Puppy Potty Training

To whoever needs a little help in the puppy potty training area, I wanted to share what has worked for us with all of our puppies and dogs. I want to begin by mentioning that it’s a good idea to have an area blocked off for your puppy in your home. This helps with potty training and to help keep him safe. As he gets used to the home and learns where he is supposed to potty, he can gain more freedom. I’m not saying the puppy can’t go to other rooms in your house, of course you can take the puppy to different areas and he should go to different areas! But he should be freshly pottied and supervised. I know everyone’s homes are set up differently but we have a dog door off of our kitchen that leads to a fenced yard. So when training one of our puppies, I section off a safe play area in the kitchen so he is close to the door and  I can take the puppy out that same door every time to potty. You don’t want to take the puppy out any random exit. Stick with the main potty door for now! I know you may be picturing me crawling out of a dog door right now with the way that I explained that, but we have a sliding door right beside the dog door! Then through the day, after a potty time of course, I’ll take the puppy to different areas of the home to explore, train, relax, or play. Then its back to the main kitchen area if I can’t keep a close eye on him, after a potty break of course! I also use crate training to aid in potty training and will talk about that later on. So what I’m about to say is not going to be anything magical, I’m sure you’ve heard it before if you’ve done prior research but here’s what I have to say:

Potty, potty, potty your puppy and potty him again!

Puppies do not have much bowel and bladder control at 8 weeks old (the age many puppies go onto their new homes). Some people don’t realize just how often a little puppy may have to empty it’s bladder. I have raised more than one puppy that has peed every 20 minutes for almost the first month into potty training and no, they did not have a bladder infection! Now this is when they were out running around, not napping in their crate during the day or sleeping at night. A good thing to plan on is pottying your puppy at least hourly through the day. If he is napping in his crate, be may be able to go a little longer. Some puppies will nap happily for a couple of hours. Overnight, they may sleep for a few hours as well. Every puppy is different of course. The more you take them out and prevent accidents, the better potty training will go.

When you take your puppy out, make sure to go out with him and praise him when he potties outside. Even if you have a fenced in yard, go out with your puppy so he knows that he is doing good and to make sure that he actually goes potty. A puppy can go outside and be distracted by so many things, never potty, come back in and immediately pee on your floor. If you do find pee or poop on your floor, please do not rub your puppy’s nose in it, just clean it up and move on. Where did this idea of rubbing their face in it even come from?! I don’t think it’s a clear message and the puppy may end up even eating his poop from confusion and fear. If you happen to catch your puppy in the act, some trainers don’t even believe in scolding the puppy. They say it causes confusion and the puppy may think he’s getting yelled at for just going to the bathroom in general and not that he’s actually going to the bathroom in the house. So the next time, he will just make sure to do it where you won’t see him, like behind the couch. This will make it harder for when you do take your puppy outside, he’ll be afraid to potty in front of you. If I catch a puppy in the act, I will calmly pick him up and run (more so walk swiftly) outside with him. When he finishes outside, I praise. Positive reinforcement is always best.

So, you know to potty often!  Again, at least hourly through the day (unless napping) and watched like a hawk while he or she is out running around.  If the puppy shows any signs of restlessness (other than normal play), sniffing while circling, looking at the door that he normally goes out for pottying, a little whine, anything that might be a clue that he might have to go to the bathroom, take your puppy out.

Some people use treats with potty training. I never really have. If you do use treats, make sure to only give a treat if the puppy actually goes to the bathroom or you’ll be training the puppy to just ask to go outside for a treat. I just use praise and it has always worked but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. I do use treats for recall! If you have a fenced yard and the puppy goes potty, it’s good to have treats on hand so you can practice calling your puppy back to you.

In addition to watching your puppy like a hawk and pottying him 1000 times a day, I have found a crate to be helpful in potty training. First, have the crate appropriate for your puppy’s size. You want enough room so he can stretch out comfortably but not too much room that he can use one end of the crate as a toilet. Puppies need frequent naps through the day so it is helpful to have your puppy nap in the crate. When he wakes up, he’s not likely to just pee or poop where he sleeps, so you have time to get him outside. I see nothing wrong with letting your puppy nap on the couch or wherever if they’re hanging out with you and fall asleep. As long as you can keep an eye on him, and it’s not for every nap! Make sure it’s a healthy balance so your puppy can learn to like the crate.

You don’t want to have your puppy attached to your hip all day and then put in the crate at night, or if you have to go somewhere and can’t take your puppy. You’re going to have an upset, confused, whining puppy. The crate should be seen as a safe place that the puppy likes and wants to go to relax. To help him like the crate, always have him follow a treat in. Never shove or force the puppy in. Also never put him in there for punishment.  Its OK to put him in there to calm down, but do it nicely, with a treat or stuffed Kong for example. Puppies can actually get amped up from being overly tired.  So if your puppy has been out playing and is acting crazed, try the crate for some quiet time. After you offer the potty of course! There is a theme here, right?!

With just starting crate training, it’s important to only put the puppy in for short periods of time and try to keep it happy.  You don’t want them dreading going in there. So if you have a reluctant puppy, you may want to practice having him walk in with a treat and not even closing the door. Let him right back out again. The goal is to have the puppy in the crate and taken back out before he starts whining to come out. He may whine at first but that is different…  If you know your puppy is OK and doesn’t have to potty, let him whine or he will learn that whine = come out of the crate. If your puppy has been in the crate for a bit and starts whining, it’s possible he has to potty and in this case, the whine is a good thing. But this can get confusing because puppies also whine just to come out and play. That is why it’s best to try to keep up on a potty schedule so you can learn what the whine means! It might take tweaking and some learning from mistakes, accidents will happen, but once you learn your puppy, you’ll get a better handle on things! Hang in there!

I made a little example schedule below for the ideal situation where the puppy has an owner(s) home all day and able to devote the time to training. This is just an example and may not work for every puppy or every owner. Its just to give you an idea of what a day should look like when it comes to potty and crate training:

6am: Take puppy out to potty. Praise and give the puppy some love!
630am: Breakfast in the crate.
7am: Potty, praise, then supervised calm play. Vigorous play after eating increases risk of bloat.
8am: Potty, praise, then nap in crate
9am: Potty, praise, then supervised free time/play
10am: Potty, praise, then nap in crate
11am: Potty, praise, then supervised free time/play
1130am: Small lunch in crate
12pm: Potty, praise, supervised calm play
1pm: Potty, praise, nap in crate.
2pm: Potty, praise, supervised free time/play
3pm: Potty, praise, supervised free time/play
4pm: Potty, praise, nap in crate
5pm: Potty, praise, supervised free time/play
6pm: Potty, praise, dinner in crate
630pm: Potty, praise, nap in crate
730pm: Potty, praise, supervised free time/play
8pm: Take away water for the night
830pm: Potty, praise, supervised free time/play
930pm: Potty, praise, crate for bedtime
11pm: Potty, praise, back in crate
2am: Potty, praise, back in crate
430am: Potty, praise, back in crate
6am: Time to wake up!

Again, this schedule may or I should say will vary. It’s just a guide. You may have a puppy sleep two hours straight for a nap through the day. You may have a puppy sleep for 4 hours straight overnight.  To make the overnights, easier, you may want to get a second, smaller crate for your bedroom at first. That way, if you’re a light sleeper, you will wake up when your puppy starts moving around and take him right outside. Or you can use a video baby monitor to watch and hear your puppy from your bedroom through the night. You’re more likely to (more willingly) get out of your cozy bed to potty a puppy that you can see!

For the supervised free time/play during the day, you should not just be wildly playing with your puppy until its time to take a nap. Calm behavior with your puppy teaches them to be calm with you. Bond with your puppy and even add in some training sessions! Im not going to make this post any longer talking about those because I’m sure its time to potty your puppy again! But just a tip, training sessions should be kept short with puppies.  Even just a minute at a time.  Short sessions that are more often through the day are better than long sessions.