INTRODUCTION TO POTTY TRAINING
As with children, potty training your Labrador Retriever is a task that can seem very difficult. Since Labradors are very energetic, they occasionally urinate indoors when excited, even after training. Though it may seem impossible to correct behavior such as this, it is entirely possible, though not without a significant amount of work. Be certain that you are able, in both ability and time, to adequately potty train your Labrador Retriever before making the choice to adopt. Adopting a new Labrador is not a choice to be taken lightly, for it can be a difficult road to successfully train your dog. However, if you are willing to make the commitment, potty training your Labrador Retriever can be accomplished with patience, care, and a good amount of positive reinforcement.
IMPORTANCE OF POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
The number one key to a successful potty training program for your Labrador Retriever is positive reinforcement. This is a training tactic that is frequently used when training dogs, and has proven to be both the most effective and easiest for all dog owners. It can be used to correct any number of negative behavioral problems, as well as reinforce new and additional behavioral concepts. Because of the Labrador Retriever’s temperament, which makes them very eager to please their owner, positive reinforcement training is especially effective with the Labrador breed. A Labrador’s greatest pleasure is to earn the approval of its owner, which is also why it’s extremely important to be careful about the amount of negative reinforcement that your dog receives (yelling, physical punishment, outdoor exile). Especially in the area of Potty Training, negative reinforcement can backfire, as your dog may think that relieving itself is wrong.
Though it may be frustrating at first, it is very important to abstain from negative reinforcement towards your dog. As well as taking a step backwards with training your dog, negative reinforcement can lead to a host of behavioral issues, which can make Potty Training difficult. Your dog is learning a new skill, and you are the only individual who has the ability to teach them. This is especially true with puppies, who don’t have control over their bowels and bladders at an early age. By using positive reinforcement in potty training, it will be a much simpler task to successfully complete this training.
STEPS TO TAKE FOR POTTY TRAINING
Potty training should be the initial training program that you take with a new puppy. Potty training works much better on young dogs, because they are already in the process of learning and adapting to many new skills. When you first introduce a Labrador Retriever puppy to your home, you only have a short amount of time to set down the rules for your home, and to teach them to your puppy. As the puppy is already adapting to a new and different environment, it is much easier to potty train your puppy at this stage. Potty training takes approximately two weeks, which requires dedication to a set training routine.
The first step to take when potty training your Labrador Retriever is to determine if the breeder or adoption center from where you acquired your dog has taken any initial steps or begun a potty training program. This is very important, since you will then be building upon an already acquired skill set. Depending on the depth and quality of the previous potty training program, this can either make your job much easier, or provide additional difficulties. You can get this information by asking your breeder or adoption center about any and all training that they have given your specific dog.
The next step for you to take, if there has been no previous training provided, is to introduce your puppy to the proper area for it to relieve itself. You will need a leash, collar, and some basic control over your puppy, as they can be very active at this stage. Introducing your puppy to the proper bathroom area can be easily accomplished if you have other dogs, since the scent will alert your puppy of the appropriate area of which to “go potty”. If you do not have other dogs, begin by taking your puppy outdoors on a regular basis, or whenever you think they are about to have an accident. In the event that your puppy relieves itself outside, be certain to reward your puppy with a treat, as well as bountiful praise. This is the first concept of positive reinforcement, since you are rewarding your dog for behavior that is done correctly.
While you are potty training your puppy, it can be very beneficial to keep them in a crate or cage when you are unable to watch them. This can prevent unforeseen accidents, and provide greater control to you. Most puppies will not relieve themselves when in close quarters, and will whine or bark when they have a need to do so. In this event, you can immediately take them outside, then reward them when they have gone to the bathroom in the correct area. This can be a very important positive reinforcement tactic.
Most puppies will give you clear warning signs before they are about to go to the bathroom, which can be discerned by careful observation. Remember: puppies do not have control over their bladders until they understand the feeling of needing to relieve themselves. If your puppy starts walking in circles, sniffing the ground, or walking with its back arched, it is probably a good idea to take them outside immediately. Some puppies, especially when in a crate, will bark or whine when they need to go outside.
If your Labrador Retriever puppy doesn’t relieve itself in the first 10-15 minutes after you take them outdoors, it can be a good tactic to bring them back indoors, and keep them in their crate or cage for about ten minutes. After this time, you can take them outdoors and try again. This can be repeated 2-3 times, or until you get your puppy to relieve itself successfully.
When feeding your puppy, try to feed them at the same time each day. This can help you determine the time frame in which they will have to go to the bathroom, and make it easier for you to get them outside during that time. If you are feeding your puppy dry food, they will require additional water for proper digestion. However, keeping a schedule is very important, so it can be beneficial during the potty training process to remove their water source (and close all toilet lids) two hours before bedtime. When doing this, it’s also important to feed your puppy at least four hours before bedtime, so that they have adequate time to drink the water needed for digestion. Feeding your puppy dry food also has the additional benefit of making their stools firm, which can make accidental cleanups indoors much easier.
During this time, it may be very easy to get frustrated with your puppy, especially if they make a mess in an inappropriate place, or on something valuable. It’s very important to resist the urge to scold them, since they may make the connection that relieving themselves is bad. Be gentle, but firm, and try to make it abundantly clear that this is behavior that is only appropriate in the designated area. Scolding is only effective if you see the puppy begin to go to the bathroom indoors. In this event, you should say something firm and simple, such as “No”. Immediately after that, take the puppy outside, where they will finish doing their business. After they have successfully relieved themselves outside, it is extremely important to give them a reward. This will help them make the connection that the indoors is definitely not the place for a bathroom, and that going outside produces rewards or praise. It is extremely important to clean up all traces of any indoor mess, as “waste odors” can make your puppy think that this is the correct area for a bathroom. Most ordinary cleaners will not remove all odor from the floor or carpet. An odor-eliminator specifically designed for pet odors will work best, which is sold at most pet and grocery stores.
IF YOUR DOG ISN’T LISTENING
Sometimes, there can be dogs with temperamental issues that make it very difficult to accomplish successful potty training. This is more common when you are adopting a rescued dog, or an older dog that has not been potty trained. Training these dogs is much harder, though can be accomplished through the same tactics as if you were training a puppy. However, difficult dogs to potty train may also need additional positive reinforcement, especially if you are trying to earn the trust of your dog. Some dogs, despite proper potty training, may take up to a year to be fully potty trained. The important thing is to not get discouraged, and be prepared to change your training tactics as is appropriate for your dog’s temperament.