Training Your Puppy Part 2: Potty Training
Potty training a puppy can be tough, and it’s very important to go into the process with patience. Having an open mind and an open heart for your new puppy is crucial to their success. After all, even though they may not know when and where to go, they can tell when you’re frustrated.
It won’t happen overnight - and accidents are normal. Just remember, it’s all part of the learning process. They’ll get it! With consistency, and patience, the puppy will be able to learn the do’s and don’ts of how to do their business.
Puppies are excitable and curious, and they’ll get into absolutely everything. Immediately after the puppy steps foot into their new environment, they’ll explore every nook and cranny. But they won’t know the potty rules yet! To protect your house, and help set the rules for your new pup, it’s important to keep them in a smaller space at first.
Don’t worry, you can expand the space over time. As long as the ground rules are still being set, and the puppy is still having accidents, it’s okay to keep them in a smaller space. Whichever space you choose, it should be close to the family. Puppies need to feel included!
The kitchen is a good example of a central space in the home for housebreaking a puppy. It’s usually close to the living room, where the family spends time together. As an added bonus, it’s also usually hard wood or linoleum - materials that can withstand accidents. Here are a few ideas for keeping a mischievous puppy in a smaller space.
Dogs are naturally den animals, and by creating a comfortable place for the puppy to retreat to, it discourages them from going potty there. Find a crate where they can stand, lie-down, and turn around. Size is important! If the crate is too big, they will think it’s okay to relieve themselves in the corner.
Add some comforting items to make the crate as inviting as possible. A blanket, a chew toy, and a personal item of yours will go a long way towards making your pup feel content. The more your puppy wants to be in their den, the easier it will be during training.
Most importantly, don’t overuse the crate. It’s intended to be a safe place, and should never be used as punishment.
Puppies need to be constantly supervised! Realistically, this may seem like an impossible task if you want to get anything done in the house. By using a baby gate, the kitchen becomes a safe space where the puppy can roam without soiling the carpet or getting into anything dangerous.
The confined space should be large enough that they can play, but small enough that they can always be seen. Baby gates can keep most pups in the space without causing much stress.
Puppy pads are a good starting point for training young pups. They’re absorbent, and protect your floor while giving your puppy a hint about where to go. Place a puppy pad in the space you have prepared, and situate it as far from the food and water dishes as you can.
Your puppy will start out going everywhere, but as soon give them praise for puppy pad soiling, they will gradually understand that the puppy pad is the right place to go. Keep it up, and over time you can slowly move the puppy pad closer and closer to the door - and to the outside! Sometimes, it can help to find a pheromone spray, or even another puppy's pad, to train younger pups where to go.
Get Into a Routine
Routines are key in puppy training. Without a regular schedule, puppies feel confused and will resort to instinct. To avoid confusion and create the most learning-friendly environment that you can, establish a regular schedule with your puppy.
Having a consistent daily routine helps puppies learn what to expect when, and how to behave. Here are some examples of how to use schedules:
Puppies need to be fed about four times a day. If your puppy is fed at the same time every day, it increases the chances that they will need to potty at the same time as well. It gives you predictability, and allows some planning for when you need to take your pup outside.
As well as keeping your puppy on a regular feeding schedule, their food should also be taken away between meals. Removing the temptation will help them stick to their feeding times. Also, removing their water dish a couple hours before bedtime will help eliminate the urge to go in the middle of the night.
Don’t let your pup wait too long to go! Start the day by taking your puppy out first thing in the morning. Puppies come with tiny bladders, so they will have to go out frequently. As you build a consistent potty schedule, remember to also be consistent about where you take your pup to go. If they are taken to the same spot outside, the scent will encourage them to continue using that area.
A rule of thumb: a puppy can only control their bladder for one hour per month of age. So generally speaking, if the pup is three months old, they should never have to wait longer than 3 hours to go.
If the puppy has to wait any longer than this, accidents are guaranteed to happen. It’s always better to have a wasted trip outside than having an accident happen inside!
Use a Leash
A leash is the perfect training tool to teach a puppy where to go. Puppies are distracted easily; so you can keep them on track by leading them to the potty area. When the puppy reaches the potty area, you should use a verbal cue when it is time to go. Great examples of cues are phrases like “time to potty” or “do you need to go outside?”.
After using the cue, if your puppy goes, great! Give them praise and have a treat at the ready. If not, keep trying! But as long as the puppy is on a leash, they won’t be as tempted to wander off.
It’s generally not a good idea to punish a puppy for having an accident in the house. Instead of learning that going potty inside is wrong, they may just become afraid of going potty in general. Try to use positive reinforcement when the puppy does well to encourage them to always go outside.
The puppy needs to be rewarded every time they potty outside. The reward can be anything from verbal praise to treats - but the key is when to give it. A reward given at the right time will cause the correct behavior to repeat itself, without excessive effort.
A reward given at the wrong time can be counterproductive. If the puppy is interrupted and rewarded in the middle of it relieving itself, there is a possibility it will stop, take the reward, and then finish the deed inside the house.
Also, the puppy shouldn’t be rewarded when coming back into the house after pottying. It needs to be rewarded outside, promptly after its finished. This can be tough! But timing it right really makes the difference.
Remember: Accidents Happen
Even a house-trained pup can have an accident now and again. Limit the chances of accidents by keeping an eye on them indoors. If your puppy is having a hard time, during socialization training you can introduce another dog who is already trained - and have your pup observe. They will often learn from each other, and this can be incredibly useful. With consistency and patience, your puppy will be potty trained in no time! If you need help with other aspects of puppy training, like simple commands, check out the rest of our training guides.