy, too, when it gets scared to be alone. You can remind puppy that you are there even though it is dark and he might feel alone. Just place your fingers through the holes of the crate and speak a soft, gentle whisper to your puppy. It might lick your hand or listen carefully to your loving words. Go back to sleep, little puppy, momma's right here.How to you know puppy has to go potty and not just scared to be alone? If you have just taken puppy out to potty and puppy is not yet sleeping, it simply doesn't want to be alone and doesn't want to sleep by himself. If puppy has been sleeping and has just awoken, then assume the whimpering is needing to go potty. Always assume puppy needs to go potty unless you have just gone out. Remember to be consistent in your response. Whimpering from puppy = go outside... unless you have just now gone outside and puppy has gone potty.In the next section we will explore what life is like without using any tools.
In the next lesson, we will explore what a typical scenario looks like without using any tools.