Potty training a dog or a puppy can become very frustrating when it is not going well. We have put together what we call The Ten Commandments of potty training to help anyone who may be struggling. This is a layered process and will help set both you and your dog up for success!
1. SCHEDULE– Puppies and dog’s are a lot like babies. They need a schedule. They need to eat roughly at the same time, go to bed roughly at the same time, and you guessed! Go potty roughly at the same time. The schedule that you create and design should be what works best in your life and in your home. Make sure to pay attention to their activities. After they start to calm down after play, they may need to potty. When they wake up from a nap, they may need to potty. Shortly after eating or a big drink of water, they may need to potty. If remember that after any activities they will need to go out then you are golden.
2. DONT ALLOW PLAY DURING POTTY BREAKS– When you take your puppy/dog outside to potty we recommend that you don’t allow free time to run and play. If you allow play time they may get distracted and forget what they came out for. We highly encourage letting your dog have play time, just not during the 5 minutes that you have set aside for their potty breaks. This will be much easier in the beginning if you have a leash on your dog.
3. GO OUT WITH THEM– Make sure and go out with your dog to the designated spot. It is very easy to just open up the door and let them go. However, when you do that you are missing some opportunities that are important in fitting this puzzle all together. You won’t always be able to tell if they went, and you won’t be there to give them the praise that is much needed and deserved when they do go. If you consistently go out there with them you are not only going to be able to communicate with them by sharing the praise, but also by getting their attention if they start to get distracted. Again, a leash can makes things much easier!
4. SAME SPOT– When you are teaching your dog to go outside its important that you always go to the same spot in the yard. In the beginning it is very important for them to know that when you bring them to this spot that it’s potty time. Soon the smells and the area will help them along with the whole training process.
5. PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE- When your dog potties outside it is so important that you praise, praise, praise your dog! They really need to know that when they use the bathroom outside that it is the best thing ever! This will help them understand getting in trouble when they potty in the house. Potty outside makes mom/dad very happy…. Potty inside makes mom/dad very unhappy.
6. USE A COMMAND TO POTTY– Potty training is like anything else you teach your dog. There needs to be an association word or a command word that you use to signify that its time to do their business. It could be what ever you want it to be, go potty, take a break, hurry up. Them completing the command (pooping and/or peeing) gets praise!
7. ONE MONTH EQUALS ROUGHLY ONE HOUR– Younger puppies have a harder time holding their bladder. This is why it is so important to be fair to them when judging how much time should be expected for them to “hold it”. This may entail you setting your alarm clock in the middle of the night to ensure that you are being fair in your expectations of them.
The general rule (we find this not to be incredibly accurate but gives you a basic idea) is for every month of age of the puppy is equal to one hour that their bladder can hold. So a 3 month old puppy should be able to hold it for around 3 hours, a 4 month old puppy 4 hours and so on. However a typical human work day of 8 hours is pushing it for any age dog! Please be fair to your dogs bladder! A dog walker, or dog sitter could be your dogs new best friend during your long work days!
8. NO POTTY! BACK TO “PLACE”, CRATE, OR EX PEN THEY GO– Keeping your dog in a smaller space when you aren’t with them will help eliminate accidents because dog’s as a general rule don’t like to go potty where they sleep. This is why we recommend using a crate or a small excersice pen when potty training. If you take your dog out and they don’t potty put them in “place” or if your not able to supervise in a crate . Set your clock for around 15 to 20 minutes and take them out again. Repeat until they go potty.
9. LIMIT FOOD AND WATER– There are two major things that will have a huge baring on your dog’s potty habits… and that is food and water. We highly recommend during the potty training phase that you don’t leave food out all the time. Feed your pup 2 to 3 times a day and pick it up. This is so that you know when they are done eating and you can take them out 15 to 30 minutes after the meal.
If you leave it down all the time then it can become a vicious cycle of potty accidents. Also, pick up the water 3 hours before you go to bed. Take your puppy out every hour during this time. Once again 30 minutes before bed, 15 minutes before bed, and again right before bed. This will give them plenty of opportunities to potty before they get crated for the night and will reduce the chances of pottying in their crate.
10. NO FREE ROAMING DURING POTTY TRAINING!!!!– After you catch your puppy in the “act” and get on to them. (Take them out immediately after to help them figure out where they should go potty) Eventually they figure out that’s it’s not okay to potty in the house….. in front of mom and dad anyway. So they may start to sneak off to another room or behind the couch to potty. Where mom and dad won’t see them. If this does happen do not scold your puppy! Chances are they will not understand why you are angry! Just that you walked into the room and became mad and scary. You don’t want your pup to think that you are unstable do you? So what are your options to prevent free roaming?
Crate training is the perfect solution for when you are to busy or to preoccupied to pay close attention and supervise your puppy. But the puppy shouldn’t be crated all of the time. They need to be out with you so you can build your relationship and teach them the rules of your house. A good option for a very young puppy would be to have a leash on (we prefer a British style slip lead for young puppies) and attached to your belt loop.
As the puppy becomes older and is able to learn obedience. (Usually by 12 weeks of age) You can teach them “place” so that you can keep an eye on them to prevent them from walking off and pottying around the corner. Another option would be to teach them not to leave the room that you are in. Dragging a leash around, when they start to walk out of the room. Tell them no, then call them back. Go grab the leash and give a VERY gently tug (this is the correction for not responding to your “no”) then with leash in your hand call them back into the room. Repeat enough times your dog will learn what no means. No means stop doing whatever you are doing or mom/dad will tug on your leash. What come means. As well as the boundaries that you have created for them.
Please be patient with your puppy! Dogs naturally want to please us and make us happy. Their bodies are growing very quickly! Humans take a few decades to physically mature. Dogs take a few years! There will be accidents, both on your side as well as theirs. Being angry or frustrated isn’t going to help you or your puppy. Potty training can be very difficult and time consuming. Be patient with your self and with your puppy!