So, you chose the puppy that will be the perfect addition to your home, you bring him home, show him all the toys, and the food and water dish, and then you are faced with a puppy who doesn’t know the rules of the house. Specifically, he doesn’t understand that behind the couch is not the perfect place to leave a stinky present for mom. Leaving a puddle in the middle of the carpet isn’t the way to get treats from dad, either.
What puppy parent hasn’t faced this? Relax! Although it takes some work, you can train your puppy to potty where he should, outside! This time of the year is a great time to be potty training a puppy. There are no freezing temperatures, there is no snow on the ground. The days are longer so you aren’t having to go out in the dark (at least not so much).
The rules for potty training your puppy (or any dog really) are pretty straightforward, although they take some effort. Before he is completely reliable with potty training, he should either be outside with you, inside with you constantly supervising him, or being kept in a size appropriate crate/room/gated area.
Outside with your puppy
When you are outside with your dog, you are aware of whether he has gone to the bathroom or not, you know if he is eliminating normally, and if there are any issues with his stool. You will also be there to reward him immediately after going to the bathroom so you can emphasize that outside is where he should be going.
Make sure you have yummy treats in your pocket for this reward. As soon as he is done, give him the treat and praise him enthusiastically. Doing this immediately after he is done will let him know what he has done right and what he is being rewarded for.
Make sure the treats are something he loves and doesn’t get on a regular basis. It has to be something worth working for.
Inside with your puppy
Being inside with your puppy while in the potty-training stage means constant supervision. Think of a two-year-old and how closely they need to be watched. The same goes for your puppy. Very quickly a puppy can get into trouble or have an accident. Any accidents can delay the process of learning, so the point is to prevent the accidents.
Keep the dog close to you, tied to you with a short leash is not a bad idea. Don’t allow him to wander off and squat in a corner. Learn the signals that your puppy will give that he needs to, or is about to go potty. Catch him before that happens and bring him outside.
Crated, gated or in a small room
If it is not possible to keep an eye on him at all times, put him in a crate that is meant for the size dog he is. Dogs will mostly try not to soil where they eat or sleep. If the crate is too large, the puppy will go in one end and use it as a bathroom, while using the other end to lay down.
If you don’t want to move a crate from room to room, there are also dog fences that you can use to create a space as large or small as the fences allow. This is a great alternative, allowing your puppy to move around and see what is going on around him and be a part of it, without giving him the room to make messes all over the house.
No matter which method you use, make sure your puppy gets outside often enough, and watch for his signals that is needs to go to the bathroom.
Knowing when to bring him outside
There are certain times when the puppy should always be brought outside. When the puppy first wakes up, a minute or two after he has eaten or drank, whenever he has been confined and is being released, he should be let outside.
The puppy will also act certain ways that indicate the need to go potty. When he has been playing or chewing on something for a while and suddenly gets up and starts wandering around or sniffing the floor, he should be brought outside. If he is whining or pacing, refuses a favorite toy or treat, or looking at the door he usually goes out to go potty he just may need to go. Obviously, if he starts to squat you should get him outside as quickly as possible.
It certainly will not hurt the puppy to bring him outside more often than he needs to go. He will eventually understand that he will get a reward for going outside to potty, and does not get a reward for going inside.
Don’t expect more than the puppy can handle
A general rule of thumb for how long a puppy can “hold it” is one hour for every month old the puppy is, plus one. If they are active, they need to go more often. Smaller dogs can’t hold their urine as long as medium to large dogs.
This rule of thumb is for when the puppy is being confined. If he is playing or chewing he may need to go more often. If your puppy tends to pee outside, and then right after coming back inside, he needs to go again, stay out longer next time with him to give him the chance to fully eliminate. If he still won’t finish his business, bring him inside and put him in the crate. Go back and let him outside again after 10 minutes.
Accidents are probably going to happen, its just the nature of the puppy. Should you yell at the dog, push her nose in the mess? If you punish your puppy after the fact, he isn’t going to know what you are punishing him for. He may associate the punishment with whatever he was doing when you got angry, which could have been anything from playing with a toy to coming to you for a game. You can’t make him understand it was something that happened before those things that you are upset over. If you find the mess, clean it up quietly without making it an issue.
If you catch your puppy in the act of eliminating on the floor, that’s another story. If you see him squat, startle him with some noise, perhaps by clapping your hands or tossing keys on the floor. Sometimes the startle will be enough to stop the act, which gives you the opportunity to get him outside to finish what he started. If he finishes outside, make sure to reward and congratulate him with excitement!
How you clean up after those accidents can make a big difference in potty training, too. Dogs leave a smell when they eliminate which can be difficult to get rid of, but will always attract them back to the same spot again. Don’t use any cleaners that contain ammonia, which gives off the same smell as urine and will attract your puppy back to there for a repeat performance.
Use a cleaner designed for neutralizing odors, preferably for getting rid of dog accidents. Baking soda and club soda can also be used, when the “good stuff” is not at hand.
Progress – sooner better than later
Once your puppy is eliminating outside reliably when he is brought out, and he is keeping his space clean that he is allowed inside you can expand his space a little more. As he becomes more reliable, the space he is allowed to have freedom in can grow further. If there are accidents, restrict him back down to where he has managed to keep clean.
The time it takes to get to where he can have the whole house? There is no real time line. Every dog is an individual. But as long as you make regular progress, the time will come when you can consider him completely housebroken. Then you have to work on protecting your socks, shoes and cords. But that’s for another time. Best of luck!
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.