I was blessed with a mom who taught me how responsibility works. When I asked for a dog, she didn’t go out and spend hundreds of dollars on one, and then continue to spend thousands on food and vet bills. She told me that if I saved enough money to get my own, and continued to earn enough money to take care of it, she would allow me to have a dog – but only if I first learned how to properly train it, and made a commitment to take care of it no matter how sick I was, and hire/pay someone to dog sit while we were gone. She made it clear to me that she wouldn’t be picking up any messes, or keeping a dog who never answered to “come.”
So, I started reading. I learned how to train a puppy. I learned that you get up early every morning, and let your puppy out first thing, and then when (not if..when) he relieves himself, you praise him and say the words that will be your command to let him know that it’s time to go. Take him out every hour (or less, if he’s always messing in the house), and wait for him to go on his own. Then praise him to the skies! Pet him, and use your most joyful tone of voice to tell him he’s a good boy.
Unless you catch him in the act, ignore house messes for now. That’s not the issue. Clean them up, and don’t involve your puppy in any way. (Unless he tries to eat it. Then bop him on the nose or something. That’s gross. Dogs are gross.) If you catch him in the act, stop whatever you’re doing, rush him outside, and praise him when he finishes in the yard. Then come in and clean up the mess without involving him. The mess is not the puppy’s problem.
When he’s still untrained, there is no punishing involved. This puppy does not know the command. It’s not his job to learn why he’s being punished. It’s your job to teach him the rule you want him to follow. Do not stick his face in it. Do not shout no. Do not hit him. Alright? That’s abuse. It’s not a brand new tiny puppy’s responsibility to make sure he doesn’t mess on the floor. It’s yours. Handle it.
There’s no use trying to teach the action to the command. Train the command to the action. Any time your puppy is running toward you, tell him, “Come!” Then, when he gets to you, praise him. Any time your puppy sits, tell him, “Sit!” and then praise him. When he lies down, tell him, “Lie down!” and then.. you get the point. This is simply word/action association, not rocket science.
Now, if you want to get the command taught faster, you can physically manipulate your puppy to the command, but it’s not necessary. It can just be a fun bonding time, done right, and it’ll teach the dog to associate the words faster. For example, tell the standing puppy to sit while you apply gentle pressure just above his tail, and then praise him and give him treats when he puts his tail to the floor. It works, it moves the time table along faster, it can help with bonding, and it gives the added positive reinforcement of the treats – but if you’re not interested in blowing through bag after bag of treats in the first few months of dog-ownership, then simply skip this part. It might take more time and patience and effort on your part, but if you’re consistent about keeping your dog with you and using your command word every single time he does the action that matches the command word, he’ll catch on eventually. But wait.. this was a post about potty training..?
Well, let’s be honest. It’s not your baby’s job to learn how to stop messing in his diaper, either. It’s yours. So start whenever you’re ready. Some women do this the day their baby is born. Others wait until he’s two or three years old. Either way, the principles are the same. Keep your baby with you at all times. When you notice him making “the face,” use the word/s or sound that you will be using to let him know that it’s time to go. Praise him for going. Train the command to the action. When he’s big enough to get him to the toilet (or when you make the commitment to get your infant there), put him on the potty and use your command word/s. When he does what you want, praise him.