Thursday, July 30, 2009

Potty training the Dearborn dogs: part 2

A lot of ground was covered in yesterday’s blog on potty training the Chihuahuas that came from the home of the Dearborn hoarder.
We know the basics — don’t punish the dog for going potty in the wrong places until it fully understands what the right place is, thoroughly clean up any accidents, take your time introducing them to grass and make sure it’s a positive experience, and if they do go potty in the right place, treat them like they’ve won you the lottery.
But how do you teach the dog what the right place is?
If I were adopting one of these dogs, I’d invest in a lot of pee-pads. There’s a ton of “puppy pee-pads” on the market. To be quite honest, I’m not sure which brand is better than the next.
Puppy pee pads are like absorbent, disposable little blankets. The bottom side is usually waterproof to keep the urine from seeping into your floors, the top side soft like toilet paper.
Most companies state that the scent of these pee pads draw dogs to them and encourage them to potty there.
When I fostered a couple puppies for a weekend, I spread the pee pads out all over the place inside my house. While the two pups didn’t always make it to the pee pad, they did on more occasions than not.
Every time I caught them using a pee pad, I immediately gave vocal praise. It’s important to start giving the praise while the dog is peeing or pooping. As soon as I could make it to them, I brought treats and as soon as they were done, they got lots of cuddles and some play time too.
And every time we went through this routine, the puppies were more likely to return to their pee pad. By the end of the weekend, the number of accidents dropped dramatically.
During the night, when they were put in a large crate, I divided the crate into two areas. The back of the cage was covered with pee pads. The front of the cage had blankets and toys.
In the morning, I’d find the pee pads full with all that yucky stuff and the blankets impeccably clean.
Pee pads would be a good way to start training the Dearborn dogs because it moves their routine incrementally from anywhere-in-the-house to on-these-white-pads-in-the-house.
As long as you follow the rules — ignore the other messes, celebrate and praise messes on the pee pads — the dogs will gradually learn that messing on the pee pads yields the greatest reward.
Once the dogs are going 100 percent of the time on the pee pads, start putting them in strategic places.
Slowly move them from where you have put them in the past, maybe a foot or two at a time, toward the doors in a room. Over a period of weeks or perhaps even months, depending on how much work your dog needs, you want to narrow down the indoor pee pads to only being by the doors in your house that you will eventually use to let your dog outside to go potty.
During this same time period, you will also be making sure your dog has plenty of great experiences outside, where he will eventually go to the bathroom at.
When you feel your dog has the pee pad routine down pat, start moving the pee pads outside. If you can, catch him while he’s headed toward the pee pad and swoop him up, bringing both him and the pee pad outside.
Make a routine of doing that, and then one day, don’t put the pee pad down on the grass and wait. And be ready to wait, and wait, and wait some more.
But when that dog finally lifts a leg on the grass, put everything you have into celebrating the moment.
Then be ready to repeat, over and over again.
Is it a lot of work? Sure. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a lot less work to spend several months properly potty training your dog than it is to spend the rest of that dog’s life cleaning up your house, several times a day, because you have not taught him properly.


  1. This is excellent info Karen!! Keep it coming!

    :) nicole

  2. Sticking their nose in it works like a charm along with letting them out on a fixed schedule! I have 2 dogs and they will hold till the cows come home before making a mistake.

  3. I personally advise against the "sticking their nose in it" method. There is a lot of information out there on what works best, based on what we know regarding how dogs learn.

    I highly suggest reading "Way to Go: How to Housetrain a Dog of Any Age" by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen London, Ph.D.

    For just $5.95, it's worth every penny.