As every pet owner of a puppy knows, potty training can be…well, a messy subject.The good news is that dogs are naturally clean animals and puppies will actually try very hard not to soil their eating or sleeping spaces. “As soon as they can crawl, they leave the whelping box and do their business in front of it,” says Steffi Trott, owner of and head trainer at SpiritDog Training in Albuquerque. “They have a solid understanding that there are areas for sleeping, eating, playing—and going potty.” Keeping this in mind will help you during the housebreaking process—and hopefully make it happen as quickly as possible. Here are some tips on making it all work.
For a puppy, a home is a very large, confusing space. In his mind, inside his new big home, there are many different eating, sleeping, playing and bathroom places. “It's difficult for him to understand that, even though our house is so vast, he is not allowed to potty anywhere within it,” Trott says. This is why one of the easiest and most successful ways to potty-train a puppy is to “make the house smaller” for your pup—if he doesn’t have a complete run of the house, he won’t be able to randomly go off into another room when he needs to pee. “If you can, for example, have him in only your living room, kept in by baby gates. He will be much less likely to potty in this smaller space,” Trott says. As he gets older and used to holding it or letting you know when it’s time to go, you can expand his access to the house one extra room at a time.
Make the Space Smaller
If you catch your puppy about to go potty inside (but before he actually does), Trott recommends picking him up and carrying him outside right away. “You can usually tell he is getting ready to go by seeing him sniff the ground intently, turning in circles and then squatting down,” Trott says. If you catch your puppy after the act, it’s too late to fix the issue this time around. “Never punish him,” says Trott. “It is impossible for him to understand that you are punishing him for the choice of bathroom place. Instead, you will seem unpredictable and scary—not the way you want your puppy to think about you!”
Dealing With Accidents
The younger your puppy is, the shorter the time he can hold it before he really, really has to go. For example, Trott points out that most puppies have to poop about 5-30 minutes after eating. And if you are feeding kibble, your dog will get thirsty after eating and drink a bunch of water at once, making a pee accident also more likely. “As a general rule, puppies need to be taken outside: After every meal, after waking up, after playing, and other than that about every 20-30 minutes when they are very young (8-10 weeks of age),” according to Trott. As they get older, you can take them out less frequently, but Trott suggests that 'taking the dog out' means more than just 'opening the door and letting him out.' “Many puppies get so excited by all the scents, squirrels to chase, grass to eat, that they actually do not potty right away,” says Trott. “If you don’t actually supervise your puppy and watch him do his business, don’t assume that he has gone potty.”
Getting Into a Routine