Potty training your puppy is arguably the most important skill you’ll teach them as your pet. Not only does potty training comfort your puppy in that it provides them with a reliable routine, but it also helps to keep your relationship with your dog healthy and happy. It’s hard to resent or get angry with a dog who faithfully and reliably does their business outside where it belongs.
So when you first get your puppy, be sure to invest the time to potty train them right. If you do your job right, your dog will know to do their business outside, regardless of anxiety, boredom, a new home, stress, or any of the other common factors that contribute to the undoing of some other dogs’ potty training. The following steps and tips should help you to potty train your puppy right:
1. Supervise them well while indoors.
The more freedom your puppy has, the more they’re likely to abuse it, so at the very early stages of your dog’s potty training, it’s important to keep an eye on them at all times. Depending on your lifestyle, that could mean keeping them nearby in a crate, tethering them to an office chair, or confining them to the living room where you’re relaxing.
Eventually, of course, you’ll be able to give your dog free roam, but for now, understand that the more often they are allowed to sneak off and do their business in the house, the more used to the bad habit they will become.
2. During the day, take them outside every 60 minutes.
When you reach the designated bathroom area in your yard, give your dog up to 5 minutes to do what they have to do. While you wait, pace around or walk in circles to keep your dog from thinking that this bathroom break is play time.
During these bathroom breaks, you should also repeat a command. This command will eventually become your cue to tell your dog it’s time to go outside to use the restroom. Whether you choose, “Go potty,” “Hurry up,” “Potty time,” or some other phrase, be sure to repeat it often while you wait for your puppy to do their business outside. This helps them to learn the association between that phrase and the act of going to the bathroom.
3. If your puppy does go to the bathroom, praise them enthusiastically.
Give them a treat, your attention, and short period of free (albeit supervised) play time before returning them to the leash, crate, or pen. If your puppy was unable to do their business during the scheduled break, try again in 15-20 minutes.
In addition to the basic steps listed above, there are several other things you should remember about potty training your puppy:
1. Understand how much it helps to keep your puppy on a feeding schedule.
If you know when your puppy eats and drinks, you’ll know when they need to use the bathroom- usually within 15 minutes of meal time. If, on the other hand, you allow them to eat freely throughout the day, you’ll never know when your puppy needs to go out, putting them at risk for indoor accidents (in addition to weight gain and other issues).
2. Remember that no matter how hard you try, accidents will happen.
When this occurs, do not punish your puppy. Acting after the fact does nothing; instead, know that you need to be more vigilant next time about keeping an eye on your puppy. Simply clean the mess with a specially formulated cleaner (preferably an enzymatic one, one that completely removes the olfactory evidence that would otherwise encourage your puppy to pee or poo in the same spot again).
Punishing your dog for going in the house can actually have a very negative impact on your dog’s training. For example, some dogs whose potty “training” involved having their noses rubbed in the mess while being berated have been known to develop coprophagia (the tendency to eat their own feces).
This issue is thought to be the result of the dog’s misunderstanding their punishment: They believe they are being punished for pooping, not for pooping in the wrong place. Thus, when they go to the bathroom, even outside, they expect punishment and eat their own waste in an attempt to “hide the evidence.”
3. Don’t forget about middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks.
In order to avoid accidents, you’ll have to wake up once or twice in the middle of the night to let your puppy outside. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but then, having a puppy is a lot like having a baby. It truly is a lot of responsibility. So rather than shirk on that responsibility and end up with a poorly-trained dog, set an alarm or two throughout the night, and follow the regular potty break steps.
Also, avoid feeding your dog or giving them water close to bedtime, and be sure to take them outside right before you go to bed. Eventually, your dog will be big enough to make it through the night with no bathroom breaks, but when they are young, they are simply too little to handle such a long stretch of time.
Potty training your puppy is no quick task, but at the same time, it doesn’t have to be a huge hassle. Stay patient with your furry little friend, and when they mess up, remember that they don’t know any better- yet. That’s part of your job: to teach them how to do better next time.