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Potty Training Your Puppy

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

Routine, Encouragement, Reward!

Always keep watch. Look at it like potty training a toddler...without a diaper. You would watch and monitor every move until a sign shows up that they may need to go, and it is your role to help get them to a location that is acceptable and reward. Keep attention to detail and you will begin to recognize the signs your puppy shows when they have to relieve themselves: circling, sniffing, change in gate while walking with head low, anxiousness, pacing, etc.

Confining the puppy to a defined space, whether that means in a crate, a room, on leash, baby gated section, etc. will help prevent them from finding a spot to potty inside. The younger (and smaller) the puppy, the smaller you confine their space. For example, if you have a 3 bed 2 bath house it can be difficult for them to understand right away that the entire space (inside) is their home. A puppy typically looks for a room or location that is farthest away from the busiest (most lived in) location such as an office, corner of a room, or a place that is quiet (if you turn around and notice a pee spot on the floor without catching them in the act).

Puppies especially need to be monitored when they have free roam and are not in a crate or well-confined area (gated in the kitchen or kennel run). Preventing any access to unwanted areas with closed doors and gates are great. Puppies learning to differentiate inside = home and outside = potty can be aided with use of wooden bedding pellets. Placing the pellets near the door can be a great way to help show them where the door is to outside. Any time the puppy goes towards it, sniffs the box, or looks slightly anxious while aimlessness wondering around (searching for a place to pee) open the door and take them outside to the same spot every time (you can sprinkle shavings on the ground to help encourage them with the smell if it helps).

You can reward them with a treat (with pets and praise) when they go outside and if you catch them in the house you should scoop them up and take them outside to finish. If you are waiting for them to potty and they seem uninterested after 5-10 minutes, you can either play with them (excitement and stimulation will induce the urge to go), crate them and take out again soon, or let them back in the house with supervision to wait until you notice a sign that they have to go potty and/or take them out again in 10 minutes. Freedom is gradually earned and learned after a routine is established and your puppy is able to catch on and understand.

Guidelines to help set you and your puppy up for success! When to take the puppy outside:

  • ✓  Before and after crate time (first thing in the morning, last thing before bed)

  • ✓  After meals

  • ✓  Wakes up from sleeping

  • ✓  After playtime (excitement may trigger the need to eliminate)

  • ✓  Once every 30 minutes to an hour until you begin to learn your puppies potty schedule. Keep it consistent, gradually lengthening time as they progress. Give puppy a routine and prompt them:

    • Keep puppy on a consistent feeding schedule

    • Take puppy to the same spot each time, as the residing scent will help entice them

    • Pairing a phrase such as “Go Potty” each time you take them out to relieve will help prompt them to go

    • Leash guide them in a gentle circular path, or walk down the street to help things move along

    • Stay with puppy outside and monitor to make sure they do in fact go potty, preventing a sudden accident upon reenter of the home.

    • When your puppy eliminates outside, praise them with affection, a favorite toy, or treats if needed. A walk around the neighborhood is a nice reward too. Signs your puppy needs to go potty: Whining Circling Pacing Sniffing Barking

  • ‣  Any behavior around shavings (even as subtle as passing by with a sniff)

  • ‣  Walking with different gate and/or head low to ground

  • ‣  Walking passed door, sitting by door or jumping on you/door Do's and Don’ts: Keep the following in mind:

    • Punishing your puppy for having an accident will never be affective. It teaches your puppy to fear you.

    • If you catch your puppy in the act, you could clap or make a high pitched “hurried” tone to let them know they are not doing an acceptable behavior and perhaps even startle them enough to stop the elimination briefly as you scoop them up and rush them outside. Hopefully they will finish outside and you can praise them for doing so.

If they do not finish outside (and you believe they still have to go potty) wait until they eliminate or bring them inside: make sure you watch them intently and/or confine them more (on leash, in a gated area, close off areas of the house). Take puppy out after any potential sign, or within about 5-10 minutes.

  • If you found the evidence but did not see the act, do not react angrily by yelling or rubbing their nose in it. Puppies are not intellectually capable of connecting your anger with their accident.

  • Staying outside longer with puppy will be needed at times. Playtime or allowing them to explore more/taking them on a walk will help you. Puppy might need a little more time to explore.

  • Clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleanser rather than an ammonia-based cleaner to minimize odors that might attract the puppy back to the same spot. Natures Miracle is the best.

  • If you clean up an accident in the house, taking the soiled rags or paper towels and placing them in the designated potty spot might help puppy recognize the area as the place where they are supposed to eliminate instead.

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