Potty Training 101

By Carolyn Squires >>>

Whether you have a puppy or dog that needs to be potty trained right now or you are getting ready to take on potty training in the future, Potty Training 101 is here to help you!

Every puppy presents different challenges, but there are common instincts that will facilitate the house training process. This article details a training program with techniques that will house train your new addition as soon as possible and foster a trusting and loving relationship between you and your pup.

It’s normal for a young puppy to be a little ‘input-output’ machine. Since they are growing and developing rapidly at this stage, they eat more food, burn up more energy and seem to need to eliminate constantly! Puppies have not yet developed bowel and bladder control, so they can’t ‘hold it’ as long as adult dogs.

Puppies need time to developed a “den” instinct to cause them to want to ‘hold it’ and not soil the den, i.e., your entire house. In their litter, puppies just go whenever and wherever they happen to be! Successful house training depends upon your diligent supervision so you can be there to show your pup where to eliminate.

It’s important to keep in mind that a puppy is not completely house trained until they are 6 months old and for some breeds it can be even later. This means that though you may be making tremendous progress house training, there will be accidents.

House Training Tips:

Give your puppy frequent access to his potty area – prevent soiling in the house.
Reward the pup for peeing or pooping in the right place – use a special treat.
Never punish the pup for housetraining accidents – scolding has dire consequences.
Put your puppy on a regular and timely feeding schedule – in/out clockwork.
Every time the puppy goes potty or when you are waiting for him to go, use the word you want to associate with training him to go. For example, you might repeat, “Go potty, good boy! Good potty!” This will train him to understand what you want him to do, which is go potty in the designated spot.

How often do puppies have to potty?

Most puppies have to eliminate about every 30-45 minutes except, of course, when sleeping. Their elimination schedule will depend upon when they last ate or drank water; rambunctious physical activity, and the big unknown – personal preference!

That’s right – every pup has his or her own inherent elimination schedule.
If your puppy is not sleeping in her crate or pen, and is out in the house, you must follow her around to know what she is doing: chewing a bone, running circles, getting a drink of water, etc. In fact, don’t take your eye off of her! If you cannot watch her continuously, you must put her back into her pen or crate to prevent potty training accidents.

Regular feedings will house train a puppy faster:

It’s very important to put your puppy on a regular and timely feeding schedule; what goes in on a regular schedule will come out on a regular schedule. Every pup is different; some poop immediately after eating; with others it may be 30 minutes to an hour after eating. Unless advised by your vet for some medical reason, do not free-feed. That is, do not leave food out all the time because your pup’s elimination schedule will be random at best.
Always leave water out for your puppy. Check the water bowl frequently to note how much she is drinking and to make sure the water bowl is full.

The best way to potty train a puppy:

Confinement to a small area such as a bathroom or an enclosed exercise pen in combination with confinement to a crate works best. This method is the most effective and flexible. Your pup needs to develop his natural “den instinct” and learn where to eliminate – and where not to.

Choose a designated potty area for house training:

So, where do you want to train your puppy to always potty and poop? The puppy potty area needs to be accessible very quickly.

If you live in a high rise apartment, or a street level apartment or home with DIFFICULT outdoor access, use a bathroom or pen in the home for housetraining.
If, however, you live in a street level apartment or home with EASY outdoor access, use a specific, very close outdoor location.

Get the items you need for housetraining and set up the household:

A few bottles of Nature’s Miracle or similar product to remove urine and fecal stains and odor. Place these in a central or multiple locations in your house with paper towels.
A crate that will fit next to your bed but only large enough to accommodate your puppy when full grown.
An exercise pen that your puppy cannot jump out of. Put the exercise pen in a central location where you spend most of your time at home. You may want to put a tarp down first then set the pen on top of it.
Special housetraining treats (rewards) – something small and special, reserved and used only for a housetraining reward. These treats should be kept close to the designated potty area.

“House Training Taxi Service”

Puppies will decide to potty or poop instantly, giving you no warning. So many times when housetraining, a puppy is led to the door and on the way they just stop and do their business. This usually happens because the puppy has not developed enough bladder or bowel control yet to “hold it” until they get to the potty area or they simply don’t know where the potty area is yet. Not only has the pup had an accident, but you have lost a chance to reward for going in the right place.

The key to house training is preventing accidents and rewarding the puppy for going in your chosen spot.

“House Training Taxi Service” is simply picking the puppy up into your arms, taking them to the designated toilet area, setting them down and praising them for going where you want. If you are going outside, put a collar and leash on the pup immediately after picking them up, unless the toilet area is safely enclosed and escape proof.

When should you provide “House Training Taxi Service”?

Immediately upon your puppy waking up (morning, noon, or night).
Immediately after they finish eating, get a big drink of water, and after excited play
When you think they might have to go – about every 45 minutes. Better too often than too late!
When your puppy whines in the crate in the middle of the night or whines in their pen during the day. Take them out to potty, reward for going and put them right back.
When your puppy is standing at the door to the outside. Why not just let them out, you say? Well, he may not make it all the way to the potty area.

For how long should you provide “House Training Taxi Service”?

Taxi your pup for about one month (until the pup is about 3 months old as this should give the pup enough time to develop some bladder and bowel control). By doing so, you will prevent many mistakes.

If you have a large breed puppy and can’t pick them up, slip on a leash quickly and “rush” them to the potty area, do not stop until you are there!

House Training Warnings – “I’m gonna go!”

Guess what, you get no warning before a young puppy is about to potty! They just squat and do it…in an instant. So, if they potty in the wrong place, you didn’t take them to their potty area soon enough – plain and simple.

However, with a poop you might get some warning – sometimes sniffing; usually circling by the puppy. By paying close attention to your puppy when they are out and about in the house, you may get a heads-up.

What to do if you catch your puppy in the act of a potty training accident:

If pup is peeing in the wrong place, you may be able to stop him. Move quickly towards him when he begins to pee and pick him up. Urgency is key here – you want to startle the pup just a little as you move towards them to pick them up, but you DO NOT want to scare the pup. You are redirecting your puppy to the right spot – not disciplining him. Immediately after picking him up, take him to the potty area and patiently wait. Most pups will finish there. Reward your pup with exuberance!

If the pup is pooping… let them finish. Puppies are not able to shut off a poop like they can shut off a pee. More likely than not, you’ll just create a huge mess by trying to interrupt a poop.

As always, never make a big deal about cleaning up after your puppy when an accident occurs.

Housetraining at your bedtime and when you wake up:

Just before you go to bed and turn out the lights, go get your puppy, no matter where she may be, asleep or not, and taxi her to the potty area. Reward and praise as always for eliminating. Put her in the crate next to your bed and retire for the night.
First thing in the morning, take her out of the crate and taxi her to the potty area. Return her to the crate or pen unless you are able to supervise her without distraction. Feeding is usually next up. Feed your pup breakfast around the same time each morning and in the same location.

Passive house training when you are NOT home:

Confine your puppy to his, ‘puppy-proofed’ bathroom or an exercise pen and paper (or wee-wee pad) the entire floor. Put his bed, toys and food/water bowls there. At first there will be no rhyme or reason to where your pup eliminates. He will go everywhere and anywhere. He will also probably play with the papers, chew on them, and drag them around his little den. Most puppies do this and you just have to live with it. Don’t get upset; just accept it as life with a young puppy. The important thing is that when you get home, clean up the mess and lay down fresh papers.

While your puppy is confined to the bathroom or his pen, he is developing a habit of eliminating on paper because no matter where he goes, it will be on paper. As time goes on, he will start to show a preferred place to do his business. When this place is well established and the rest of the papers remain clean all day, gradually reduce the area that is papered. Start removing the paper that is farthest away from his chosen location. Eventually you will only need to leave a few sheets down in that place only. If he ever misses the paper, then you’ve reduced the area too soon. Go back to papering a larger area.

Once your puppy is reliably going only on the papers you’ve left, slowly and gradually move his papers to a location of your choice. Move the papers a little bit each day. If your puppy misses the paper, you’re moving too fast. Go back a few steps and start over. Don’t be discouraged if your puppy seems to be making remarkable progress and then suddenly you have to return to papering the entire area. This is normal.

House training when you ARE home:

When you are home but can’t attend to your puppy, follow the same procedures described above. However, the more time you spend with your puppy, the quicker he will be house trained. Your objective is to take your puppy to his potty area every time he needs to eliminate. This should be about once every 30-45 minutes; just upon waking; just after eating or drinking; and just after a play session. Provide house training taxi service to avoid unnecessary accidents.

When your pup does eliminate in his potty area, praise and reward him profusely and enthusiastically! Don’t use any type of reprimand or punishment for mistakes or accidents. Your puppy is too young to understand and it can set the house training process back drastically.

Don’t allow your puppy freedom outside of his room or pen unless you know absolutely for sure that his bladder and bowels are completely empty. When you do let him out, don’t let him out of your sight. It is a good idea to have him on leash when he is exploring your home. He can’t get into trouble if you are attached to the other end of the leash. Never, ever tie the puppy’s leash to something and leave the puppy unattended.

As your puppy becomes more reliable about using his potty area and his bowel and bladder control develops, he can begin to spend more time outside his room or pen with you in the rest of your home. Begin by giving him access to one room at a time. Let him eat, sleep and play in this room but only when he can be supervised. When you cannot supervise him, put him back in his room or pen.

The key to successful house training:

Consistency and patience. Never scold or punish your puppy for mistakes and accidents. The older your pup gets, the more he will be able to control his bladder and bowels. Eventually your pup will have enough control that he will be able to “hold it” for longer and longer periods of time. Let your puppy do this on his own time. When training is rushed, problems usually develop. Don’t forget, most puppies are not completely house trained until they are 6 months old.