Can clicker training be used for housetraining?
The key to potty training success is tripartite–management/supervision, scheduling, and reinforcement of appropriate toileting behaviors.
Management may involve the use of gates, crates, tethers, or potty pads and should include careful supervision and prompt cleaning of all accidents with an enzymatic cleaning product created specifically for cleaning up pet potty accidents.
Scheduling involves feeding your dog at consistent times and keeping track of times when your dog needs a potty break (both accidents and successes outside!). After a few days, you should begin noticing patterns as to when your dog needs the opportunity to eliminate–frequently after play, exercise, meal times, and naps.
Reinforcement of appropriate toileting behaviors is where the clicker comes in. When you take your dog outside for a potty break, be prepared with your clicker or verbal marker and a few tasty treats. As with all training, timing is of the essence here. The overeager clicker trainer can get herself into trouble by clicking immediately as her dog begins to defecate which can actually interrupt the elimination behavior. I recommend that students click as their dog finishes eliminating, then deliver a treat to the dog.
One of the best benefits of incorporating clicker training into a potty training protocol is that it provides us to add a cue to elimination behaviors. This is especially helpful on very rainy days, if you need to take your dog out quickly at the vet’s office or training class, and any other times the handler may be in a rush and need to toilet their dog quickly.
For more on clicker training your dog or puppy to house training reliability, read How to Potty Train Your Puppy the Clicker Way.