Starting to potty train a puppy
Some people ask when they should start potty training their puppy. The answer is before the door even closes when they get into the house for the first time. You’ll want to be prepared for a couple of things:
Establish a potty area
Puppies train best when they are offered the same area over and over again to go potty. This isn’t much unlike potty training a child who might get their own potty chair to sit in often enough to make them recognize that it is their spot.
When the dog arrives, restricting the dog’s access carpeted or not easily washable areas isn’t a bad idea, since the dog is likely to pee or poop in one of those places if allowed to roam freely.
We are just going to assume that your plan to have your puppy go to the bathroom outside, though in some climates and in some dogs, going inside in a designated box or area is OK too. Either way, make sure the dog knows where to go. Here’s how to do that.
Now for the ultimate goal: to get your puppy to recognize the backyard or some designated place as the place to go potty. You’ll want to start by visiting that place often. Take the puppy outside after it wakes up, after it eats, and after playing.
If you have to, cuddle your puppy for a little while right after playing or eating so that you have the easy ability to get the pup outside before the little ball of energy decides to run around, making the potty harder to get to.
One way to know when the puppy has to pee is by observing closely. When fed the same amount, dogs tend to make bowel movements the same number of times per day. By watching when your dog pees, you’ll get a good idea about what behaviors your dog shows before peeing and how fast their food gets through digestion.
Our suggestion is to take your puppy out to pee every 30 minutes or less. This might sound frequent, but the timing can also be readily adjusted. If your dog is having indoor accidents in the times in between, go out more frequently. If your pup doesn’t have to pee a few times, you could wait a little while longer.
While we haven’t quite moved out of the phase of taking your puppy out frequently, they still need some encouragement to know that they are doing the right thing.
One way to encourage your dog is to give them treats, lots of puppy petting, and using the right positive tone when they go potty in the right spot. Be loud and nearly immediate so that your pup knows which specific behavior is tied to getting encouragement and affection. Also, don’t punish or penalize your dog for having an indoor potty accident. Quickly and quietly clean up the potty accident while not actively discouraging your puppy. Not that it’s “your fault” but just keep a closer eye and keep on the rhythm of getting your pup outside.
Helping your puppy hold it
Just like children, puppies have to both know to hold their potty until they get to an appropriate place, and develop the muscles to keep pee and poop from just flowing. You might notice early in a puppy’s life that they might pee out of excitement. This is OK, but don’t positive encourage peeing randomly - especially if it’s in the wrong place. Only encourage proper peeing, when the dog stops to acknowledge pee coming out.
If you can, start to stretch your puppy’s timer to see if they start showing signs of needing to pee, like whimpering, barking, or becoming restless. This is much like a child touching their potty areas when they feel the urge to urinate coming on.
Then get the puppy outside and again, strongly encourage the ability to wait to pee- and not peeing inside! You’ll have some accidents at this stage - just try to avoid having your puppy pee in its bed or crate- and again, positively reinforce. Make the dog acknowledge and look forward to peeing, then reduce treats or excess encouragement.
Potty training indoors
This is more for puppy parents who aren’t home that much during the day, or can’t get outside in some occasions due to weather, physical disability, or even living in an apartment.
The methods are very similar to outdoor training, with the exception of the need for puppy pads. We also suggest making the pads a larger area in a washable room to start with, then reducing the size of the pad as you ago.
Bring the puppy on the pad and encourage them when they do pee in the right place.
Do puppies need potty training overnight?
Your puppy probably won’t be able to hold their bladder all night, especially right away. The chances of them needing a bit of your help to get them outside in the first few weeks is quite high.
One key to weaning a puppy off peeing in the middle of the night is to not be overly exciting. Take the dog out, gently encourage them when they do pee in the right spot, and bring them back to bed. Don’t make a huge deal out of peeing in the right or they might take it as a sign that they should pee at that time.
How long should potty training a puppy take?
Think several weeks, not days, to achieve reliable outdoor or correct place peeing. The good news is that once you start, the number of accidents should be reduced gradually to the point where cleanups should be infrequent.
What will happen if I punish my puppy for peeing where they shouldn’t?
The biggest reasons not to punish your puppy for an accident is simple: It’s cruel and won’t help. Swatting your dogs nose or doing anything physically harmful (there is an obvious difference between an encouraging pet and a swat to some place sensitive) will only make the dog hide when they pee, or hesitate to even pee or poop in front of you. Basically, you are more likely to find puddles of pee or poop in a corner if you harass your puppy for having an accident. Encouraging your puppy does the opposite and will make them happy to go with outside for potty training.
The goal of potty training a puppy
Between taking your puppy out to go potty, cuddling it, and watching it closely - you are both going to avoid having messes on the carpet, wood, or tile, and you are probably going to grow pretty close to your puppy. Take these moments to learn more about your puppy’s behavior so that it will be your trusted friend and sidekick years down the road when your pup isn’t a pup anymore.
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson