So you just brought home your brand new puppy! Congratulations!!!
Our first post in our Puppy Series will address one of the first and most common concerns of puppy parents– potty training! How soon can you start? How long is reasonable for them to go between breaks? How do you reinforce good potty behavior (i.e., doing business outside instead of in the house)? How do you handle accidents in the house?
The sooner you start, the better! Limiting the amount of accidents your puppy has inside the house will help potty training go faster and smoother overall, so start on day one! The best and easiest way I have found is to set a strict schedule and crate train your puppy. Crating your puppy (even if you don’t want to crate your dog long term) helps your puppy learn to be calm or “turn off” in the crate, which you will be thankful for in the future if your dog ever has an injury and needs crate rest. It also helps with other problematic puppy behaviors that we will discuss in other blogs in this series.
Crating is really helpful for potty training because most dogs don’t want to sit in their own mess. The crate should be size appropriate and let your puppy stand up and turn around without having too much extra space. If they can go to one side and pee, then go to the other side and lay down without touching the pee, it’s too big. You may have to trade sizes of crates as your puppy grows. This helps them learn to “hold it” and gain better control of bladder muscles.
A good general rule of thumb is that puppies can hold their bladder one hour for every month of age, so an 8 week old puppy can only go about 2 hours or less between potty breaks. This is where the schedule comes in handy! Start the schedule a little less than what you think is the max time your puppy can hold it; at 8 weeks, I’d recommend starting with 90 minutes. You want your puppy to have more successes than failures, which will help speed along the process, so earlier is best until you get a better feel for your particular puppies’ needs. Then adjust as you start to figure it out.
In addition to scheduling potty breaks outside, whenever your puppy eats/drinks, has a good play session, or comes out of the crate, you will want to take them outside to potty. Anytime you see them sniffing around like they are looking for a place to go, also take them outside.
Outside, designate a potty area that you always take your puppy to when you want them to go. The smell will help remind them of what you want them to do there. It’s also really effective to train them with a command, like “go pee” or “go potty.” When they start doing their business, quietly say “good pee/potty” (or whatever words you want to use) to reinforce them doing the right thing, and when they finish, CELEBRATE! Keep high value treats in your pocket or their favorite toy and be super enthusiastic saying “GOOD POTTY!” and give them the treat/toy immediately. The timing is really important so they learn the association.
Any accidents in the house should be handled right away. You will need to clean everything thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner (like Nature’s Miracle or Skout’s Honor) to remove the pheromones which are a signal to keep pottying there. If your puppy is having accidents without you noticing, you might want to tether them to you in the house with the leash so you can keep a close eye on them. As soon as you see them start to squat or think they’re looking for a spot, take them outside right away to the potty spot and use your command.
You never want to yell at or correct your puppy for going potty in the house. If you catch them “in the act,” you can pick them up under the armpits so their body is vertical and belly facing away from you– in most dogs, this stops the flow of urine and gives you a chance to take them outside to finish, so you can reinforce the good behavior. But rubbing their nose in it or other punitive methods will only confuse them and cause more problems long term, which is why the rest of the tips here will help you have less accidents inside and really reward pottying outside so your puppy learns that is the best way!
Potty training is one of the most important things to focus on with your new puppy to set them up for success and reduce your own stress/frustration, but it’s not the only thing, so check out our other blogs in this series for the rest of our tips!