Congratulations on bringing a new puppy into your family. I’m sure you’re looking forward to enjoying your puppy for many years to come.
One of your first tasks will be teaching this puppy how to be a member of your family and that will include puppy potty training.
Just as human children need to be taught when and where to relieve themselves, so too you will need to teach your puppy.
This process will take some time and with the proper preparation and mindset on your part it will not be too difficult.
Mindset and Goals of Puppy Potty Training
Every puppy is different and will present different challenges. Even if you’ve house trained puppies in the past, be prepared for new experiences with this puppy.
You want your puppy to develop good habits from the beginning. At the same time you want to create bonds of love and trust between the two of you.
Remember, your puppy already knows how to pee and poop. She has probably done it hundreds of times before she came into your family. 🙂
Your goal now is to teach her that she can control herself and where you want her to take care of her needs.
This will be easier on both of you if you stay patient with her and keep in mind that it will take time for her to learn.
You need to house train using positive rewards and consistent practices. That’s what you’ll learn about in this article.
Many people refer to this process as “housebreaking.” It’s probably better to think of it as house training. You’re not trying to break the puppy, you’re trying to train the puppy.
Here’s your secret to success: Do everything you can to prevent mistakes and reward proper actions.
How Long Will It Take?
Most people find that it takes between between 4-6 months to potty train a new puppy. Depending upon the breed, it may take up to to a year.
One factor that’s beyond your control is the puppy’s previous living conditions. You may find your puppy has developed some bad habits that will need to change as you form new and better habits.
But don’t worry, your puppy wants to please you and will soon learn what you expect of him.
When Should You Start?
Your puppy is ready to be house trained he is between 12 to 16 weeks old.
Before this age your puppy doesn’t have the physical ability to control his bladder or bowel movements.
Your puppy needs 2 things for housetraining success: the desire to control his bladder and bowels and the physical ability to control them.
Your puppy will develop the desire to control himself as he begins to see your house as his den. However, it will take a while until your puppy sees your entire house as part of its den and therefore a place not to use as a toilet.
What Things Will You Need?
1. Your puppy will make some messes indoors. You’ll want to clean them thoroughly to discourage the puppy from returning to that spot to do his business. It is best to use an enzymatic cleanser like Nature’s Miracle. The trouble with using an ammonia-based cleanser is one of the components of the pup’s waste is ammonia, so an ammonia cleaner leaves a smell that’s still inviting to your puppy.
2. Plenty of paper towels to clean up messes.
3. Newspapers or special potty pads.
4. House training treats or some other type of reward.
5. (Optional, but helpful) A crate for your puppy to sleep in at night.
6. (Optional, but helpful) An exercise pen or baby gates to confine the puppy during the at times when you’re not able to watch her.
7. Required: Your good humor.
Choose a Designated Toilet Area
The place you choose needs to be quickly accessible. You won’t always have a lot of time to get your puppy to the toilet area.
The toilet area should preferably be outdoors in a garden area.
If you don’t have easy access to an outdoor area, then you’ll need to designate a bathroom or a pen as the pup’s toilet area. You can first paper-train your puppy indoors and then as she matures teach her to go outside.
It’s a good idea to choose a command phrase that you will use to encourage your puppy to do his business. Some popular command phrases are:
- “go potty”
- “do your numbers”
- “hurry up”
- “do it”
Be sure to speak the command in a friendly, pleasant voice, not using any angry tones.
It’s not important what phrase you choose. However, it is important that your entire family use the same phrase.
What’s Next? Next let’s look at how having a good routine can help you potty train your puppy…
Routine Is Your Friend
You will do both your family and your new puppy a favor by settling into a routine as quickly as possible.
The first part of your daily routine will be the puppy’s feeding schedule. Depending upon your vet’s instructions, a new puppy needs to eat 3 or 4 times a day. Feed your puppy at the same times each day.
It’s likely that your pup will need to pee and poop shortly after eating.
According to the Humane Society, the general rule is a puppy can control his bladder for 1 hour for every month of age.
During the rest of the day, be on the lookout for your puppy showing signs of needing to eliminate. Plan to take your puppy outdoors at least every 2 hours and after a vigorous play session.
In the evening, pick up the water bowl about 2 1/2 hours before bed. Then right before you go to bed take the puppy out to the toilet area. This is a good idea even if the puppy is asleep. Gently wake her and take her outdoors.
In the morning routine, as soon as you wake up, take your puppy out to the toilet area.
It will seem like your entire life is revolving around you puppy’s need to pee and poop. Yup, that’s true, but by being diligent now you are making the house training process as smooth as possible for both of you.
3 Housetraining Methods
Method 1 – Start Inside, Move Outside
This method relies of newspapers or special treated potty pads. You encourage your puppy to do his business on the pads by directing him to the pads whenever he starts acting like he needs to eliminate.
Once the pup is using the papers or pads consistently, then you can move them closer to the door. As soon as he’s mastered this new location, then move the pad outside. Then, once the puppy is regularly going outdoors, then you can stop putting down the paper.
Though this method works, many vets report that puppies house trained this way take longer to train. This is because the puppy got used to doing his business indoors and then has to be retrained to always go outdoors.
Method 2 – Crate Training
Crate training means you place your puppy into a cage or crate when the puppy is inside but cannot be monitored. That would be times when the family is involved with other activities, asleep, or away from home.
By instinct, dogs do not want to soil their dens. By placing your puppy in a crate you are creating a small den and teaching her that she can control her bowels and bladder.
Of course, as was mentioned above, her ability to control herself is limited, so you’ll need to take this into account.
You’ll still need to take your puppy out frequently and especially before placing her into the crate and as soon as you return home.
For crate training to be successful, you must use a crate of the right size. The crate must be large enough so that your pup can easily stand, sit, and lie down. But the crate must not be so large that the dog can lie in one corner and poop in the other.
A good crate strategy is to buy one that will be large enough when you dog is fully grown but adjustable so he can be confined to a smaller area at the beginning.
Method 3 – Constant Supervision
This method does not rely on any tools. Instead you make the time commitment to always be with your new puppy.
When you notice that he is acting like he needs to pee or poop you jump into action and escort him to the designated toilet area.
Constant supervision can be good for someone who works at home or is retired.
One of the keys with this method is when you’ve taken the puppy out to eliminate you bring him back in as soon as he’s finished. In other words, don’t turn a toilet trip into play time. You’ll have plenty of other times to take your puppy outside to play. But, when he’s being house trained it’s important to keep potty trips business only.
Summary of the House Training Methods
Each of these 3 house training methods has its pros and cons. You’ll need to choose the method that is the best fit for your family and work considerations.
In all likelihood you’ll use a combination of these 3 methods. So even if your preferred method is Constant Supervision, it’s still a good idea to have a crate available.
House Training Steps
How often will you need to take the puppy out? For the youngest, it could be as often as every 30-45 minutes, except when they’re asleep.
Here’s an idea that might help. Every time your new puppy does his business jot down the time. This record will help you predict when the next bathroom visit will be needed and show you what progress your pup is making.
How to Know Your Puppy Needs to Pee
Because a young puppy does not yet have the desire or ability to control his bladder and bowels he won’t tell you what he needs to do.
It’s up to you to recognize by his actions what he’s thinking about doing.
Look for these signs: whining, circling, sniffing, or barking.
If the puppy is not confined he may start barking or scratching at the door. However, don’t expect a young and inexperienced puppy to act like this.
What’s Next? Sometimes you’ll catch your puppy in the act. What should you do then?
Catching Your Puppy In The Act
If you notice your puppy squatting to pee or poop you can try to interrupt her and get her to stop. Make some a noise that will startle the pup and get her attention, but not so loud that it scares her. That will probably be enough to get her to stop peeing.
Then quickly scoop her up and take her to the designated toilet area.
Encourage her to finish her business and praise her when she’s done.
For many dogs they will be able to stop peeing but will not be able to stop pooping. Therefore, be careful about moving a puppy who is pooping since you may end up causing a bigger mess than is necessary.
At times when you are not able to monitor the puppy, keep her in a confined area. That could be a small room, a pen, or a crate. The idea is to foster the concept of “den.” Your puppy has the instinct not to soil its den. Crate training was discussed above in the section 3 House Training Methods.
Reward Good Actions
As soon as your puppy has finished her business, give her praise and perhaps a treat. Whatever reward you’re going to give her must be given immediately. Don’t wait until you come back inside. That’s too big of a time gap and she won’t connect the reward with having done her business.
Dealing With Accidents
The most important aspect of dealing with accidents is your attitude toward them. Accept them and don’t worry. Accidents are a natural part of the process of house training.
Clean up the mess and go on with life. Don’t punish your puppy for the accident in any way.
For example, many people think their puppy will learn faster if they rub her nose in the mess. This action does not train your puppy where to pee.
Accept the fact that your puppy is doing what she needs to do and if she did it in the wrong place it’s more your fault than her fault.
When You Can’t Be With Your Puppy
During the months of potty training it will be best for you to be with him as much as is possible.
Of course, there may be good reasons why you can’t always be at home.
What should you do?
Your best strategy will be to confine your puppy to a small area such as a laundry room, bathroom, or a pen. If needed, you can use baby gates to keep the puppy in just one part of the room.
While you are gone, cover the entire floor that your puppy has access to with newspaper or treated potty pads.
Be sure to leave your puppy with her food and water bowls, toys, and her bed.
It may be that you will need to leave her like this a a regular basis. For example, if you work outside your home and no one can be home.
If so, at first your puppy will pee and poop wherever she feels like. However, over time, she will pick an area she prefers to do her business.
Once she has made her choice you can gradually reduce the amount of paper you spread out until only the section she has chosen is covered.
Why Your Puppy Has Accidents
You must mentally prepare yourself to accept the fact that your puppy will have accidents during potty training. Here are the main reasons for accidents:
1. Your puppy may still be too young to have much bladder and bowel control. Don’t worry, he will develop this control.
2. He’s still learning because he’s not yet fully trained. Remember, this whole potty training process will take between 4 to 6 months and maybe as long as a year. It’s your job to stay vigilant to help your puppy do his business in the right place and praise him when he gets it right.
3. Sometimes a puppy will seem to be making good progress and then will fall back into old habits. This is called regression.
You have seen your puppy making a lot of good progress so you’ve stopped being so careful about watching him. Then, all of a sudden, he’s having a lot of accidents.
If this happens, then you will have to go back to being more watchful and looking for signs that he’s getting ready to do his business.
There can be some medical problems that are contributing to your puppy going indoors.
Here are the issues to be on the lookout for:
1. UTI or urinary tract infection can result in frequent small amounts of pee.
2. Tummy upset can cause a loss of bowel control and diarrhea.
3. A change in diet, either changing the food you feed your puppy or increasing the amount, can cause loose stools and make it more difficult for you puppy to control his bowels.
Other Reasons for Your Pup Going Inside
1. Urine marking is when a dog squirts a small amount of urine to mark his territory. This is usually done by lifting a hind leg and spraying some urine.
2. Separation anxiety is when your puppy has accidents only when you leave him alone. The accidents may occur even when you are only away for a short time.
3. Submissive urination, also called excitement urination, can be caused when you come home, when your puppy meets a new dog, or when she is scared. Peeing that is caused by events such as these is beyond your puppy’s control. Vets say that your pup should outgrow this by the time she’s 7 months old.
Summary of Puppy Potty Training Tips
Be sure to follow these 6 tips and you will soon see success in house training your puppy.
1. Take your puppy to the designated toilet area often. Learn the signs your puppy sends you indicating the need to pee or poop.
2. Give your puppy a reward for doing the right thing. The reward may be a special treat or lavish praise, or both.
3. Never punish for mistakes.
4. Especially when you come home and find a mistake, don’t punish or correct your pup. A dog cannot connect the punishment it’s receiving now with an event that happened minutes or hours ago. They will, however, associate the punishment with you coming home.
5. Keep feeding times regular.
6. Keep a diary of when your pup peed and pooped and use it to help you estimate when the next time will likely be.