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Potty training method at the Croaking Toad

Disclaimer:  I am not a dog trainer nor have I researched potty training methods.  This page has been created in response to the often asked question .. how do you potty train your puppies?
Over the course of potty training many, many, Shih Tzu this is what has worked best for us at the Croaking Toad.  You may be able to incorporate some of these ideas in your house training adventure.

I've always had dogs in my life and had never given much thought to house training.  I only owned big dogs until about 17 years ago when I got my first Shih Tzu.  All the sudden there was a lot of thought to house training as our new puppy really did not seem to get it like past dogs.  In the years, since, I have heard and read that many consider Shih Tzu hard to house train.  Upon speaking with my veterinarian and others it would seem that Shih Tzu do not have exclusive rights to being harder to house train.  It would appear it is a challenge in many of the small breeds.
In fairness to the Shih Tzu breed, I must report, I have had some puppies that have been rock stars and potty trained with very little effort.  I have not noticed that gender plays into how easy a puppy is to train.  In all honesty most "hard" to train puppies are a result of the trainer.  Every puppy that has been particularly hard to train, for me, has a finger pointing at me.  Those first weeks of house training, when puppies potty often, is critical.  When I have not given as much attention, as I should, to a puppies training I usually am rewarded by a long house training process.

Potty on Command 
The number one training tool in our house is teaching a puppy to potty on command.  It usually takes a few days but well worth the trouble.  This is best done as young as possible when a puppy potties often.

Step 1 .. Take the puppy to the area where you want them to potty.  Try to do this when you know the puppy will need to potty.  Usually as soon as your puppy wakes up or if you have been cuddling a long while, etc.  Calmly and quietly watch the puppy.  Once they start to potty calmly repeat whatever phrase you have chosen to get your puppy to potty.  Repeat this over and over as they potty.  Once he has finished tell him what a good puppy he is and reward him if you like.  I give a very small soft treat.  Don't get too enthusiastic with your praise.  Getting a puppy overly excited does not help them to connect the dots. Sometimes you will need to do this for several days depending on the puppy.  Don't rush it.  They need to learn this phrase is connected to the act of going potty, not just to being outside.

Step 2 .. Once the puppy is associating the phrase with going potty then start using the phrase before they potty.  Again this is quickest learned if you do this when you are pretty sure your puppy needs to potty.  Take him to his spot and watch him.  By now you know the signs that lead up to him going potty.  Just before the puppy potties, use the phrase and continue the phrase until he is done.  It doesn't take long before you can take your puppy out and use the phrase and most often he will potty.  If he doesn't potty don't make an issue but do not reward.

This helps in several ways.  The obvious one is you can keep your puppy empty so when he is in the house you can guesstimate how much "safe" time you have before he will randomly potty somewhere.  The other is your puppy can more easily understand where it is you want him to potty since you are asking him to do it only outside. 

Getting from Point A to Point B
I feel this is second most important to teaching the potty command.  It is so easy to scoop your puppy up and carry him outside to potty but not likely the best.  It is a bit like riding in a car.  If you drive you are much more likely to remember the directions of how to get to a location than you will if you were riding passenger. 

Step 1 ..  This is the time for excitement.  Again pick a phrase that will say to the puppy that it is time to go out.  Here we say, "lets go out" and then, clap, clap.  Take him out the same exit each time.  Because of all the dogs in our house it turns into a parade when I say, "lets go out."  The idea is for the puppy to stop what he is doing and run for the exit.  Puppies are easily side tracked so be prepared to be the cheerleader and keep him on track .. clapping and being excited helps puppy stay focused on where the parade is going.  Proceed to the area you have chosen for potty business and then start asking him to potty.

This is a great help, not just getting puppy outside but also for reinforcing where potties should happen.  For instance if you are watching TV and notice your puppy is starting to squat or do puppy language for going potty start saying your phrase and get the parade heading to the door.  This is more effective than yelling, NO, at the puppy.  Yelling will scare him and when he is scared he won't be able to connect the dots that potty in the house is not a good thing.  Distract him from the act he is about to do by getting him running for the exit. 

Puppies potty often and you need to set them up for success by taking them to the correct place to potty often.  Consistency and attention are the key.  The more effort you put into the first weeks of potty training the quicker the process will go.  Potty accidents in the house set your puppy back in his training.  If no one redirects him then he has just learned that going potty in the house is acceptable.   If you are not able to monitor your puppy, during this potty training process, he should be placed in an area that is acceptable to potty, like a smaller area with a potty pad.  If you choose not to give him an option of an indoor potty area then he should be crate trained and placed in his crate when you can not monitor him. 
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I cut up the adult dogs soft treats into very small training treats and keep them in a tupperware by the door.  I don't want the puppy to fill up on junk food nor have the reward treat be a distraction.

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This video is of Poppy almost 2 weeks into potty training.  She was a little confused.  I couldn't clap while taking the video and I had locked the big dogs away so they would not dominate the video.  She was wondering where the parade was!

                                  fly catch