Human history offers many instances of great ideas that could not be fully realized until a complimentary idea evolved. One example of an invention that looked good on paper was, literally, on paper. Paper was first made in China in A.D. 105 during the reign of Emperor Ho Ti. Rumor had it, by A.D. 106, courtiers used the new invention to paper train the imperial puppies.
New dog owners have used paper to housetrain puppies for thousands of years. While many swear by the practice, just as many swear at it. From a behavioral perspective, paper training is of dubious benefit. The reason is that while teaching the pup to eliminate on paper is an owner’s convenience, it often leads to difficulty in achieving a fully housetrained dog.
If you were to paper train your puppy, the process would begin by completely covering a small, confined area with a large amount of newsprint. Small bathrooms or laundry rooms make the most logical areas. In one corner of the room, place a blanket or bed for your puppy. Place your puppy in the area at night and anytime you can’t observe him. Don’t forget water.
Because the entire floor is covered, your puppy has no choice but to eliminate on paper. After about two weeks of wall-to-wall paper, remove the paper near the bedding. If your puppy has no accidents on the uncovered portion of the floor, you know you are on the right track. Continue to remove more and more paper until the potty area is an identifiable area apart from the bedding.
Once your puppy appears to have an understanding of the process, you can enlarge the domain a little. Confine the puppy to the papered area for sleeping time only. Reward efforts to actively seek the paper as a potty area.
The final step is to transfer the behavior outdoors. Place soiled newspaper in the area you have selected as a potty location. Periodically take the puppy to it when he is likely to eliminate.
Theoretically, after only a few weeks, your dog will understand paper is an acceptable surface for elimination.
While paper training seems a perfect solution to accidents, there is a hidden price for the convenience: You have spent most of your time teaching your puppy to eliminate on an acceptable surface (paper) but in an unacceptable location (in the house). The newer, outdoor routine is not as firmly established as the indoor potty habit. Someday, your puppy will be away from the potty area when he needs to eliminate. Does the puppy search for newspaper, return to his most common potty location or attempt to get outside? If he searches for newspaper, he may have an accident far from his usual spot. If the puppy goes to the usual spot and doesn’t find paper, he may learn to eliminate on bare floor. The least likely behavior will be an attempt to go outside. At a critical stage in the training, your puppy is forced to ignore his earliest experience in favor of a new set of rules. Some paper-trained dogs never make a full transition from paper to outdoors.
No law requires you to use only paper to aid in house training. Many small dogs use a litter box in place of newsprint. Others learn to use a shallow aluminum pan lined with a patch of sod as a potty area. This has the advantage of teaching the pup to eliminate on an outdoor surface.
Paper training also can serve as a backup to a housetraining program that emphasizes outdoor elimination from day one. Offering food treats for outdoor elimination, while offering only praise for elimination on paper, can teach both behaviors while stressing the preference for pottying outdoors.
Be patient. No perfect method of housetraining exists. However, using a little forethought can reduce frustration for you and your puppy.