Potty in the Kitchen — Another Trainer’s Rebuttal

ou have not read “Potty Party in the Snow,” then read it now so you will understand the context of the following dialogue.

Dear Jerry,

C’mon. You HAVE TO BE KIDDING! Put a poop spot into your kitchen? That is the most dangerous suggestion for the health of the family. Do you think we are going to crate our dogs in the kitchen? No way! Bedroom, family room, etc., OK. and maybe they will go pooh. However, putting the crate near it is self-defeating!  And, yes our dogs are part of our family, but I wouldn’t put a pad in the kitchen and go pooh myself and neither should my dog, cat or other animal! That’s just disgusting. You need to apologize to your audience. You’re smarter than that. I enjoy your newsletters, but you are way off on this one!

#2 (no pun intended): A dog will not go potty in a playpen if that is where it’s staying! This is elementary dog behavior.

Warm regards,

My Response

Thank you very much for writing. It’s always nice to get another trainer’s perspective from time to time, to keep me on the straight and narrow.

You are absolutely right. For most families, a dog pooping and peeing in the kitchen is absolutely disgusting! For them, another small area of the house would certainly be more appropriate. For SOME families, however — e.g., those who live in small houses, condos, or apartments — a potty area in the kitchen or laundry room or large bathroom or doggy playpen can be a good option if not the best option. The idea is to set aside a small area of the home for the dog’s potty area. The dog can use this space temporarily while it’s unwilling to potty in the snow outdoors. Rather than using a bedroom or family room, I personally prefer a small area that is not carpeted. As a trainer, you know that one option may not be the best solution for all situations.

As an example, my girlfriend in China (Doris, now my beautiful wife here in the U.S.) had a 10-year-old unneutered male Shih Tzu (Maomao). He had never before been house trained. Doris had a job that made her work late into the evenings. That meant she rose late in the mornings to find poop and pee in certain areas of her house. Being an industrious and fastidious Chinese lady, she always managed to keep her house clean and sterilized despite her dog’s lack of training. I went to China in 2006 to meet Doris in person, and her daughter, and her dog. I took two large pieces of luggage, one of them stuffed with American-made (imagine that!) doggy potty pads. In less than two weeks, we trained this 10-year-old dog to use potty pads indoors. Of course, he already knew how to potty outdoors when it was available!

Doris had a spare bedroom, a rarity in China. We used it, and not her kitchen, for Maomao’s Doggy Area. It was about 10′ x 10′ in area, if I recall. We put Maomao’s bed (no crate) and water and food dishes in one corner of the bedroom. We initially covered the rest of the bedroom’s floor with potty pads. In less than two weeks, we got Maomao down to using one or two potty pads reliably. This method may not work for everyone, but it certainly worked for this dog.

Consistent potty-training methods work. Consistency is the key!

#2 (I got your pun, hee, hee!): Elementary dog behavior indeed dictates that the dog will try its best to keep its sleeping and living quarters clean of feces and urine. This is one of three instincts that dogs are born with that make house-training work. The key phrase, of course, is “try its best.” Many former puppy-mill or pet-store dogs eliminate in their crate because they were forced to go against Mother Nature. They were forced to potty in the same area they slept, ate, and played in. Talk about disgusting! For these dogs, we have to get them out of the crate. We behavior specialists have to use other methods to “rewire” them to potty appropriately.

Just like us humans, dogs have their physical limitations. If we humans can’t hold it any longer, if our dogs can’t hold it any longer, we’re going to eliminate. We’re going to potty, regardless of where we are or what’s going on around us. How many times have you hidden behind a tree or bush alongside the highway or rushed to a gas station because you couldn’t hold it any longer?! The idea is to provide — IF NECESSARY — a TEMPORARY area indoors where the dog can eliminate without pottying all over the place.

Dr. Ian Dunbar is a world-renown veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). The APDT is now the largest professional dog-training association in the world. You should think about becoming a member if you’re not already. Dr. Dunbar and many other well-respected behavior specialists around the world heavily promote using the doggy playpen for house training as well as for behavior management. For more information on his methods for potty training in a playpen, check out his free on-line book, Before You Get Your Puppy (http://dogstardaily.com/free-downloads).

Thanks again for writing. I know a lot about dog-behavior modification and training, but I certainly have a lot of room to learn more and more. Please keep in touch. It’s always nice to get another trainer’s perspective from time to time.

–Jerry D. Patillo, CPDT-KA


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