I have an adorable 5 month old Blue Merle Cocker Spaniel and I’m having some difficulties with potty training. My husband and I both work daily and we also have a 13 year old Cocker. I put up pet gates at our hallway and our den to keep them in the kitchen daily. Abbie Bella is fine during the day -- when I come home there's no tinkle or poop in the kitchen. The dogs also have a doggie door in the kitchen that leads from the covered patio to the double-fenced in yard outside. When I get home, I immediately take the puppy in my arms and shower her with kisses and hugs and then take her outside to potty and poop because I know she gets excited when we come home. She also knows what “potty” means because she will go with me outside and tinkle.
Judy, thanks so much for your email. Before we get to the nitty gritty, we have to tell you that we think Abbie Bella is ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE! We wish we could give her freckled nose a big smooch in person!
Now for the really hard part: when you come home from work and shower her with hugs and kisses before taking her out, you are distracting her from her training. Instead, as soon as you walk in, take Abbie Bella directly outside. As hard as it will be, DO NOT acknowledge her, pick her up, talk to her, hug her or pay any attention to her until she goes the the bathroom outside. As soon as she goes, give her as much love and praise as is humanly possible. She will quickly understand that going outside is the correct behavior and that the reward for this behavior is well worth her effort. Although nice, your hugs and kisses are preventing her from focusing on her job, namely potty training.
Now on to your second question: As soon as a puppy has all of her shots and boosters, and she's otherwise healthy, she's ready to go out into the world and take an obedience class with other young pups. Puppies are naturally playful. So, begin with a class designed for puppies, which focuses on socializing and very basic obedience. A puppy class should cover only basic commands and tasks, such as sit, stay and walking on leash. Keep your expectations in check and don't be surprised if it's hard for your puppy to "come" if she's playing with a group of other puppies. Wait until your pup has matured and mastered the basic commands before tackling more advanced obedience, party tricks and requests to bring you a Perrier from the refrigerator. Remember too that the trainer is really training you, so practice, practice, practice! And most importantly, of course, have fun!