How to Potty Train a Dog With Positive Reinforcement

One iron rule of dog training will always serve you well: The most effective way to train your dog is also the most pleasant method for both of you. It’s called Positive Reinforcement. Here’s how to potty train a dog using this method:

Key Concept
The key to the Positive Reinforcement method is the use of praise, affection and rewards to give your dog a strong incentive to behave appropriately. You want your puppy to be eager to do the right thing, because she wants to be rewarded for it. ALWAYS REWARD GOOD / WANTED BEHAVIOR.

For potty training this means praise, affection or rewarding with a treat when your puppy goes where you want, and withholding any reward or praise when the pup has an accident.

An incentive to get rewards and pleasure from doing well is always more powerful than fear of punishment. This principle works just as well on older dogs too.

Dogs as a whole thrive on attention- (whether it be negative or positive) Really what we want is to reinforce all GOOD behaviors – i.e peeing outside on grass.

Applying Positive Reinforcement
When your puppy successfully goes outside, or in the place you’ve designated (such as on a mat / newspaper’ed floor area in kitchen), give her a healthy treat and say “good dog” or some other words of praise. Overact a little, and show real joy over it. (I used to pretend she won the Olympics- yay!!! good girl wooohooo good puppy!!!! – the tail starts to wag, they really excited and pleased with themselves)

If giving a treat is not possible, then remember the importance of affectionate touch. Rub your puppy’s head or give her a good belly rub. Love your puppy up enthusiastically when she does well. My dog is now 3yrs old and still every morning after peeing outside comes bounding up to me for praise!

When the little tyke has an accident, you deliberately withhold affection and praise. IGNORE ALL UNWANTED BEHAVIORS. Ignore and ignore only- you are merely cutting off “attention” thereby not reinforcing the behavior/mistake.

If you catch dog peeing in bedroom / somewhere you don’t want, gently interrupt her (clap hands) pick her up and take her outside- even if she makes one drop on the grass- “yay!!! good girl..woohooo!!!! – by doing this you are rewarding her for peeing on grass and not for peeing in bedroom. You have successfully ignored the unwanted behavior and praised the good behavior.

Remember the Importance of Timing
Both your rewards and your denials must be immediate so that the puppy always associates reward with the good behavior, and denial of the things he or she wants with bad behavior. Dogs have a short term memory for association and therefore punishment after the fact does not work. Punishment cause anxiety, nervousness, reactiveness and has many fall-out alternative behaviors both in the short term & long term.

DO NOT hit your dog with a rolled up newspaper or rub its nose in urine or feces after you discover the waste. These forms of “discipline” are actually Negative Reinforcement. Your puppy cannot associate his mistake with your punishment, because too much time has elapsed between the two. This confuses your puppy and anxiety will make the whole experience of going to the potty unpleasant. Consider the possibility that an anxious dog may be more likely to have accidents.

Be Consistent
You must reward and withhold rewards in the same way each time. Use the same phrases in the same tone of voice in each situation. Don’t be casual or slack off when praising or rewarding, and don’t fail to withhold reward when it’s appropriate.

Useful Tips
Puppies up until the age of 6months cannot control their bladders (like babies) and therefore you need a routine. Take them out first thing in the morning to pee, after meals, before bedtime – a solid routine must be followed. Look for signals from puppy that they want to pee- circling an area, sniffing, looking uncomfortable.

Dogs think with their noses – they select spots where they smell dog waste for going to the potty. Therefore always take puppy to the same place to pee in the garden.

Avoid using ammonia as a cleaner in your house, since dog urine smells of ammonia. Use a cleaner specially designed to eliminate odour when you clean up after your dog has an accident. You can find these products in any good pet store. Always clean up messes without puppy seeing you do it- you do not want to add attention to the unwanted behaviors.

A happy pup is a happy adult dog