You may know from experience that it can be quite a challenge to potty train a small dog. Small dogs have smaller bowels and bladders, yet have to process more food and water for their size than larger dogs. As a result, they may need to eliminate more often—and that means more responsibility for you. It's not surprising that house-training failure is the #1 reason small dogs lose their homes.
That's why many owners of small dogs have adopted the litter box as their training method of choice. Those who support litter box training say it can virtually eliminate "accidents" since these dogs are free to go to the bathroom anytime during the day as needed. Litter box training provides greater convenience for owners, too. There are no inconvenient trips outside, no braving the cold, wind, and rain, and no tracking in dirt and mud. Owners simply clean the litter box once a day.
How to start litter box training
Look for a litter box designed especially for small dogs—they're available through most pet retailers. You can also use a large cat litter box, or use almost any type of low, open plastic container. You'll also need bags of litter.
Just as in outdoor training, you should take your dog to the litter box when he first wakes up, after he's eaten, and periodically throughout the day. Watch him carefully for signs that he needs to go, such as sniffing around or circling, and quickly take him to the litter box. Always immediately praise him enthusiastically if he goes in the right spot. As with any type of house- training, accidents may happen. Be prepared with cleaning supplies and a generous amount of patience.
The bottom line
Keep in mind that dogs do not have the instinctive behaviors of cats for using a litter box and burying their waste. While many dog owners succeed with litter box training, you need to be aware of the risk: some litter box-trained dogs may continue to have accidents off and on for life. If possible, also train your young dog to eliminate outdoors on grass, sod, or other outdoor surfaces. This can provide essential house-training insurance for down the road.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!