One of the most common complaints during dog training sessions is that a dog won’t let the owners know when he needs to eliminate, resulting in accidents in the home. Often this statement comes from owners of new dogs who own smaller breeds. Quite frequently, these dogs are also from rescue or shelter situations.
Anyone could certainly appreciate a dog that might ring a bell on the door, whine, nose the owner in the knee, or hold up a lit neon sign that screams “I have to potty right NOW!” The unfortunate reality is that this may not happen right away with a new dog.
If the dog came from a shelter or rescue situation, it likely has no understanding of “let someone know.” Sadly, there is often no one around to be attentive to these cues. And that means that the dog may be comfortable eliminating in their own kennel space.
The issue of accidents in the home can be further exacerbated if the dog has ever been scolded or punished for having an accident. After all, if the puppy or dog is scared or frightened of punishment by the owners, then he’ll learn to find a place farthest away from the people to do his business. Usually this means finding a corner in a quiet, dark, plushly carpeted bedroom.
What about in the meantime between first getting your dog and training it to “notify?” The answer is very simple… Always assume your dog has to potty. This is easy if you have a puppy in the home. If he didn’t just come inside from pottying successfully, then most likely he’ll need to potty within the next 10-30 minutes. It’s safe to assume that with a brand new puppy (8 weeks), you’ll be going out every hour on the hour when the pup is not crated. Predictably, puppies need to eliminate right after eating, drinking, waking up, and after play sessions.
With a small breed adult dog, assume that you’ll need to take your dog out at minimum every two hours. The most important thing you can do for your new puppy or dog is take them to the same spot in the yard (on leash) and then treat and praise heavily after your dog potties in that spot. Never interrupt the “flow” of success!
If your dog was not successful outside, place your dog in his crate for 10-20 minutes and then try again. Just a reminder that the appropriate crate size for potty-training is one where the dog can comfortably stand up, turn around and lay down. Anything larger will give them room to eliminate inside the crate.
Indeed, there are subtle physical cues your dog will give when they need to potty. Circling, sniffing and an elevated position of your dog’s tail will tell you that your dog may need to go outside tout de suite. If your dog is left to roam your home unsupervised, you would never be able to pick up on these subtle cues.
Therefore, if you are in the process of potty-training your dog, it’s important that the dog always be within your sight. Tools to help with this include using an exercise pen and baby gates to keep your dog confined to certain areas, or tether your dog to you as you move around the home. Tethering your dog to your waist can also simultaneously teach him nice leash-walking skills!