Potty training your puppy can be one of the most stressful things you will do as a new dog owner. The biggest thing is to be patient! Most puppies that come from litters have been using the bathroom in their whelping room since day one. If you are rescuing a puppy or even an adult dog from a shelter, they may have never been taught to go to the bathroom outside. Sadly, that may even be the reason why they were given to the shelter. Follow these tips and tricks and sooner than later you will have a Perfectly Potty Trained Puppy.
Before Your Bring Your Puppy Home
Get Those Potty Training Supplies
Preparation is key! Do not scramble at the last minute trying to get your potty training supplies together. Here is a list of the most important potty training essentials that will help you along your potty training journey!
It is extremely important to have a leash for potty training purposes. You want to make sure that your puppy is comfortable going to the bathroom on a leash and off a leash. Some dogs are very situational and will not feel comfortable going potty on a leash or off a leash unless given prior experience and praise doing so. I suggest starting the puppy on a 6 foot leash when outside using the bathroom. After the puppy starts to get the hang of it, switch up to off leash (if you have a fenced in yard) or utilizing a 10 foot training leash.
These will be your ultimate training tool! Puppies have very impressionable minds and LOVE positive reinforcement with tasty snacks. I suggest getting a few bags because training treats won’t just be for potty training. I absolutely love Nutro Mini Bites. They are soft chews so the puppy can nom them up quickly and be ready for the next training step.
I’m going to be very up front about these. They are not my favorite training tool. I feel they are overused by dog owners. Your dog shouldn’t be going to the bathroom inside as a daily practice so these should not be considered long term, a “it fixed the problem” device. Potty pads should be for the first week in a new home and only if the previous owner was utilizing them as well. If their previous home did not use potty pads, there is no need to train a puppy to use potty pads and go to the bathroom outside. Make sure you ask how the puppies are using the bathroom beforehand.
This should be no surprise, but your puppy will have accidents! Some puppies do not stop until they are closer to 6 months of age. So might as well stock up on the paper towels and cleaner. My favorite is Nature’s Miracle. I bought the three gallon jug and two small bottles. Once the bottles are empty, I refill with the big jug. I have had the jug a year now and still haven’t needed to replace it yet. This type of cleaning blend helps remove the enzymes in the urine accident so the puppy cannot smell it in the future and repeatedly use that spot for bathroom time.
Buy poop bags in bulk. I’m telling you, you will use them. If you want to take your puppy on walks, camping, hiking, anywhere public you will need poop bags anyways. Buying in bulk is cheaper and it isn’t like they expire! Having poop bags handy makes cleaning inside accidents way easier. If you try wiping poop up with paper towels there is the potential of smearing it into carpet or getting it on your hand. Yuck. How much easier is it to stick your hand in a poop bag and pick up the poop piece by piece? The answer is, a lot.
Playpen or Puppy Gate
It is very important to not have your puppy have a full run of your home! Not only for potty training purposes but for safety! I would make sure you have a playpen or puppy gate that gives the puppy a safe space in the house that is their own.
Prepare The House and The Yard
So now that you have all your supplies, let’s get the house ready! I always tell my future dog owners, pick your puppy room first. This needs to be a small area for just the puppy. Where they will sleep, eat, and most likely have accidents. Pick a room that does not have carpet as the floor. Kitchen, laundry room, spare bathroom are all better options because it is a lot harder to damage tile or linoleum than carpet. Make sure that it is secure by playpen or puppy gates. In this room you will have your potty pads laid out and cleaning supplies at the ready.
Now pick a spot in your yard that you want the puppy to use as their bathroom. I know this may sound strange because you would think the entire yard would be their bathroom, right? Not yet! Puppies will go to the bathroom where it smells like bathroom. So it is best practice to use the same spot every time you are going out with your puppy for them to go potty. This way they can smell their waste and know “this is my potty spot!”
The Potty Training Begins
It’s here! The day you bring your puppy home! Relax, don’t be nervous, you got this! First thing first! Your puppy may have just had a long car ride and has a small bladder. Walk your puppy outside around their bathroom spot. If they go potty there, say “good potty!” and love up your puppy when they are all done. Verbal praise is so important to puppies so make sure to always use verbal, even if you have treats. Give them about fifteen to twenty minutes outside in their bathroom spot, just in case they have to number one and two.
When Should I Take The Puppy Out?
Twenty Minute Rule
Rule of thumb when it comes to how often the puppy needs to be outside is, every twenty minutes. Set a timer to go off every twenty minutes and at the sound of the alarm, grab your training treats, leash up your puppy, and head to their bathroom spot. Make sure when you get there to say “go potty!”. If they go potty, verbal praise “good potty!” and give them a treat. Best practice is to give the puppy a treat outside, immediately after they release themselves.
A lot of dog owners will keep the treats inside and reward after coming back inside. Yes, there are less things in your hands but you are also rewarding the puppy for the wrong action. If you reward with seconds of them going to the bathroom, you reward for proper bathroom habits. If you come inside, then give the puppy a treat, you just rewarded the puppy for coming inside. Ultimately, you will end up with a dog asking to go outside then back inside because they believe that means they’ll get a treat upon entry.
When nap time is over, get the puppy out as quickly as possible! Puppies will always have to empty their systems after a nap or sleeping. Try to keep an eye on the puppy when they’re napping so there is no delay between waking up and getting them outside. This is probably the best way to get them to learn where they need to go because more times than not they will have to go potty so there will always be an action to praise.
After all meals go outside for potty. Puppies have the smallest little systems and they cannot hold much for long. Getting them outside after eating will help prevent accidents and teach them not to go to the bathroom where they eat! If there is no number two, come back inside for no more than ten minutes then try again. If your puppy just got a drink of water, get them outside about five minutes after. Again, small systems!
If you are playing with your puppy and then randomly stop to sniff the ground, it’s potty time! They are looking for the magical scent that tells them where to go to the bathroom. Intervene as quickly as you can and get them outside to their bathroom spot.
What If The Puppy Did Not Go Potty?
For the first few days, you are going to run into a lot of times where you are staying outside and the puppy is just not relieving themselves. They are only learning so it may take a few days to understand what to do when outside. If your puppy is not going outside when you’re outside, come back inside and crate them for 10 minutes. No play, no water, no interaction. Ten minutes of quiet in their crate then try to go potty again. Keep practicing this until the puppy goes potty outside. After that you can come in for a well earned play session!
My absolute favorite potty training tool is this photo. It really puts it in perspective how much you need to be going outside with your puppy.
The Dreaded Accidents
As stated before, your puppy will have accidents! It is just a part of potty training. If you catch your puppy having an accident, do not startle them. You don’t want to cause fear issues by being to excentric over a small accident. Swiftly and calmly, leash up your puppy and get them outside to your potty spot. Use verbal cues to ask them to go potty and verbal praise when they do. A lot of the time, puppies will go two or three times in a row so getting them outside can help encourage proper location.
Starting out, you should be utilizing your puppy area as discussed up above. In that room you want to make sure that most of the area is covered with potty pads. When the puppy soils a potty pad, quickly remove it and replace it with a clean one. We don’t want the scent sticking around, encouraging inside bathroom habits. As the weeks go forward, start providing less and less potty pads in their area and eventually no potty pads. This encourages outside potty habits verses inside ones. I wish I could give you a rough timeline and number of potty pads but it is all depending on the puppy and their learning! Just be patient and go with the puppy’s speed.
If there is an accident outside of the puppy room, follow the steps above by getting them outside to finish up. After, clean up the area that the puppy had an accident in. Make sure to use your good cleaning spray so there is no potty smell left behind.
There is a trick that, if your puppy is struggling with understanding where to go to the bathroom, to pick up their accident from inside the house and place it outside where they should be going potty. Everything is in the nose for dogs so once they smell that outside, they will get the hint!
There is absolutely no situation in potty training where you scold your puppy. Let me say this louder for the people in the back… NEVER YELL AT YOUR PUPPY FOR HAVING AN ACCIDENT! This only causes fear issues and it teaches the puppy to not go potty in front of you instead of the proper place to go.
Continuous Potty Training
As your puppy grows, their systems will get larger and stronger allowing them to hold their pee and poop longer and longer. You will start to notice you can go longer than the twenty minute intervals between breaks and that there will be less accidents in the home.
Puppies love repetition so you will even start to notice that they will walk over to the door that leads to the bathroom, as they start to realize where their bathroom is located.
As the training moves forward, don’t forget to start incorporating the long line or off leash (in an enclosed area) for potty breaks outside of the original potty spot!
My biggest advice I can give is to not get stressed. I know, how can I just not be stressed? Think about it though. Every puppy owner in the world is going through the same thing. So you are not alone. No need to fret because you will get past it. Following these tips and tricks is gonna help you be a master of potty training your puppy! It is a lot but you will ultimately end up with the Perfectly Potty Trained Puppy!