Housebreaking your new puppy or dog can be a very daunting and time-consuming task. Lack of training and messing in the house is one of the top reasons why dogs end up in shelters, so training your pet properly is crucial in ensuring you and your pet have a long, happy life together. Below are seven tips that I hope will help make potty training the newest member of your family a breeze! No matter what the age of your dog is, when it comes to potty-training, patience and consistency are key.
1. Pick a Spot
Designate a special spot for your dog to go potty either in the backyard or in a patch of grass at the beginning of your walk. To reinforce her potty spot, you may want to try putting down a cloth scented with her urine the first time you take her out.
Use a cue word or phrase every time you take your dog out to her special potty spot such as, “bathroom”, “Go potty” or “Tinkle time!” Eventually she will associate this word or phrase with what you wish to accomplish.
3. Follow a Routine
Follow a potty routine. Puppies have small bladders so they will have to go out more frequently. Typically, a puppy can hold their bladder for every month of age. So, if your puppy is 2 months old, they can hold it for about two hours. In the beginning, you should take your puppy out first thing in the morning, after every meal, before bed, and at least once every 30 minutes in between. Older dogs can hold it longer so you may not have to take them out as frequently. Regardless of if you’re trying to train a puppy or an older dog, you should take your dog out on a leash, even if you’re just going out in your backyard. Being on a leash keeps your dog from running around and getting distracted. Allow your dog five minutes of quiet time with little interaction in her potty spot so she can focus. If she pees within five minutes praise her and give her a treat, then let her have supervised inside playtime or play with her outside in an area where it is safe for her to be off leash. Use this after-potty playtime as positive reinforcement. Soon she will associate going potty outside with good things. If your dog does not pee or poop within five minutes, take her back inside to a confined area and try again in 10 – 20 minutes. Do not confine your dog immediately after she goes potty. Otherwise, she will connect going potty with the end of fun time and may start to wait to go potty to extend her outdoor time.
4. Set a Schedule
Establish a feeding schedule. Depending on their age, dogs may need to be fed two or three times a day. Feeding your dog the same time every day, makes it more likely that they will go potty consistently as well. This takes a lot of the guess work out of when you dog will need to go, making potty training easier for both of you.
5. Use Positive Reinforcement
Reward your dog immediately every time she does her business outside with praise, treats, or a favorite toy. Positive reinforcement teaches your dog what is expected of them. Do not use punishment or negative reinforcement as a way to discipline your dog when they have an accident or fail to go potty outside. This potty-training method is ineffective and will often cause a dog to become fearful of their owners.
Keep a close eye on your puppy when they are indoors. Watch for signs, that your puppy needs to go out, such as barking, scratching at the door, whining, sniffing around, or circling. When you see these signs, distract her, immediately grab a leash, and take her out to her potty spot. Create a potty-training chart to track when and where your puppy goes potty so you can learn their patterns. This information will help you determine which times of day your puppy is most likely to go potty and eventually, when you can start cutting back on potty breaks.
When you can’t supervise, confine your dog to small area. You can gate off a part of the laundry room, kitchen, bathroom, or you can use a dog crate. If your dog has spent several hours being confined. You will want to be sure to let her out to go potty immediately! Crate training is effective for adult dogs as well as puppies since dogs are less likely to do their business where they eat or sleep. To learn more about crate training, check out my blog on crate training a puppy.
Just remember to be patient and know that your dog will have a few accidents in the house. Do not scold your dog or rub her nose in it. This will only confuse your dog and may cause her to feel anxious and afraid to pee in front of you. Be sure to clean up the area of the accident thoroughly and as soon as possible! Any residual odor may be a signal to your dog that this is a prime potty spot and they will continue to mess in that same area, so try using a pet stain enzyme cleaner to eliminate the pee or poop smell.
Best of luck and happy training!