The anticipation of bringing a new puppy home is one of life’s most exciting moments but it’s also filled with the anticipation of the work ahead in helping the new puppy learn the rules of the house and this includes potty training.       

Life is just one big experiment!       

Dogs are learning constantly (life is just one constant experiment for your dog!) and puppies begin learning the new rules of the house the minute they come into your home.  Many behaviors are established during the first two or three weeks that a new dog comes into your home.  It’s during this key time period that you have your biggest opportunity to help your puppy understand that a home is different then living outside.  Actually potty training can be relatively easy to train if you just know a few simple techniques.       

By the way, house training isn’t just for puppies.  Even adult dogs who are “house trained” can have issues in their new environment.  Dogs don’t necessarily generalize very well so it may take a few weeks for your new dog to become acclimated to your home and the new routine.  These tips are appropriate for both puppies and older dogs new to your home environment.       

Be Consistent!       

Consistency is your friend when it comes to training new behaviors.  Your new puppy should be following the same set of rules for everyone in your house.  Then it’s only one set they need to learn and no one is accidentally undoing their training and potentially confusing your puppy.       

Remember that you’re not only training your puppy to go potty outside but you’re also training them to understand that outside is the only appropriate place to potty.  Your role is to help manage the situation so that they avoid accidents in the house.Cute Stafford puppy running on field       

4304190141_Belle Rive - The PuppyAlways Under a Watchful Eye!       

Basically a puppy should be always under direct supervision or in a contained location.  They should either be in their crate, in a puppy-safe playpen area, attached to you by a leash, or under direct supervision (your eyes are always on the puppy). This is for every day, all day until they are completely potty trained and have learned good and polite behaviors. It’s also a wonderful way to be able to reward (e.g. reinforce) all of the good choices they make every day.       

“Where’s the Dog?”       

That’s a quick reminder to you to make sure you’re successful at potty training.       

You basically have three options:       

In a room with you watching them – so you can see when they need to “go”!       

Outside with you watching them – so you can reward them when they “go”!       

In a crate or a confined area like behind a baby gate in a puppy/dog safe area       

If you always remember the mantra “Where’s the Dog” you’ll have more success with your potty training       

Timing is the Key!       

There are key times of the day when you’re puppy is going to need to go outside to potty.  Plus watch for signs of your puppy looking for a place to potty inside the house (e.g. sniffing or circling around).       

Anytime they’re coming out of their crate – in the morning when they wake up or after a nap       

Immediately after eating or drinking       

After a playtime session       

Before bedtime       

Anytime you see a change in their behavior – e.g. sleeping or resting then up and walking around  – time to go out!       

Always err on the side of too many trips outside then not enough.  You’ll be better able to avoid the inside accidents this way.       

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Bring Potty TrainedNo Detours on a Potty Break!       

Also get your puppy to their outdoor potty space quickly – no detours here, just a quick walk or run to go right outside. Try to use the same door/exit each time so they get into a routine.  Also, don’t confuse potty time with playtime.  Wait for your puppy to potty then praise her and/or give her a treat.  If puppy doesn’t go in five minutes, then put them in their crate for another five or ten minutes and repeat the procedure.  If you want to play after potty time then briefly come back into the house and then go out again to play. This will clearly establish the difference between potty time and playtime.       

It’s also helpful that you use your praise word (good potty, good hurry up, etc) with a cue for the to remember while they’re outside in the first place.  A quick “hurry up” can oftentimes help refocus them to the task at hand should they get distracted.  If you use a clicker or other marker with your training – don’t use it to mark this particular behavior.  Best to use your voice – sometimes using a clicker can be too distracting during potty time but treats are always welcome to reinforce the “going potty” behavior.       

Also, use your walks to reward (or reinforce) good potty habits and NOT as a way to get them to go potty.  They’ll quickly figure out if they delay going potty then they’ll get a longer walk.  Which is often the case for puppies who, after a nice long walk, will promptly eliminate once they get back in the house – as if to say “oh yea, I guess I got distracted.  Now I remember what I was supposed to do outside!”  Instead, go on your walk AFTER they’ve gone potty.  This may help them figure out to potty more quickly so as to head out on their walk more quickly.       

How Often?       

An eight-week old puppy needs to go out, on average, about every two hours but it could be up to 17 times a day for a young puppy.  Every puppy’s needs will vary and that’s why it’s so important for you to observe your puppy and determine their best house training schedule.   In general a puppy can be in their crate a total of one hour for every month of age plus one hour during the day. So a 12 week old puppy can be in their crate for approximately four hours during the daytime.  So if you’re gone during the day it would be best if you had your puppy in either a puppy safe room with newspapers or pee pads or in an x-pen so that they have more room to move around if they do need to potty while you’re out.Two puppies playing ball       

Oops! There She Goes!       

You want your puppy to be successful but sometimes they will have an accident.  If you can catch them in “the act” then quickly interrupt them “oops”, pick them up and praise them for going outside.  Clean up well inside and then figure out why they had an accident.  Do not scold your puppy – they don’t understand that going potty inside the house is a bad thing.  You’re helping them understand that the only place to potty is outside.       

If you catch their “accident” after the fact, well that’s ancient history to your puppy so just clean it up well and then think about what adjustments you can make to their potty routine.  Chalk it up to your mistake and just keep moving forward with your training.       

cuteness puppyOn a special note, if you’re using this strategy and still having accidents in the house or crate there may be a medical reason for this so please see your veterinarian.  Make sure they don’t have a urinary tract infection.       

The other issue might be the size of the crate.  It should be big enough to stand up and turn around in but not big enough that they have a separate sleeping and potty space in their crate.  Make sure you size down your crate with either a divider or a box that you can remove or adjust as your puppy gets bigger.       

Also, if you’re puppy is a rescue and particular puppies coming from a puppy mill where they’ve always eliminated directly in their crate, this process could be more lengthy.  Just put these procedures in place, have patience and keep being consistent.  Overtime your puppy will figure out it’s much more pleasant to go potty outside then in the house or in their crate.       

If you keep up with this strategy you’ll have a potty-trained puppy in a relatively short time! Just remember to be consistent and praise, praise, praise when they go outside.  Don’t worry, you’ll get through it!close up puppy       

By Jeff Jensen – CPDT-KA