How to Paper Train Small Dogs

posted: 05/15/12
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How to Paper Train Your Small Dog
Ariel Skelley/CORBIS | Image Source/Corbis

Allowing a dog to poop inside the house isn't for everyone. But for city dwellers living in high-rises or owners with mobility issues, teaching their small dogs to eliminate inside rather than outside is a practical alternative.

The process of paper training begins as soon as you bring your small breed puppy or dog home. How quickly he learns depends on you. With a regular feeding schedule and consistent training, dogs usually start relieving themselves in the right spot within seven days. It takes a few more weeks for paper training to become habit.

"The quickness of success really depends on the owner's consistency," says trainer Josh Pitts of Pawsitive Pack Leading in Newark, Calif.

Pitts says there's a lot more to paper training than just teaching your dog where to go. First, you'll need to choose a product. Most modern owners forgo newspaper in favor of absorbent potty training pads (about $30 for 100 pads) or litter boxes designed for dogs (starting at $80) that hold real or artificial grass. Pitts recommends carefully choosing a spot to put the pad or litter box for your pet. Once you've picked a location, such as a laundry room or enclosed outdoor balcony, stick with it. Changing the location later on will only confuse your dog, he says, and set back any progress you've made.

Dog trainer Teoti Anderson of Pawsitive Results in Lexington, S.C., prefers litter boxes because they give dogs an easily defined space in which to eliminate. Plus, she warns, some puppies enjoy making confetti out of the pads or newspaper.

Anderson emphasizes that it's important to feed your dog at the same times each day. Doing this makes your dog's elimination schedule much more predictable. In general, puppies need to relieve themselves about 30 minutes after eating; adult toy breeds within an hour.

Puppies also typically need to potty after sleeping, drinking, playing and chewing. Signs your dog has to 'go' include sniffing the floor, circling or suddenly running out of sight.

When you see this behavior, lead your dog, on leash, to the right spot or pick him up and place him there. Then give a verbal cue: a word or phrase for your dog to associate with going to the bathroom.

"They won't know what the words mean at first, but after you pair it with the action over and over it will eventually sink in," says Anderson. (She uses "Do your business.")

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Tips for Paper Training Your Small Dog
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Don't rush your small dog while he's eliminating. Some pooches go more than once so be patient, especially with puppies four months of age and younger. They usually have to pee twice and poop twice.

"It's a biology thing," explains dog trainer Anderson.

After your dog finishes, give a tiny but tasty treat and lots of praise. (Everyone likes to be told they're doing a good job -- even dogs!) Once your pooch is a potty pro, you'll no longer need to give a food reward. It's only done initially to accelerate learning.

If your dog has an accident outside the potty zone -- and you catch him in the act -- firmly say "No." Then promptly place him in the right spot to finish. When he does, give him a yummy treat and praise him for a job well done.

If your dog makes a mistake but you didn't see it happen, don't yell at him. He won't understand that piddling on the carpet five minutes ago is now upsetting you. Instead, vow to be more vigilant in recognizing the signs that he has to go and provide him with more potty breaks throughout the day.

Clean accidents by using an enzyme-based deodorizer to rid the rug of that yucky urine odor. Other products, such as regular carpet cleaners and vinegar, don't do this effectively. Consequently, dogs tend to go back to the same smelly spot to relieve themselves.

Until your small dog is fully paper trained, he'll need constant supervision. Anderson recalls the challenges she faced in housetraining her Papillon. "He could run around the love seat, pee on the other side, and not lose momentum coming back around," she recalls. "So I never noticed he was peeing."

Keep tabs on your pup by confining him to the area with the pad or litter box by using an adjustable see-through gate. Placing your dog in this area, especially during times he's more likely to "go" will prevent him from sneaking off to poop behind the sofa.

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More Tips for Paper Training Your Small Dog
Ariel Skelley/CORBIS | Image Source/Corbis |

Another option is to attach a long leash to your puppy and the other end to you. Now everywhere you go, he goes, too. Remember to bring your dog to the potty zone every few hours, or when he starts acting as if he has to eliminate.

To help make the paper training process go even more smoothly, avoid these common pitfalls:

- Changing brands of food or giving table scraps. Sudden diet changes can give your dog an upset stomach or diarrhea.

- Physical punishment. Never rub your dog's nose in his mess, hit him with your hand or rolled-up newspaper. This is not an effective way of training and, in fact, may lead to aggressive behavior later on, says Anderson.

- Free feeding. Leaving out a bowl full of kibble all day makes it difficult to predict when your dog needs to eliminate.

- Dual housetraining. Training for both indoor and outdoor elimination is too confusing for dogs, says California trainer Pitts, who advises clients to pick one or the other and stick with it.

After about a week, if your pup or adult small dog hasn't gotten the hang of where to go, consult with your veterinarian. An underlying medical problem, such as internal parasites or a bladder infection, might be to blame. Some drugs also cause diarrhea or increased urination. If your dog is currently taking medication, ask your vet if these are possible side effects.

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