By Isabel Alvarez
Oh, the joys of potty training, that lovely time when we join forces with our pets to keep floors clean, homes harmonious, and their bladders and colons happy.
Potty training is a process. The more consistent you are, the shorter the journey. First, you put your pet on a schedule. Then reward him for delivering in the right place. When there is a premature or improper delivery, you lovingly — yet assertively — correct him. And then lead him to an acceptable spot for potty completion while showering him with praise.
It seems simple enough, right? Well, it must be very complicated because many families fail to properly potty-train their pets.
I hear it all the time from people referring to their dogs as stubborn, spiteful and even dumb when they continue to have accidents inside. I had a former colleague tell me that his Yorkie was untrainable. Knowing that no dog is untrainable, I asked him how many times his pup was given the opportunity to suitably relieve herself. He couldn’t answer because it was, first of all, inconsistent and second insufficient.
What a surprise.
Dogs learn very quickly to eliminate undesirable behavior indoors as long as their parents are guiding them to the area — or areas — where they can go to town, so to speak. But potty training is a learning process and one hindered by mistakes made by uncommitted teachers.
The most common and, in my opinion, most obnoxious of these mistakes is failing to put your pet on a realistic schedule. When potty training, you wake up when your dog wakes up. If he’s stirring, chances are he needs to pee, poop or both. Get up and get him out or go grab the vinegar because an accident is brewing.
Feed him breakfast immediately after his first morning walk. Then, walk him again. How soon after depends on size and age. For a puppy, start with 15 minutes and go up from there. You can increase the increments based on how soon he finishes his business outside. As he ages and catches on, you will get to the point where you walk him, feed him, shower and get ready for work, then walk him again.
But initially, you need to stand by him and watch because his meal may run right through him. You need to be there to catch him, stop him and lead him outdoors.
Most professionals agree that dogs can only hold their bladder one hour for every month they are old, eventually maxing out at eight hours. You can let your adult dog hold it all day — 10 to 12 hours — if you must, but your pet is bound to have incontinence issues later in life. So, head home on your lunch break or hire a dog walker. You won’t let him use the carpet, so you have to let him use the grass.
It’s one or the other, my friend.
Once you return from work, you’ll be dying to kick off your shoes, get out of that stuffy suit and grab some grub, but your dog will be just as ready to do his business. Put on those walking shoes and take him out.
If you’re feeding your dog twice a day, hold off until after that first evening walk to serve dinner. And again, your puppy will need to go out pretty soon thereafter so keep those walking shoes on for evening walk No. 2.
Ready to hit the hay? Of course you are, it’s been a rough day and you’re pooped. Did somebody say poop? It’s time to head out and say goodnight to the lightning bugs and crickets. Skip his bedtime walk, and Fido may wake you up in the middle of the night. Think that’s bad enough? You may accidentally walk into his special delivery first thing in the morning.
And when the weekend rolls around, you’re excited to sleep in, right? Nope, you’re potty training remember? You don’t get to sleep late. You get to follow the weekday schedule so your little buddy will one day master the art of going outside. Lucky you!
Alexandria resident Isabel Alvarez owns The Wag Pack, a professional pet services company that the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters named its 2012 business of the year.