Eliminate on Command
If you plan to travel with your puppy, have rushed, hectic mornings or simply don't relish standing in the rain while Rover takes his sweet time going potty, you should teach him to Eliminate on Command. Not only will it speed up the process of having him empty out, but it provides you with the convenience of being able to control when and where he will eliminate.
That you can teach your dog to eliminate when and where you tell him might, at first, sound miraculous. But, a command, even one that tells him to do his business, is nothing more than a stimulus to get him to perform a certain behavior. Although elimination is a natural, biological function, dogs also eliminate to a wide range of visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli. Very young puppies are stimulated to urinate and defecate by their dam licking their ano-genital area. Older puppies respond to both pressure on the bowel or bladder as well as to the sight of their litter mates eliminating. Adult dogs use feces and urine to mark territory. It is not at all unusual for resident dogs to mark droppings left by strange dogs that have wandered through their territory. Many dogs, especially males, will mark their territorial boundaries at the sight or sound of a strange dog.
The process of teaching your dog the command to eliminate is straightforward and simple - have him hear the command as he performs the behavior. Then reward the behavior. When you determine that he needs to eliminate, take him on his leash to the spot where you want him to use as his bathroom. Command him to go and continue to repeat the command until he does. As soon as he eliminates, praise him profusely and reward him with something that he wants.
Step One: Determine that he needs to go.
Predicting when your dog needs to eliminate is fairly easy. He will need to go shortly after he eats or drinks. The younger he is, the shorter will be the time between ingestion and elimination. He will need to urinate almost immediately after waking from a nap. If crated, he will need to eliminate after any length of time in the crate. In fact, putting your dog in his crate for an hour or so will almost insure that he will eliminate quickly. A play session when Mom, Dad or the kids arrive home is sure to cause him to need to go. And with young puppies, you are safe in considering that he will need to be taken outside about once an hour during the day for each month of his age.
It is imperative that a responsible adult watch the puppy while he is loose in the house. They will each give you a signal that they need to go. This signal will vary from puppy to puppy, but they will, all, if you'll watch them, tell you of their needs. The signal may be that he starts to sniff the area. Many start turning in a tight circle. It's a sign that you need to scoop him up and take him outside.
Step Two: Have a designated bathroom area.
From a cleanup point of view, it is best to choose one specific area as your puppy's bathroom. Dogs are creatures of habit. If you take him, each time, to the same spot, it will, in a short time become a signal to him that it is potty time. It will also, later, help to prevent him from choosing your steps or patio as his bathroom. This is a good idea from a strictly training point of view as well. The scent left by his previous visits act as a powerful olfactory stimulus.
It is necessary to clean up after your puppy's visit as many dogs refuse to walk in an area fouled by feces. An easy way to do this is to insert your hand into a plastic sandwich bag, scoop up the feces, turn the bag inside out and seal it.
Step Three: Keep him in the area.
Most puppies, unless they are restrained, will spend their time outside in play. They will chase butterflies, sniff where the mice have scurried through the grass, anything except doing what you have brought them there to do. When you give up and take them back inside, they will suddenly remember their need. It is advisable to take your puppy out on his leash. Let boredom remind him of why he is there.
Step Four: Limit his time.
Allow your puppy not more than five minutes to do his business. The entire point of this training is to teach him to go quickly when you tell him to. Standing around for long periods of time teaches him that you have nothing better to do than wait for him. If, after five minutes, he has not eliminated, simply put him in his crate. Leave him there for fifteen minutes. Then try him again.
Step Five: Reward success.
Reward is the key to all successful dog training. When your puppy goes within the allotted five minute time span, immediately praise him. Reward him with something that he wants. This last is the tricky part. The reward must be something that he wants, not just something you think he wants. For many puppies, being taken off the leash is sufficient reward. House dogs, that are inside all day, might consider a long walk adequate reward. For some it might be a tasty food treat. For others, a chance to chase a ball.
The opposite of reward is punishment. Inadvertently punishing your dog after he has eliminated can quickly condition him to hold it as long as possible. Most of us adhere to a tight work and social schedule that sometimes makes an extra fifteen or twenty minutes to spend with our dog hard to come by. If you are going to succeed in teaching your puppy to eliminate on command, you absolutely must make this time available. When you rush him back inside as soon as he has eliminated, what you are teaching him is that he will get to stay outside longer if he holds it longer. To teach your puppy to eliminate on command you must avoid inadvertent punishment. You can do this by observing a simple rule: always give your puppy ten minutes of reward time after he has eliminated.