Puppy Potty Training
House Training Your Puppy
By George Jones
House training is one of the first tasks that every new dog owner will undertake in the introduction of their puppy to its new home. There are three categories of house training types:
- Basic house training: The establishment of an allowable toilet area for your pet.
- Submissive wetting: Urination occurring when greeting, disciplining, or high excitement.
- Marking: Upon reaching puberty, some dogs (male or female) will mark their territory.
House training should only take approximately two weeks to establish as a routine provided that:
a) you are consistent and committed
b) you are prepared to train your pet from the moment you take possession. Have a leash, collar, a designated area and are prepared to maintain a schedule.
Retraining a dog that has already established bad habits can take six weeks or more.
As soon as possible get your new puppy to the vet for a complete check-up. This will assure you that you have obtained a healthy pup and alert you to any medical complications that can make house training more difficult. Situations such as intestinal upset, intestinal parasites and urinary tract infections can make house training difficult to impossible.
The designated toilet area can be as general as outside of the house or as specific as a particular corner of the backyard. You must have a specific plan as to what the designated area is going to be. You can not teach the dog what is acceptable if you are uncertain.
Your attitude is one of the most important ingredients in house training your dog. Your puppy does not know what is wrong. If there is a mistake tell him “no” but do not discipline too severely. You only want him to know that you are displeased, you do not want the pup to feel that you are the source of pain. When the pup has done well, pat him, praise him, let the dog know that you are very pleased. The pup will want to do things that please you. House training can be a foundation for all future training. Affection and praise as a reward for proper response — “no” signaling displeasure and guidance to show the dog what you do want.
1. Create a schedule that is practical for you to maintain. If you can not stick to your schedule – you can’t expect the dog to adhere to it.
- Do not allow your dog to free feed until house training is well established. Be very careful of your dogs diet – avoid foods and/or snacks that can be upsetting to his digestive tract.
- Schedule your dog’s bed time and waking-up time. Adhere to these times as closely as possible.
- Young pups will require frequent nap times, be sure that your schedule can accommodate the pup’s naps. Remember that the pup will need to be taken outside after each nap.
- Emotional intensity — after intense emotional stimulation (badly scared, frightened, or a particularly rowdy play session) the pup may need to relieve himself.
- Within two to three days, most dogs will be able to “control themselves” for eight hours during the night. You must keep in mind that your daytime schedule will need to be somewhat flexible. By paying attention to your dog, you will learn his nap requirements. Your dog will learn “the routine” and you will both have a schedule that you can live with.
Supervise in the House
1. By knowing where your dog is at all times, and what he is doing, you can avoid mistakes. When a pup stops playing and starts to look around for a “good spot”, he needs to go out. By observing your dog you will quickly learn to tell the difference between the pup’s exploring his new universe and his searching for a “good location”.
- If the pup starts to make a mistake, firmly but quietly say “No” and take the dog straight to his toilet area. Do not yell at the dog. Do not chase the dog. At this point it is up to you to be observant of your dog. Any mistakes that are made are due to your not paying attention.
- If you can not supervise the dog for a period of time, put the dog in a confinement area (prepared with papers) or confine him to the room where you are.
- When you are relaxing (watching TV, reading or on computer), have the dog with you. Give the pup some of his toys to play with. Have the dog on his leash or confine him to the room where you are, so that he doesn’t wander of and have an accident. Teach him that it can be enjoyable just being with you.
When You Can’t Be With Your Dog
1. Provide a small area confinement area (bathroom with all “chewable” items removed, fenced off area of the garage, or a crate).
- Do not leave food and water with the dog, or fill him with cookies or snacks before you leave. You should schedule the pup’s breakfast to be at least 2 hours before your planned departure time. That way the pup can eat, digest his food and relieve himself prior to your departure.
- Ideally, if you are going to be gone for more than eight hours, someone should give the dog a drink and an opportunity to relieve himself.
Taking the Dog Out
1. Take your dog on leash to the designated toilet area. Stand quietly, so that the dog can find the right spot. Do not distract the dog. Do not praise the dog during his search. If after about 5 minutes your dog hasn’t gone to the bathroom, return him to the house (keeping a close eye on him) for about 1/2 hour, then try again.
- As the dog starts to relieve himself; calmly praise him. Use a chosen word or phrase (good potty or wonderful potty). This phrase will only be used for praise in going potty.
- When the dog has finished relieving himself praise him more enthusiastically. Let him know that you are very proud of him.
- Remember your dog’s routine. Some dogs will “potty” two or three times per outing in the morning, but only twice per outing in the evening. Urination is often followed by defecation, while other dogs will do the reverse.
- Even if the weather is foul, do not let your dog know that you don’t want to be going outside with him. By teaching your dog that even in bad weather going outside is “the thing to do”, to please you, then he will be more willing to convey his needs to you.
- While you are learning your dog’s “time table”, take him out immediately after he wakes up, after he has eaten and after all play sessions.
Catching the Dog “In the Act”
1. Without yelling, firmly say “No.” If you still don’t have the dog’s attention, clap your hands.
- Get the dog outside, to the designated latrine area. If the dog relieves himself outside praise him. Proceed with the potty routine.
- Clean the mess with a deodorizing or odor killing cleanser. If the dog smells his own scent as having been used as a bathroom area, the dog will continue to use the area.
If the cleanser is not able to eliminate enough of the scent so that the dog can not detect it, you can help mask the scent over with vanilla extract. Just one or two drops will make it impossible for the dog to smell any lingering odor.
If You Find a Mess After the Fact
1. Do not punish the dog.
- Accept the fact that you were not paying attention to the dog.
- Do not show the dog that you are upset. Calmly put the dog on his leash and bring him to the location of the accident. With the dog at your side, firmly scold the potty. Do not scold the dog.
- Blot up some urine, or pick up some stool with a piece of paper. Take the evidence and the dog to the latrine area. Place the paper on the ground and with the dog watching praise the potty for being in the “right” place. Temporarily leave the paper there. (Remove it when the dog isn’t watching)
- Clean up the remaining mess in the house as outlined above.
Tips for House training Puppies and Dogs
As with most things in life, there are right and wrong ways to get things done. Rubbing a puppy’s nose in a mess is not the right way to housetrain. Using ample amounts of supervision and positive reinforcement is. Use the following puppy house training tips to get started on the road to proper puppy potty training:
Getting On the Right Track
The first course of action in house training is to promote the desired behavior. You need to:
Designate a potty area OUTDOORS.
Guide your dog there to do his business.
Heartily praise him when he goes.
By occasionally giving him a treat right after your dog finishes, you can encourage him to potty in the desired area. The odor left from previous visits to that area will quickly mark it as the place for the pup to do his business.
Timing Is Important!
A six- to eight-week-old puppy should be taken outdoors every one to three hours. Older puppies can generally wait longer between outings. Most puppies should be taken out:
After waking in the morning
After playing or training
After being left alone
Immediately before being put to bed
Pottying on Command
To avoid spending a lot of time waiting for your puppy to go, you may want to teach him to potty on command. Each time he is in the act of eliminating, simply repeat a unique command, such as “hurry up” or “potty,” in an upbeat tone of voice. After a few weeks of training, you’ll notice that when you say the command your puppy will begin pre-potty sniffing, circling and then potty shortly after you give the command. Be sure to praise him for his accomplishments.
Most puppies will potty within an hour after eating. Once you set your puppy’s feeding schedule, you will have some control over when he needs to go.
Schedule your puppy’s dinner times so that you will be available to let him out after eating.
Avoid giving your puppy a large meal just prior to confining him or he may have to go when you’re not around to take him out. Schedule feeding two to three times daily on a consistent schedule.
Have food available for only 30 to 40 minutes, then remove it.
The last feeding of the day should be done several hours before he’s confined for the night. By controlling the feeding schedule, exercise sessions, confinement periods and trips outdoors to the potty area, your puppy will quickly develop a reliable schedule for pottying.
This is one of the best puppy house training tips we have to offer. Training a puppy to be comfortable in a crate is a good way to keep him safe and confined during housetraining. Most puppies will quickly accept crate confinement when you make the introduction fun. Since it’s important to associate favorable things with the area where your puppy is confined, it is a good idea to play with him there, or simply spend some time reading or watching television nearby as he relaxes with a favorite chew toy. If he is only in the area when you leave, it becomes a social isolation area that he eventually may resist entering.
A good time to start crate training is at dinnertime. Feed your puppy his dinner, one piece at a time, by tossing pieces of kibble into the crate for him to chase and eat. This way, you can make a game out of training.
When you pick up his toys, store them in the crate so he will enter on his own to play. You may even want to occasionally hide a biscuit in the crate as a nice surprise.
You should not use the crate for periods that exceed the length of time the pet can actually control the urge to urinate or defecate. If you are gone for long periods each day, you will need to provide a larger confinement area. You may want to consider using an exercise pen or small room.
Provide an area large enough so that if your puppy has to potty when you are gone, he can do it in a space that is separate from his sleeping area. A 15- to 30-square foot area is adequate for most puppies. If he chooses a specific place to eliminate, cover it with paper to make cleanup easier.
[For more on create training, see “Why Crate Training Your Puppy is So Critical.”]
Expect Some Mistakes
Left on his own, the untrained puppy is very likely to make a mistake. Close supervision is a very important part of training. Do not consider your puppy house trained until he has gone at least four consecutive weeks without pottying in the house. For older dogs, this period should be even longer. Until then:
Your puppy should constantly be in your sight.
Baby gates can be helpful to control movement throughout the house and to aid supervision.
Keep them in the crate when unsupervised.
When you’re away from home, sleeping or if you’re just too busy to closely monitor your pet’s activities, confine him to a small, safe area in the home.
If your puppy squats and urinates when he greets you, he may have a problem called submissive urination. Dogs and puppies that urinate during greetings are very sensitive and should never be scolded when they do this, since punishment inevitably makes the problem worse.
Most young puppies will grow out of this behavior if you are calm, quiet and avoid reaching toward the head during greetings. Another helpful approach is to calmly ask your dog to sit for a very tasty treat each time someone greets him.
Direct Him Away from Problem Areas
Urine and fecal odor should be thoroughly removed to keep your dog from returning to areas of the home where he made a mess.
Be sure to use a good commercial product made specifically to clean up doggy odors. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for usage.
If a carpeted area has been soaked with urine, be sure to saturate it with the cleaning product and not merely spray the surface.
Rooms in the home where your dog has had frequent mistakes should be closed off for several months.
He should only be allowed to enter when accompanied by a family member.
Don’t Make Things Worse
It is a rare dog or puppy that can be house trained without making an occasional mess, so you need to be ready to handle the inevitable problems.
Do not rely on harsh punishment to correct mistakes. This approach usually does not work, and may actually delay training.
An appropriate correction consists of simply providing a moderate, startling distraction. You should only do this when you see your dog in the act of pottying in the wrong place.
A sharp noise, such as a loud “No” or a quick stomp on the floor, is all that is usually needed to stop the behavior. Don’t be too loud or your pet may learn to avoid going in front of you, even outdoors.
Don’t continue to scold or correct your dog after he has stopped soiling. When he stops, quickly take him outdoors so that he will finish in the appropriate area and be praised.
Never rub your dog’s nose in a mess. There is absolutely no way this will help training, and may actually make him afraid of you.
We hope you’ve found these puppy house training tips helpful. The basic principles of house training are pretty simple, but a fair amount of patience is required. The most challenging part is always keeping an eye on your active dog or puppy. If you maintain control, take your dog outdoors frequently and consistently praise the desired behavior, soon you should have a house-trained canine companion.