Potty Training 101

By Anica Wong

February 5, 2010 4 min read

The joy of bringing home a new puppy or kitten can be long forgotten when you find a smelly present on your formerly clean carpet. There may be nothing more infuriating than having to clean up after Duke; doesn't he know that he's supposed to go outside to do his business?

But puppies don't have innate knowledge of where and when to go to the bathroom, especially when you bring them into a new place. So how do you make sure that you aren't picking up excrement and scrubbing out urine stains from your carpet in the future? Two words: potty training. And though some may shirk this task, it is very necessary, no matter how long it may take.

"Have patience," says Caryl Wolff, a dog trainer and behavior consultant in Los Angeles. "It doesn't happen overnight. You weren't potty-trained in a week, and neither is your puppy going to be potty-trained in a week."

To start the potty-training process, pick a spot for your puppy to do his business. You want to establish this spot as "the spot." Next, take your puppy to that spot when you know he is bound to have to eliminate -- when he gets up in the morning. Praise him when he goes, and give him a treat to let him know that this is exactly the behavior you want to see.

You should try to do the same thing shortly after your puppy eats or drinks, which will help him get used to going out on a regular basis. As he gets older, you will be able to wait longer to take him outside to eliminate. If your puppy does have an accident in the house (which he is bound to do as he is learning), never stick his face in his accident. The puppy doesn't learn anything from this action except that you are unpredictable, and he then becomes afraid of you, Wolff says. Also, you never should yell at your dog when you see him eliminating in the house.

"What he does learn is not to urinate and defecate in front of you," Wolff says. "Then he goes and runs and hides, and that's when you get the dogs that go behind the furniture or behind the drapes, and you have no idea where the smell comes from."

Litter training a kitten is somewhat easier than training a puppy. Most cats are predisposed to eliminating in some sort of gravel, so they are comfortable with cat box filler. Most mother cats train their kittens on the uses of a litter box, but it is your duty to make sure that the litter box is usable, meaning that its filler is clean and does not smell, as cats will not want to use a soiled litter box.

Training your little guy may become more of a task if you have to trek up and down apartment stairs to get to the small brown patch of grass next to the parking spots. Brandon Kennington had this same problem soon after he got his first puppy. So he set out to find a solution; enter his invention, the Porch Potty, a patch of sod on top of a tray that drains. Your dog's urine passes through the artificial grass and drains into the tray, which then can be emptied using an attached hose. This product can be put on a small apartment patio or condo porch.

"For training purposes, the scent of real grass -- getting the puppy to think this is a real backyard -- is good," Kennington says.

But he cautions that just having a patch of grass won't automatically make your puppy learn where and when to go.

"There are plenty of products on the market to help train puppies, but I think a lot of customers have to realize that training is in fact training and it requires patience and working with the dog," Kennington says.

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