Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Potty training the Dearborn dogs

Don’t fool yourself — it’s not going to be easy.
But, I’ve got some solid advice, great resources and also suggestions from Nicole Pawlowski-Herr of Herr Pet Training, the couple that is featured in our K-9 Classroom video series.
Let’s think about potty training a new puppy. Have you ever done it? Probably. How successful were you? If it was anything like my experience, you probably weren’t.
Sure, years later your dog has it down pat. You can’t take that as a measure of success.
How long did it take to reach this point of potty perfection? How many rolled up newspapers, smacks on the butt, nose in the doo-doo and shouts of BAD DOG did it take?
A year? A little more than a year? A couple years?
That’s not success. I’ve seen puppies who were solidly potty trained at eight to ten weeks. That is success.
Before you even think about potty training one of the hoarder-kept Dearborn dogs, throw out everything you’ve ever been told about potty training.
First thing is first: before you can say nary a negative word toward a dog for going to the bathroom in the “wrong” place, you must put in some time teaching the dog what the “right” place is.
The challenge with the Dearborn dogs is that they have spent their entire lives going potty in what we consider the “wrong” places. You cannot simply start punishing the dog for doing what they’ve spent all their lives thinking is proper.
If you do begin punishing these dogs right away for going wee-wee on the carpet, couch or curtains, know that you are setting yourself up for certain failure.
The dog will only learn two things: 1) to be fearful of you, 2) that it is not OK to go to the bathroom while you are around and, in order to wee-wee on the carpet, couch and curtains, they must wait until you are out of sight.
Good luck trying to correct that. It’s a real doozy of a challenge to reverse that behavior.
This means you will have to accept some indoor accidents. Ignore them, give the dog no attention for them. Quietly and thoroughly clean up the mess.
The cleaning is important, and for some tips on how to truly clean a doggie mess, watch the video from our pet trainers at the bottom of the blog.
Here’s another need-to-remember statement from our trainers, who e-mailed me knowing I was working on this topic.
“Most of these dogs have probably never seen grass, much less understand that it’s supposed to be their bathroom,” Nicole Pawlowski-Herr wrote.
You’ll need to work gently getting dogs accustomed to grass. Take them out, let them explore and make it positive with lots of treats and toys and praise.
Certainly, if you catch them going potty, make it a huge celebration. But don’t expect it from them in the beginning. Just use everything in your power to make the feeling of grass under their feet become associated with wonderful-things-happen-to-dogs (toys, treats, praise).
One more thing — read this book: Way to Go: How to Housetrain a Dog of Any Age by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen London, Ph.D.
Our trainers write that it is the BEST resource on potty raining available, and it’s only $5.95.
Order it online at Tully’s Toys.


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. For us working folks it is hard to create a schedule for our pets. I work about 30 min away from my apartment and had to drive back home during my 30 min lunch break just to let the dog out, what a nightmare!!! I lost 10 lbs though, LOL :0) I did some research online and came across a dog potty. I bought one from this site and it totally worked!. Now I dont have to worry about letting my pet out or creating a schedule!. It only took him about a week to get trained to it. The great thing about my dog potty is that it dosen’t smell like gross pee pads. What a great invention!