Potty Training Tips

House-training your new puppy or rescue may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Fortunately, dogs are quick learners. The key to solid potty training starts the day your pup comes home. With a little patience and a routine, they’ll be potty trained in no time. We’ve all gotta go, so let’s get going.

When to Begin

Experts recommend that you begin training your puppy between 12-16 weeks old. At this age, they have enough control of their bladder and bowel movements to learn to hold it. It usually takes 4-6 months for a puppy to be completely house-trained, but some puppies can take up to a year. Rescued adult dogs sometimes have imperfect house-training skills or don’t have any at all, and some just need a refresher. Adult dogs are normally easier to train than puppies, and they’ll pick up the skill faster – usually within a week. Remember that potty training for dogs older than 12-16 weeks begins the day you bring them home.

Steps for House-training

Whether you’ve got a puppy or a new rescue, it’s recommended to keep them to a confined space, be that a crate, a room, or on a leash. As your pup becomes accustomed to going outside to do their business, they can get more freedom to roam about the house.

  • Keep dogs on a regular feeding schedule and remove food between meals. This will help lessen the need for frequent elimination.
  • Take puppies out for potty breaks when you first wake up and every 30 minutes to an hour after that. Always take them outside after meals, when they wake up from a nap, and last thing before bedtime.
  • Newly rescued adult dogs should be taken out 6 times during the day – first thing in the morning, before you leave for the day, twice in the middle of the day, after dinner, and before bedtime. Once they get used to the schedule, you can lessen potty breaks to four times a day – the norm for adult dogs.
  • Take them to potty in the same spot each time. The scent will prompt them to do so.
  • Stay outside with them, at least until they’re house-trained. This is especially true during inclement weather – having you there helps to build their confidence during stressful situations.
  • When your dog eliminates outside, praise them!  Reward them for a job well done with a treat or jaunt around the neighborhood.

Crate Training

Crate training is the easiest way to teach your pet bladder and bowel control because dogs do not like to soil their sleeping and eating areas. It helps them learn to hold it until you can take them outside. It also allows you to watch for signs when your pup needs to go out.

When using a crate, remember:

  • The crate should be big enough for your pup to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If the crate is too big, they may use another corner as a bathroom, while keeping their sleeping area clean.
  • Keep their crate in high traffic areas so they don’t feel isolated.
  • Make sure your pup has access to fresh water while in the crate.
  • If you cannot be home during the house-training period, have someone give your dog a potty break during the middle of the day.
  • If your pup keeps eliminating in the crate, discontinue its use. They might have acquired bad habits from their previous living space; they might be too young to use it; the crate may be too big, or they might need to go out more often.
  • Give them lots of time outside the crate. Otherwise, they can feel trapped and frustrated.

Dos and Don’ts of Potty Training

  • Don’t punish them for having an accident. It teaches them to fear you.
  • If you found an accident but didn’t catch them in the act, don’t respond angrily by yelling or rubbing their nose in it. Puppies are incapable of equating your anger with their accident.
  • If caught in the act, do startle them with a clap or noise, and take them outside immediately to finish their business.
  • Remember to praise them when they do it right! Provide treats and enthusiastic praise right after they’ve finished. Make it crystal clear that eliminating outside is exactly what you’re looking for!
  • Don’t distract them with games and talk. Stand still and let them circle and sniff. Once they begin to go, give a command like “Go potty” or “Do your business”. Soon they’ll be able to go on command.
  • Don’t confine them longer than they can hold it. This defeats the purpose of crate training, and it sets you both up for defeat.
  • Don’t use ammonia-based cleaners for accidents. These items smell like urine to your pet and will encourage elimination in that area. Use a cleaning product that uses live bacteria or enzymes which will break down the mess, not mask it.

Remember that training is a process that requires consistency. There will be set backs and accidents, but that is part of the learning process. Dogs learn best when training becomes routine, so keep trying and don’t skip a day. Stay consistent and patient, and your pup will be a potty trained pro in no time!