In potty training a puppy, there are several things you need to do, but first here is an essential bit of preparation: Arrange a place in your home where your puppy can be confined when you are not watching him or her, whether you are at work or when you are asleep at night. A crate is the very best choice, and I have a page on crate training puppies and dogs you can get to by clicking on the sketch of the puppy in the crate. Other indoor choices are x-pens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Depending on the weather, you may should able to do much of the training out of doors. Wherever you go, be sure your pup — with his boundless curiosity, abundant energy, and sharp teeth — will be safe there when you aren’t around. Okay, that’s really another topic, but you do need to have a place to leave your puppy before you begin to potty train him. Leave him crate as little as possible. You will be cleaning up his messes in this space, because chances are he won’t always be able to hold it.
One more point before we get into the process: your puppy’s body will mature at its own rate, and different breeds tend to mature at different times. Nobody would expect a human baby to be potty trained in its earliest months, and it’s the same with your new friend. I had one puppy, an Australian Shepherd, who never once did his business in our house from the day we got him at eight weeks, but that is very rare. All my other puppies took a lot longer to be full housebroken.
Okay, so the name of the game with house training your puppy is to know when he is most likely to need to go potty and to be sure and take him outside then. When is that?
- Anytime he wakes up, be it after a nap or early (often VERY early) in the morning.
- After he has eaten, within just a few minutes.
So watch him like a hawk at those times and go right outside — or at least, be ready to scoop him up or coax him to run outside with you.
Also, plan on taking him out just before you go to bed. This gives you the best chance of a good night’s sleep! It’s your call whether you get up in the middle of the night to take him out or not. I do, because it does seem to make the potty training process go faster if my puppy doesn’t go in his crate in the wee hours, or should I say wee-wee hours?
Once you get outside, it may take a while. Be patient. Do some exercises or pull a few weeds, so long as your attention is on your dog and you see when he does go potty. By the way, if you want him to use a particular part of the yard, go there. If you don’t have a yard and are walking him on leash in your neighborhood, choose some good places and keep your pup off your neighbor’s petunias! I wear a small fanny pack with plastic bags for collecting any poop.
Once your puppy pees and maybe poops, praise him warmly. Play a little more before going inside so he doesn’t associate doing his business with having to stop having fun in the yard.
What if you live in an extreme climate or in an apartment where you can’t just run out the door? Or a place that isn’t all that safe? Paper training is another method that can be used in potty training a puppy. I haven’t ever used this method, as I have always had yards when I started my various puppies, but it’s quite useful in many circumstances. For small dogs, there are devices that you could graduate to where they would do their business most of the time indoors. If you do go that route, just be sure to train them to use the great out of doors as well, in case you are on a car trip or something of the sort!
What about when your puppy does make a mistake in the house? Just quietly clean it up in a matter-of-fact manner. Just about any pet supply store will have enzyme cleaners — there are numerous brands — that will cut the odor and thus reduce the change of the puppy picking the same spot over and over. I like Nature’s Miracle, available at Amazon.com
Do not scold your puppy, as he really won’t understand. But if you happen to catch him in the act, firmly say NO! and take him outside.
Well, in a nutshell, that’s all there is to it. I’ve written about this topic in other articles, most notably at my page on potty training dogs and puppies, which is pretty much the most popular page I’ve written on this site! But it’s such an important topic for the for the future well-being of your new little friend, that I’ll probably keep writing now and then about potty training a puppy. Adult dogs really need to be potty trained, housebroken, or housetrained — whatever you want to call it!– to have a good life.
So be patient and keep at it. One day it will be a memory!