My hesitancy over potty training my toddler melted away once I realized that I could apply my knowledge of puppy training to him.
The next long weekend, I booked no dog training appointments, and my husband and I shacked up in the house with a supply of Smarties (a common candy in Canada, similar to M&Ms), stickers, and hope.
Then we followed the basic rules for potty training your puppy, modified in small ways to suit a human being instead of a canine.
Follow the puppy around constantly. CONSTANTLY. DO NOTHING ELSE. Whenever the puppy starts to make a “mistake” in the house, immediately interrupt the behaviour by making a startling noise and picking her up.
Well, that wouldn’t do much good since our child, unlike a puppy, was wearing a diaper. The obvious solution was to strip him naked so we could see what was going on down there and catch him in the act as needed.
So we stripped him naked and watched him closely. He was standing around innocently playing with his blocks when I heard a watery little sound. Sure enough, he was urinating on his blocks.
“Uh oh! Nope! Stop!” I cried, and grabbed him by the shoulders.
Take the puppy to the correct location and wait and pray and sacrifice a goat in the hope that she will finish what he started.
I rushed my son to his potty, urine still a-flying from his penis.
“Pee goes in here!” I said, and the couple teaspoons-worth fell in the designated location.
Then we threw a party.
Whenever the puppy does happen to urinate or defecate in the right place, throw a big party. Like, Ed McMahon just showed up at your house kind of a party. Give multiple kinds of rewards – extra special treats that he never gets at any other time, AND lots of verbal praise AND petting AND a play session.
I usually use cut-up hot dogs for potty training, but our human puppy found that Smarties were more motivating. This might vary from child to child.
Our son had never had chocolate before, so he thought this was a GREAT idea.
But candy wasn’t enough. He ALSO got a sticker to put on a potty chart (which was basically a piece of bristol board hung on the door for the purpose of receiving stickers). There was also a dance. And a high five. And a hug.
Since bowel movements were less common, I allocated double-reward status to those, on the recommendation of some experienced acquaintances. TWO candies and TWO stickers!
We also promised that if he managed to get ten stickers on his chart, he earned a very special reward: UNDERWEAR.
Give the puppy lots of opportunity for success by leading her to the right spot on a regular basis, especially after he has eaten or drank or played or sneezed or… well, you get the idea. Do it a lot.
We lead him to the potty regularly, between each activity. And if he wanted to read a book? Why he could do so on the potty and only on the potty. This Plastic God was Lord of All Good Things, and required regular visits.
Success Starts Small
That first accident on his blocks was the one and only one he had in the house. He earned his underwear (NOT Pull Up diapers, because they wouldn’t show off accidents as clearly. You MUST catch accidents every time!) by the second day and pranced about happily in them.
The first time we tried leaving the house and taking a short walk around the block he wet himself. But the good news was that he recognized it immediately, thanks to the new underwear. So the mistake was caught in the act, we ran back inside, and he managed to make a bit more in the potty.
The next day, we tried a trip to the grocery store. I put him on the potty just before we went out the door, drove like a madwoman to the store, and then carried him into the grocery store and DIRECTLY into the bathroom. He was informed that a pee in the grocery store potty would result in TWO STICKERS and he complied very willingly. A quick trip around the store, a final visit to the potty, and a race home resulted in a successful accident-free trip.
Potty Training was complete.
Well, with the exception of bowel movements…
Go On to Potty Training Part 4