Teaching your puppy good potty habits is an essentially part of puppy training. In fact, difficulty with potty training is one of the major reasons owners return, sell or even put down their dog – but it can be a real test. Thankfully, we’ve come up with a method of training which is sure to succeed, ensuring that accidents will be few and far between and your puppy will be confident in knowing what to do in a matter of days!
I’m not saying that it’ll be a walk in the park. In fact, it’ll be a lot of walks in the park, and accidents will happen; that’s just part of the job, and you must be ready to deal with it – but once you and your puppy master this basic training, you’ll find life much easier. Your puppy will be happy and confident, which will get your relationship off to a great start – so just dig in! Here’s my ultimate guide to puppy potty training, allowing you to choose a regime to set you and your puppy on the road to quick, simple and effective potty training.
PUPPY POTTY TRAINING FUNDAMENTALS
Remembering the basic instructions is a sure way to set yourself on the right course, ensuring you’ll always remain on track, even when there are accidents and setbacks.
First of all, you need to be picky when you choose your breeder – it starts with him and the habits he passes down to your puppy, so make sure to check him out. Visiting the puppies at home with the breeder is a good idea, and make sure to ask about the puppy’s habits and observe his behaviour – does he carry the puppy outside when it needs to go to the toilet? Does he pay the puppies a lot of attention even when you’re visiting him?
Secondly, remember to keep a cool head – you’re the trusted adult here! This means that you have to be consistent – go outside with your puppy often, and not only when it suits you; whether you’re tired, busy or simply can’t be bothered, make sure not to miss an outing. Patience is also key – it’s important that you remember to give your puppy all the time she needs when you’re out walking. You must accept that she cannot learn everything in one day – she’s depending on you, so be aware of your responsibilities.
Above all, remember to praise your puppy in a soft voice whenever she goes to the toilet successful. It’s a big deal, so let her know how pleased you are, but keep your voice down – you don’t want to startle her or interrupt her during the act, as this can make her afraid of you. When she’s finished, you can celebrate all you want – that way she’ll know that what she did was fantastic – and also, you’ll have fun together, strengthening your relationship!
Easy to say, but a little more difficult to do, is to keep a close eye on your puppy at all times. It’s important that she does not run around the home on her own – so if your home is too big for you to look out for her all the time, make sure to confine your puppy to one area. Alternatively, you can give her a break in a crate (we’ll revisit this later).
To repeat: Keep a close eye on your puppy at all times – especially when she is outside relieving herself. At these times, you must keep her on a leash and go outside with her. This has two major functions; first of all, it enables you to encourage her to go by using the same phrase every time (for example ‘go pee’ or ‘go potty’) and secondly it allows you to praise her afterwards, as mentioned above.
No matter how well-behaved and smart your puppy is, remember that training is a process. Don’t get discouraged over accidents, as they can and will happen – instead, make a note of what’s working and keep building on your successes, focusing on gradual improvement.
remember to set your expectations at a realistic level. Your puppy will still have accidents and, while that isn’t ideal, there can be a positive side; often, your puppy may so happy in her new home that she pees a little in sheer excitement!
It’s also important to remember that, no matter how well-behaved your puppy is, she’s still only a puppy, and doesn’t yet have complete control – so make sure not to forget the routines that have helped her get to where she is!
As your puppy gets older, you should make sure to test her every once in a while – as she grows, her ability to hold it in for longer periods will gradually increase. Testing this can prove helpful, provided you’re patient and careful. But if you’re not – well, don’t forget that, as we always say, accidents can happen! With good training, by the time your puppy is a year old, you can expect her to have very few accidents, if any!
SETTING YOUR PUPPY’S ROUTINE
Your puppy is not old enough to manage self-control at first, so you need to be in control of setting the right framework for her. This will make it much easier for you and your puppy to quickly and easily achieve your goals.
This is SO important! Take your puppy outside to pee or poo…
- First thing in the morning. Avoid getting her excited, for example by greeting her loudly and happily. This will only make it harder for her to keep it in – over time, you should begin to notice this yourself.
- Every time she wakes from a nap, as her first reaction will be to pee.
- During and after play – she’ll get so excited, she may need to go even if she doesn’t realize it.
- 5-30 minutes after eating. You’ll soon know if it’s 5 or 30 minutes, but until you do start by bringing her outside 5 minutes after eating, and waiting patiently.
- If none of the above occur, you should take her out every 45-60 minutes. This will give her the opportunity to relieve herself before it becomes urgent.
- Last thing before going to sleep. Remember to be patient here as well, even if you’re desperate to climb into bed!
- Make sure to keep her potty training to one area – the scent will make her want to return there, creating a habit – and we do love good habits…
- If you’re not at home, always try to use the same surface (e.g.) grass, as this at least maintains part of the habit.
- If she needs to go in the middle of the night, keep it quick and quiet. She might think it’s time to play after having relieved herself, but you must show her that it’s not. This can be achieved by being silent and returning her to bed immediately.
It is also important to establish regular eating habits. This can easily be done by controlling what your puppy eats and drinks. Make sure to remove the bowl of food when your puppy is no longer interested, even if she has not eaten it all.
This is essential, because you have to take her out 5-30 minutes after she has eaten. If you let her eat all the time, you won’t know when to bring her out – and don’t worry, she’ll won’t starve, she’ll simply eat more later on in the day!
To help your puppy to hold it in at night, remove the water bowl 2 hours before sleeping. This will help your puppy to sleep longer at night without having to go outside to pee – allowing you an unbroken sleep too!
Most puppies can sleep for around 7 hours without having to relieve themselves if the conditions are right. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
IDENTIFYING WHEN YOUR PUPPY NEEDS TO GO
Even if you’re getting all the routines right, your puppy is a living creature, not a machine – so she might need to relieve herself at other times as well.
As a consequence you must always look for signs that she needs to go. If she looks restless or is barking or scratching at the door, this may be the reason why – so take her outside to check!
If she’s sniffing around and/or circling, you have to hurry! Take her outside immediately, because this is probably a sign that she’s trampling the grass down to have a poo – she just wants to avoid having grass in her butt!
ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN
Unless you’re superman or superwoman, or your dog is in fact a unicorn, accidents will happen. This is unavoidable – the important thing is learning how to deal with them.
Don’t punish your puppy when she pees or poops inside. If you don’t catch her in the act, just clean it up and keep a closer eye on her next time. To be brutally honest: it’s your fault not hers, and you don’t want your puppy to be afraid of you, or afraid to relieve herself when you’re present. This will happen if you punish your puppy for doing something she naturally needs to do. Punishing can do a lot of damage, so don’t go down that road – if you do catch her in the act inside, you must interrupt it. Make a noise to startle her without scaring her, then take her outside. Now you must wait patiently for her to finish what she started, and then praise her for doing so in the right place.
CONFINE THE AREA WHERE YOUR PUPPY CAN GO INSIDE
It is vital for the success of puppy potty training that you keep an eye on your puppy at all times. For this reason, I’d recommend confining the area where you leave your puppy to roam – you can use a children grid to confine the space, and may wish to do this for every room you are in yourself. It is best if you teach your puppy to go to a door when it needs to go, giving you a clear sign – remember to consider this every time you confine an area.
If you do not have a grid, you can tie your puppy to your waist or leg with a string. This will remind you that your puppy is ‘on your tail’, making it clear to her that you’re the responsible party and reminding you to keep an eye on her. It will also prevent your puppy from sneaking off to do whatever it feels like, which might often be something you don’t want her to do!
Of course, it would be impossible for you to keep an eye on your puppy at all times during the first critical days, and of course you can take a break once in a while – and give her one as well. Having said that, it’s essential that you never leave your puppy home alone – and that’s why a crate can be a good short-term solution. If you introduce your puppy to its crate in the right way, she will see it as her ‘den’. All dogs instinctively avoid soiling their den, so you can use nature to your advantage!
So what’s important about crates? Firstly, size matters! It’s important that you use a crate which is large enough for your puppy to stand, lie and turn without problems. At the same time, however, it must not be so big that your puppy can divide the crate into a sleeping area and a place to relieve itself.
Also, you must consider how long your puppy can be left in the crate. You should never leave your puppy in a crate for longer than 2 hours, and if your puppy is from a small breed with a small bladder, you may want to shorten this time further. As a general rule, puppies can be left in their crate according to the following rule: one hour for every month they’ve been alive!
Your puppy will love you for making its crate into a home, so make sure to leave her favourite toy in there and reward her with treats and plenty of praise for getting into her crate herself. It is crucial that you never use the crate as a punishment – your puppy should see the crate as her den, so that she won’t want to soil it. It’s also important that she enjoys being in the crate in all situations – this way you can easily use the crate as a ‘time out’ – you might think of this as punishment, but if your dog loves its crate then it won’t be a problem for her!
DOGS CAN SMELL ODOURS THAT YOU CAN’T
Did you know that a dog’s nose is about 1 million times stronger than a human’s? It’s worth remembering this when your dog is relieving itself, as the scent of their favourite spot will ensure they keep returning there! This is also true if your puppy has had an accident inside – so it’s important that you clean up any accidents right away, preventing your puppy from associating the scent of relieving herself with being indoors. Remember to use enzymatic cleanser rather than an ammonia-based cleaner in order to minimise odours.
NOTE: Some cleansers such as Rodalon can be lethal to dogs if they ingest too much, so be aware!
IF YOU NEED TO LEAVE YOUR PUPPY ALONE FOR A LONGER TIME – OR YOUR DOG IS A DESIGNATED INDOOR DOG.
Until your puppy is old enough to wait for you to come home before it relieves itself, you must set the right conditions for her to be comfortable indoors. If you are not at home to keep an eye on her, what should you do? If you can have a kennel, this is an ideal solution – but remember that your puppy will see this area as a kind of crate, so when you come home and take her out, you must give her opportunity to relieve herself outside, even if the kennel itself is outside!
If you don’t have a kennel, make sure to ask a responsible person – whether a neighbour or a professional dog walker – to check up on your puppy and take her for a walk so that she can relieve herself. If neither of these is an option, or if your dog is a designated indoor dog, you must give her the opportunity to relieve herself inside. This can be done by keeping her in an area with enough room for a sleeping space, a playing space and a separate place to relieve herself.
The designated toilet area can be made from layers of newspapers or a sod box, while potty-pads can also be a solution – you can teach your dog to relieve herself indoors on the potty-pad in the same way you teach her to relieve herself outside. Should you later choose to bring your dog outside to relieve herself, gradually bringing the potty pads outside can be a good way of ensuring a smooth transition – but be aware that this requires time and patience! If you clean up an accident in the house, don’t forget to place some of the soiled rags in the designated toilet area – the smell will help your puppy to recognise that this is the place to relieve herself.
For more tips on potty-pads, please read this AKC blog: http://www.akc.org/learn/akc-training/the-ins-and-outs-of-potty-pad-training/
If your dog is not a designated indoor dog, I recommend placing the toilet area near a door which leads outside – you want the puppy to go outside every time she needs to go, and while this is not always possible, your puppy seeking the door will at least give you a heads up that she needs to go.
Be aware that allowing your dog to relieve itself inside can prolong the learning process because it confuses the puppy: can I go inside or outside – or both?! If you want your dog to eventually relieve itself outside, I would not recommend allowing your puppy to relieve itself inside – so if this is the case, it is best to try the other options mentioned above.
PUPPY POTTY PUNCHLINES:
- Be patient.
- Be quick and consistent in taking your puppy out from the very first day.
- Create good routines and habits with your puppy
- Praise your puppy when she does what you tell her to – let her know she’s a superstar!
- Never punish your puppy for accidents – they can and will happen, and she is not to blame.
- Set your puppy up for success by keeping an eye on her at all times. Do this by confining her area, and use a crate to give both of you and your puppy a break every so often.
- Accept that this, like all training, is a process. Keep an eye on what’s working and what isn’t, keep building on your wins and focus on getting better over time.
Following these tips will make sure your puppy is house trained in just one week, and can have a positive impact on every element of your relationship with your dog for the rest of your life together.
Right now I have three dogs, two of which are from the same litter. I house trained two puppies at the same time, so I know that it can be difficult to keep an eye on your puppy at all times – especially during the early days. After all, your routines also need to change, and that’s always tricky. Of course, you might need to go to work during this time, although I recommend that you start your new life with your puppy by taking at least a week off from work, if possible – it’s a fantastic investment of your time in allowing you to get to know your puppy. If you are able to take time off, I recommend that when you do go back to work, you start with less than a full day, allowing your puppy to adapt gradually.
Putting in the hard work with your puppy early on is the best way to get your relationship off to a good start, not only in regards to potty-training but in every aspect – and trust me, it’s all worth it in the end. Your life will be a lot easier and you will love your puppy even more if you take the time and effort to ensure your puppy is relaxed and confident – if she has faith in you, she will be ready for whatever you want her to do.
I HOPE YOU HAVE FOUND VALUE IN THIS POST!
If you enjoyed this post, please share it! You can help to make this guide better by letting me know your best potty training tips, or posting questions if you did not get the answer you needed from this post or in the Q&A section below – I would love to hear from you!
What age is best to start potty training?
As mentioned earlier, it all starts with the breeder. As soon as the puppies start eating solid food, their mother will stop cleaning their den – at this point, they will be ready to start learning. If you start at 7-8 weeks old, your puppy will learn everything a lot more quickly than if you start at 7 days. However, beyond a certain point, the older your puppy is, the longer time you’ll have to work on it, as your puppy will already have developed habits which will need to be changed.
How to make a sod box:
To make a sod box, simply place sod in a large plastic container, (under-bed drawers can be used)
Crate training – why?
Crate training uses a dog’s natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog’s den is his home – a place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise a family, so you should aim to turn the crate into your dog’s den, an ideal spot to snooze or take refuge. Puppies prefer their own den, where they can go to relax and get away from other dogs or people. Make it a happy place, reward your dog for choosing the crate and she’ll be sure to love it in no time!
Crate training – when?
Ideally you should start as soon you get the puppy, but you must at least begin crate training when you are no longer able to devote your full attention to your puppy. At first, you should reward your puppy for going inside, not closing the door. After a while you can close the door and praise the puppy when she has been inside for a few minutes – if you do this regularly, soon your puppy will be happy to go into the crate on her own!
How often do I have to go outside with my puppy?
It depends on the size of the breed – with a young puppy from a small breed, start with every 15 minutes. If there are still accidents, you should take her outside more often; if not, try increasing the gap between outside breaks to 45 minutes, gradually increasing this further – you won’t be able to avoid accidents altogether, but you’ll gradually learn to recognise your puppy’s needs, developing trust between you.
How often do I have to take my puppy out at night?
Most puppies can wait in 6-7 hours before they have to relieve themselves, but again the breed matters – not to mention your own bedtime routine! You should take your puppy out last thing before bedtime, and it’s wise to remove the water bowl some hours before bedtime to ensure she doesn’t fill up her bladder overnight.
How do I know if my puppy needs to go?
If your puppy is sniffing around and/or circling, or if she’s restless, she probably needs to go outside. However, you should be aware that these are signs that she is desperate, and probably needs to be taken outside more regularly. You should go outside with your puppy every time she wakes up from a nap, after she has eaten and during or after play time.
How can I potty train an older dog?
Make sure you know as much as possible about how your dog’s previous training – this is very important, as it will give you an idea of what to expect. For example, if she has been trained to pee on a potty pad, she is not likely to want to go outside to pee. If you do not know anything about her history, I would recommend crate-training her. Bear in mind that even though she’s older and her bladder is bigger you still need to be patient, because you are now combating her previous habits and attempting to teach her new ones. This can be hard, especially at first, but it’s absolutely possible.