How My Dog Prepared Me for Potty Training My Daughter

learning to potty train child by watching the dog potty train

Some people have more trouble housetraining a dog, but James was a breeze. There were still some things, though, that I picked up, and that later helped when it was time to start potty training my daughter.

I would come home from work and Timmy, my wife’s personality-filled orange cat, would walk halfway down the stairs, see it was me who came home and turn right around.

Of course, when my wife came home things were completely different. Timmy would come down to greet her, meowing and purring in celebration of her arrival home. After a few months of this rejection, I came to a conclusion: I needed a dog.

After a little searching, my wife and I adopted a rescue puppy we named James. He was brown with white paws and brown eyes. He was also only eight weeks old and was still learning to be housetrained.

For him the process meant pawing at our back door to be let out, opposed to using the carpet. There were a few accidents along the way, but James quickly learned where he was to go and, more importantly, where not to go.

Now, I would like to say that I did a masterful job at training James to properly use the bathroom, but in all honesty, he picked it up without much real teaching.

The Power of Positivity

When we started potty training our daughter, she was a few months short of her third birthday. She could speak and communicate pretty well, but even at that point, she did not understand everything we said.

This potty training method reminded me of training James. Of course, he could not understand the words we said, but he understood tone. When he used the bathroom correctly, we would praise him. We would say encouraging things in a positive and excited tone and give him attention. We did the same thing potty training my daughter; when she succeeded, we were quick to tell her what a great job she did.

The same was true for when there was an accident. When my daughter had an accident, we tried to not make a big deal of it. We wanted to keep the experience positive. The same was true for James. We scolded him lightly if we caught him in the act of having an accident, but otherwise ignored it. We wanted to keep the experience positive for him as well, relying on tone to show our approval.

Maintaining a Routine

Another potty training method James helped us with was routine. We taught him to paw at the back door when he needed to go out, and when he did, we would immediately get up and let him out. Each time we would follow him outside to praise him when he used the bathroom and to give him positive attention.

There was a similar potty training method my daughter. When she said she needed to use the bathroom, we dropped everything and went with her to the toilet. We would celebrate when she did a good job.

I know many parents may roll their eyes at comparing their child’s potty training methods to their dog’s. I get that. However, since I grew up without any younger siblings or relatives, having a dog was my first time taking care of a living creature. To do my best for him, I needed to learn how to communicate more than anything else, and that served me well during potty training my daughter.

Additional Potty Training Resources:

Similarities Between Training a Dog and Training a Kid

Toilet Training a Toddler is Much Like Training a Dog

David Stegon

David Stegon is a writer, editor, and father of two based in Virginia. He has written for traditional and digital publications for the past 13 years. David holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Temple University and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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