Potty Training: the Quick & Dirty
P.A.W.S. and think when house-training; don’t punish for accidents!
- Praise your puppy right as he finishes “going” in the right spot
- Anticipate his needs by scheduling your puppy
- Watch for potty cues: sniffing and circling indicate a need to “go”
- Supervise your puppy at all times out of the crate. This is for safety and training.
- In general whenever you’re transitioning from one activity to another the puppy will need to potty. For example the puppy chewed on a bully stick for 25 mins and is now getting up and walking away, puppy needs to pee.
- Puppies need to potty upon waking from a nap and first thing in the morning and right after drinking water or eating.
- Lift the water dish. Give access to water only on a schedule or your puppy could literally be peeing every 10 mins!
- Give water with meals, after giving several treats (they’re usually salty), after a romp and/or about every 3-4 hours during waking hours.
- No more food or water after 6pm
- If your puppy pees in the house immediately after peeing outside then you didn’t spend long enough outside with the puppy.
- Watch-if your puppy pees several times in the span of a few minutes it means that he is not emptying his bladder completely when he does urinate. He could be distracted, nervous or excited so try to reduce stimuli and stay super still and quiet during potty time until this resolves. Most of the time this is just due to an immature bladder and a baby dog that hasn’t figured out her own body yet. Give her time. She will grow out of it. Try not to feel frustrated.
- Carry your puppy out to potty. This way he doesn’t “go” on the way to the appropriate location.
- When you’re at the right spot stand still and watch the dog. Don’t play or talk excitedly, just wait and be uninteresting to the puppy (or he’ll play and neglect his “business”).
- Just as the puppy starts to go potty give the puppy whatever command you’ve chosen to mean “go potty”. Say your command in a calm, unexcited tone of voice (the same way you might say “sit” or “stay”) or the puppy may stop eliminating to run over to you. Properly done this will cause your puppy to associate the verbal command with eliminating and after a couple days of hearing the verbal cue when beginning to eliminate the puppy will start to eliminate when you give the command. Then you can bring your dog outside and say “Hurry Up” wherever you are and the dog will know it is time to take care of his business. This command sure comes in handy in wintertime when it is freezing outside but the dog likes playing in the sleet or snow.
- Right as puppy is finishing “going” reward him verbally with lots of praise. Be careful not to interrupt the “go” with praise. Puppies will stop eliminating to respond to your praise with licks and tail wags and will not empty their bladder or bowels all the way (leading to an “accident” five mins later in the house). So give the praise right after the puppy finishes “going”. This requires you employ good timing but once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to do it easily.
- If your puppy doesn’t “go” but you know the puppy should need to “go” then try walking the puppy around the yard or location slowly to encourage elimination. If the puppy still does not eliminate then put the puppy in his crate for 10-15 mins and then carry him outside for another try. Do this a over and over again if need be until the puppy successfully eliminates in the right location (outside or on a potty pad).
- If your puppy has an “accident” in the house do not punish him. Remember you’re training your puppy to do something completely unnatural for him. Give him a chance to learn the rules and have a mature bladder. If there is an “accident” it is usually because you failed to anticipate the puppy’s needs. So if you must stick a nose in the mess to assign blame-make sure it is your own nose. 😉
- When you do happen to catch a puppy in the act of having an “accident” say “no” loudly and clap your hands together to get his attention. Lift the puppy (even if he is still eliminating) and bring him to the correct location. If he is finished when you get there and doesn’t eliminate again within a few minutes that is alright. Go back inside, look at the clock and be sure to potty the puppy again within the next 2 hours.
- Since you’re correcting the puppy if caught eliminating inside the house (or in other unacceptable locations) you must counter that with significant praise when the puppy eliminates in the correct location. Bring treats with you outside or to the pee pad. If you fail to praise the puppy will simply learn that any elimination in front of you is “bad”. The pup that learns this becomes that dog you probably have known in your life that sneaks off into another room to hide and eliminate and will be afraid to eliminate outside in front of people. Don’t do this to yourself or your dog! Reward and praise the behavior you want if you want it to keep occurring!
- Accidents in the crate can be cured by: smaller crate size, less time in the crate, reduced water intake/frequency, and simply waiting for puppy’s bladder to grow and mature. If your crate is too large you can put a cardboard box in the back of the crate to make it temporarily smaller. The pup should have only enough room to stand up and turn around in a circle. No more room than that should be given to him until he is successfully potty trained.
- Line your crate with newspaper, an old towel or puppy pee pads and keep chews, treats, food and blankets out of the crate until your puppy is reliable at not having accidents inside the crate. This can take anywhere from 1-5 weeks. (Bully sticks or chews in the crate is fine if the puppy is crated and you’re nearby and it isn’t naptime).
- Cover the crate with a blanket when the puppy is inside. This makes puppy feel safe and secure and will reduce crying and stress. A puppy that is stressed out is more likely to have a messy poop accident in a crate.
- Check the crate carefully for pee every time you remove the puppy. A pee spot can be small. If you mistakenly leave the scent of urine in the crate you will be encouraging your puppy to pee inside the crate.
- For the first 3 days of house training leave at least one piece of poop in the appropriate potty location so that the puppy can find this spot and feel encouraged to eliminate in that location. After about 3-5 days you can pick up poop immediately and the pup will still go to that same location to potty.
- Close all doors to rooms in the house and keep them closed. Your puppy can’t get into those rooms to potty or destroy things if the doors are shut. Get yourself and your kids in the habit now. Bedrooms, bathrooms, playrooms and offices-all rooms should be closed until your pup is very trustworthy with house training and is finished teething.
- If your puppy is out of the crate then you must have your eyes on that puppy. Puppy is never left unsupervised. Ever.
- No one will ever say “where is the dog?”
- Tie a leash right to your belt loop or waist while you’re working in the house. This will keep your puppy with you and supervised while you’re going about your normal business or chores, etc. You can keep some peripheral vision on your puppy while you’re cooking or doing the dishes or working at a desk. The puppy is way less likely to have an “accident” if he can’t wander away from what is his current play/living space (which is wherever you’re currently at).