A Lesson Learned from Puppy Potty Training

We have a new puppy in our house. This was not planned. One night at about nine o’clock, there was a knock at the door and we opened the door to find our neighbor holding a shaking and very scared puppy. He asked if we would take the puppy. WHAT? I get lots of knocks at my door asking for all kinds of things from chicken to socks but I haven’t been asked to take a puppy. In a state of pure ignorance, I said yes we would keep him for the night, that was a week and half ago. We now have our own puppy.

We are trying to potty train the puppy and even had a friend who is a trainer come to the house and help. What do you do? You give him treats and praise for all the good behaviors and constantly reinforce every time you see them doing something good. The puppy got this pretty well at first and we lavishly praised the puppy and gave him treats when he went potty outside, then it kind of became routine and he went outside often and so the praise and treats decreased. What happened? He had a few accidents and we had to go back to the drawing board and start the praise and treats again.

Now read this: “Using questionnaires which included the Narcissistic Personality Inventory— the most widely used measure of narcissism in social psychological research— three researchers from The Ohio State University and Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York conducted two separate studies of 282 students that gauged the desire for praise, as well as the desire to engage in sex, drink alcohol, get a paycheck, eat a favorite food or see a best friend.

The studies were conducted by Ohio State professors Brad Bushman and Jennifer Crocker, as well as Scott Moeller of Brookhaven National Laboratory. The research team found that college students valued experiences that boosted their self-esteem, such as receiving a good grade or a compliment, more than any other pleasant activity they were asked about.

The surprising findings were reported online in a Journal of Personality article titled Sweets, Sex, or Self-Esteem? Comparing the Value of Self-Esteem Boosts with Other Pleasant Rewards, The article will soon be available in a printed issue.”

Ok, what that study is saying is that college students would prefer praise over sex or alcohol. I am thinking that I can learn something from potty training our puppy that I should be doing with my kids. Praise and treats work just as well on kids as they do on the puppy. When we see good behavior that we want to continue to see in their lives we need to praise them and give them occasional treats. I bet we will see it more often.

My dad always says that we should praise ten times for each negative remark we make. WOW. I don’t know if I even praise my kids ten times a day. Our kids good behavior becomes routine and doesn’t get noticed then they do something wrong and the devil comes out in us and we lavish criticism on our kids. Yes, our kids need correction and discipline – read proverbs. But they also need praise and words of encouragement from us, they need and want lots of this. Proverbs 3:27 “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Let’s all work on being parents, friends, and spouses who lavish good and praise on those around us. I think it will work the same way it does with our puppy – the good behavior we see and praise, we will see it much more often.


14 thoughts on “A Lesson Learned from Puppy Potty Training

  1. Can you scream convicted!!! I have heard that same 10:1 ratio from doc and thought I don’t come close. We have struggled with our oldest all school year. We have started the positive reinforcement tactic many times but always seem to fall shirt on the follow through. I am committing myself to sticking with this for him!!

    Thanks Kasey

  2. You’re potty training a puppy; I’m potty training a toddler. I will definitely think of this post more often now. Just today, I got over-the-top excited when Neely used the potty before nap. And then from Aidan, I hear, “I used the potty, Mom!” even though he’s been doing it for years. It’s funny how in tune they are to the praise their siblings are getting as well. So not only do I have to remember to praise my kids, I have to make sure I’m evening it out! I guess if parenting were easy, it wouldn’t be very rewarding.

    1. Yes, we experience that sibling envy here too! I have been watching lately and it is interesting to hear all the questions they ask us wanting our praise or approval. I am always getting the “didn’t I do good question.” Guess I need to praise them some more since they keep asking for it 🙂

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