Indoor Potty Training
I just got a new puppy. Should I paper-train him?
Contrary to popular belief, paper training should not be used as the first step in your housebreaking program except under two circumstances. Paper training should be done only if :
There's no getting around it. When you papertrain your dog, you are teaching him the opposite of what we want him to learn in his housebreaking... you're teaching him to go potty in the house. If your goal is to have a dog who goes potty only outside, start in the housebreaking section to get off on the right foot.
Although most dogs are trained to relieve themselves outdoors, it sometimes makes sense to teach your dog to have an indoor potty area. This method is most commonly used by people with very small dogs, people who are unable to get outside easily due to health issues or living in a high rise and people who work such long hours that their dog can't reasonably be expected to hold it and wait to go outside.
Generally, we recommend indoor potty training only for owners whose dogs will permanently be trained to go indoors, since it can be difficult to train your dog to go outside once he's been taught that he's supposed to go indoors. If you work all day and can't get home to let your young puppy out, you may be forced to do temporary indoor potty training, or at least partial indoor potty training, until your puppy is old enough to hold it for the full day. We don't want to force him to have an accident, so we'll give him an indoor option that he can use while you're at work, but you should be sure to work diligently on his outdoor housebreaking program at all times when you're at home and able to get him outside.
There are several options for creating an indoor potty area for your dog. The old standby is just several sheets of newspaper laid out on the floor, or you can use absorbent potty pads from the pet store. You can also use a dog litter box or a tray lined with artificial turf. The pros and cons of each are discussed in the article "Indoor Potty Options". The general rules for training using any of these options are the same, so in the instructions we'll just use the term "potty area" to mean newspapers, potty pads, litter box or turf pad.
When teaching indoor potty training, you need to be very consistent and clear with Fido to prevent confusion about what area of the house is his "bathroom". Outdoor potty training tends to be clearer to Fido because of the obvious differences between indoors, where he should not potty, and outdoors, where he should. But with indoor potty training, you're teaching Fido to go potty in the house, so the distinctions aren't as clear. Your dog may have trouble distinguishing your floor from his potty area, so, don't expect Fido to just get to his potty area and know that he's supposed to relieve himself there. Occasionally you'll get lucky and your dog will figure it out right away, but, in most cases, you'll need to use scheduling, confinement and lots of encouragement to teach Fido what the potty area is for.
Choosing an Indoor Potty Area
Before you start training, you should decide where you want Fido's potty area to be. If at all possible, you should set up Fido's potty area where you want it to be long-term. Although not impossible, training him to use a new indoor area and to stop going in the original area he was trained to use is tricky, and you should avoid having to change the location of his potty area if at all possible. Putting Fido's potty area in a room with linoleum, tile or other hard flooring is better than putting it on carpet, since there may be occasional overflow or misses. In the early phases of training, if Fido's potty area has to be in a carpeted area, you may want to buy a linoleum remnant or waterproof plastic tarp to put under his papers or litter box, to prevent any overflow from getting to the carpet.
Since Fido will be relieving himself in the house, you should also consider the "ick factor" when choosing a location. Many people choose the kitchen for Fido's potty area, since the flooring makes training easy and it can be an easy place to create a confinement area. However, they later realize that cooking and eating right next to Fido's poo and pee is less than pleasant. This can work for some owners, especially those with large kitchens, but you will have to be extra vigilant about keeping the potty area clean or nobody will ever want to come to your house for dinner again! Other icky areas that should be avoided if possible include right next to your bed (you'll be awakened by the "stink alarm"), a small child's play room, a pantry or other food storage area and right inside the door where you greet your guests. Laundry rooms and bathrooms (especially if there's one that isn't frequently used by humans) are usually great spots for Fido's potty area.
Another very important note on choosing a potty area... don't let Fido choose his own potty area unless it's the same one you would choose. It's not unusual to see a potty pad right in the middle of an expensive rug in the living room or to see several all over the house. When asked why the pads are there, the dog owner inevitably says, "That's where he always goes, so we put papers down for him." That's not potty training, that's giving up!
There are two basic methods for teaching this indoor potty training. Read the brief descriptions below and pick the method that you think will suit you and your dog.
This is the easiest indoor potty training method for most puppies and dogs. You will create a confinement area where Fido can be left when he is unsupervised. The area will have a bed, food and water dishes, toys or chewies and a potty area. As Fido becomes reliable about using his potty area, you will gradually increase his area of confinement until he is loose in the house and reliable about taking himself to his potty area when he needs to go.
The crate training method is a good choice for dog and puppy owners who don't have an appropriate space for creating a confinement area and for those whose dogs escape from their confinement areas. This method is also helpful for those whose dogs are not responding well to the small confinement area, such as those who are destructive when confined or who potty in the bed or food area instead of the potty area. It will only work for owners who are able to take Fido out frequently for potty breaks.