Learn everything you need to know to potty train your puppy with ease.
Perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of bringing home a puppy is its inability to regulate its bladder and bowel—meaning it will poop and pee at least seven or eight times a day and accidents within the house may be frequent. Bryan Bailey, animal trainer, wolf behaviourist and author of Embracing the Wild in Your Dog, explains how to make the potty training process that much easier with these tips.
1. Use a crate
Purchase a crate—either an enclosed plastic one or a wire style with a cover—where your puppy can stay when you aren’t available to supervise. The crate should be dark, because “dogs are den-dwelling creatures,” says Bailey. “It’s a safety issue for them.” Put a mat or blanket in the enclosure for your dog’s comfort, but skip a pee pad because the puppy will likely shred it. Don’t worry too much if she pees in her crate. She will only void if she absolutely has to, because dogs don’t like to urinate where they sleep.
2. Keep a watchful eye
When the puppy is out of her pen, you need to watch her at all times. “Either hold onto the pup or let the pup run around but you have your eyes on it,” says Bailey. If she relieves herself inside the house, startle the puppy with a loud “No!”
3. Be consistent
You have to scold her every single time so that she learns that there is nowhere in the house that she is allowed to void. If you only catch her some of the time, she’ll learn that it’s only dangerous to void in front of you, so she’ll skulk off and pee whenever you’re not watching her.
4. Be quick
You also have to scold her immediately—within one or two seconds. Otherwise she won’t understand what she’s done wrong. “The worst thing you can do is come home, find out your puppy’s gone potty and rub her nose in it,” says Bailey. “Absolutely never do that. If you don’t catch your dog in the very act of going, don’t correct the dog. That’s your mistake.”
5. Change environments
When it’s time for a potty break, take your dog outside. What she will learn over a period of time is that outside smells, looks and sounds different. When she relieves herself outside, nothing bad ever happens, so it’s a safe space.
6. Plan ahead
Your puppy will always have to go potty after any long sleep, after it eats and after high activity. Plan accordingly so you can take your pup out after long naps, first thing in the morning and after meals.
7. Don’t reward with treats
“I don’t give treats for going potty,” says Bailey. If your dog learns that it gets a treat when it goes to the bathroom outside, it may only void 20 percent of its bladder to win the treat, then walk right back inside and leave a puddle on the floor. “They let a little bit out so they can get that reward right then, but they haven’t eliminated enough to not want to go again.”
8. Use pee pads if necessary
If you live in an apartment building and aren’t able to let your dog into the backyard frequently, you can use pee pads or artificial grass until your dog is able to hold her bladder for a long period of time. That said, this trick only works for small dogs—which is definitely something to consider when choosing a breed.
9. Expect it to take a few months
Your dog won’t be able to regulate herself until she’s at least six or seven month, so don’t expect the training process to be without little messes. If you bring home an older dog, the training process is the same—except much shorter! “Because the dog is older, you’re not dealing with an infantile metabolism,” says Bailey. “You’re dealing with an animal that can hold it for great periods of time, unless of course you’re dealing with incontinence.” The training period should shrink from a few months to a few weeks.