“How do I learn to go potty?”
I read somewhere that Cotons were difficult to potty train – RIDICULOUS I SAY! Simply not true. They are so EASY to potty train!. Some small dogs have a reputation for being difficult to potty train – (Shih tzu comes to mind) – but Cotons are NOT difficult to potty train!
Here are my thoughts.
First and foremost it’s important to accept that puppies DO NOT have the physical ability to hold their potty, and they won’t have the physical ability until they are 6 months of age or so.
Second, accept that if a puppy has an “accident” it is YOUR FAILURE; not the puppy’s. Dogs do not think like humans. They think very differently. Never punish for what you consider an accident. Use positive reinforcement only.
Then, know that puppies do not like to potty where they eat or where they sleep. They are naturally clean animals.
Don’t put potty pads underneath their eating area.
Young puppies cannot possibly go all night long without going potty. If your puppy is in a crate he/she will whine in the middle of the night, and you must let the pup out to go potty (on a pad or outside) and then get the pup to go back to sleep. Having a puppy is like having a baby in the house. Interrupted nights are a definite. If your pup is sleeping on the bed and whines, let the pup go on a pad or outside, and then go back to sleep. By about 4 months your pup will probably be sleeping through the night.
Puppies are very diurnal – they wake up when it’s light and they start getting sleepy when it’s dark. If you can sync with this, you’ll be better off – at least at first. Once the dog is older it won’t matter as much.
Potty Pads. At first, put many many pads around (not in the eating or sleeping area) and you will discover where your pup wants to pee. You will potty train faster and be less frustrated if you put potty pads in the places the pup chooses to go rather than trying to force the pup to go in your chosen spot. The pup is going to pee where the pup is going to pee. Put a potty pad there and when he/she goes, praise him/her and say “potty pad; good puppy;potty pad; good puppy; good job; very good;” etc. over and over while the pup is going potty. Do this every time you see the pup going onto the pad. This will teach the pup what a potty pad is, and that the pup is good for using it. Even if he/she misses the pad, if it’s close, praise the pup for trying. You can certainly move a pup gently from the edge onto the pad. At first the pup will go in multiple areas but in time will be able to go in just 1 spot, and after you have consistent potty pad use, you can move the potty pad little by little to the spot YOU want. While the pup is using the pad pretty well but not always, I remind the pup frequently where the pad is by just pointing or touching the pad and saying “potty pad” after getting the pups attention. Frequent reminders that here is the potty pad helps the pup remember where it is and to go to it to go potty. Another thing that helps is to leave a used pad down on the floor underneath the clean pad. Pups will be reminded by the odor that that is where they potty.
I do think of potty pads as just a temporary measure for when the pups are young.
Now, going poop on a potty pad is a more difficult concept. I don’t know why but it is. It’s so cute because when they get the concept they put their body on the pad but usually their bum is hanging over the pad and the poop actually goes on the floor – but this is a success! The pup was on the potty pad!! Learn to think like a puppy and you will be happy!
Pups will need to poop first thing in the morning, and will go again again after breakfast. They will go during the middle of the day, possibly before dinner time, and again after dinner. Conventional wisdom is to take them out about 20 minutes after eating and that’s pretty accurate. Young puppies will circle (and circle and circle) when they need to poop (many adult Cotons circle too!). They might move from spot to spot circling. I start praising as soon as the puppy starts circling. If the pup is not on a pad I move him/her to one. I follow the pup if he/she runs to another area. I might even grab a pad to place under the pup if he/she lands in a spot with no pad. Pups eat 4 times a day when they are young, so expect frequent pooping. Again, you will be better off if you put pads where the pup wants to go. Once they have this mastered, you can move it. Our litter of pups chose a spot I wouldn’t have, but I put pads there and that’s where they go. They literally run to that spot in the morning if it’s too chilly to take them outside.
Now, I do think that most pups and dogs prefer to go potty outside, rather than on pads. It’s just natural. so training them to go outside is the easiest. Take them out frequently. When they potty have a phrase you say each and every time over and over. I use “potty outside” with the emphasis on “outside” and lots of praise. When we go out I say “Let’s go outside to go potty”; then outside I say “go potty; outside go potty; hurry up hurry up; c’mon sweetie go potty; etc” When the pup goes I say YES! potty outside!; potty outside; good job; etc” They get this connection really FAST, and they learn to go potty outside. It’s really easy. One of our personal pups threw herself through the dog door at a young age and essentially potty trained herself. Of course it does really help if they have another dog to follow and copy the behavior.
We have always had a dog door so the dogs can go out at will. I have never trained a pup to ring a bell to say he/she needs to go outside, but I think that would be a great thing so if you need your dog to tell you that he/she needs to go out, train him/her to ring a bell. They sell them and they come with instructions on how to train your dog to use it. I just have no experience with it.
You can also use one of the natural grass potty areas inside the house or on a patio. They are self contained real grass mini park for your dog to potty on. This is a great concept and works for some dogs; probably most small dogs can be trained to use it and it’s nicer than potty pads. I’ve never had the need but my sister used it and it worked.
I think the main thing is to decide what you are going to use, so you can start the training and be consistent rather than jump around from one thing to another. But if something isn’t working, then yes, switch to something else. But the younger your pup is exposed, and the more consistent you can be, the better.
I think that’s about all there is to say about potty!