How To Successfully and Effectively Potty Train Your Puppy
The first couple of weeks with your new puppy are bound to test your patience in ways you never thought possible. But, with patience and consistency, there will be hope for clean carpets and restful nights.
Basic Potty Training Steps
Bringing home a new dog, no matter what age, there will inevitably be an adjustment period for both the owner and the new pup. To both of you up for success, you need to follow a couple of simple steps and also give yourself grace for moments when true accidents do happen.
Depending on your dog’s age, there will be a finite limit for how long they can hold their bladder. As a general rule of thumb, a puppy can hold their bladder for one hour per month of age. So, a four-month-old puppy can roughly be expected to wait about four hours before needing to pee. However, this differs for each dog and can be negated by activities such as rough play or waking up from a nap.
Puppies should generally be let out:
- Every 15-30 minutes during the first couple of weeks at home
- Immediately after waking up or before going to bed
- Shortly after eating or drinking
- After a play session (sometimes during! Puppies can easily be distracted and have accidents when they are in the middle of play)
As they get older, your puppy will be able to go for longer periods of time before needing to pee or poop. However, if you find yourself asking, “Should I take them out now?” the answer is almost always yes! It’s better to have them outside more often as the more accidents that occur inside, the harder it is to establish that outside is where the business happens.
Now that you know how often to take your puppy out to use the bathroom, it’s important to know how to prevent as many accidents as you can. Keeping a watchful eye at all times can be exhausting, but it will enviably reduce the chance of accidents. I highly recommend keeping your puppy attached to you on either a short or long line with a clip-on leash during the first couple of weeks. They can’t get into trouble across the house if they are right next to you!
Keeping your dog within your line of sight at all times will also help you spot an accident before it happens or catch it mid-way. If your dog is sniffing the ground intently, this is often a tell-tale sign of an impending act of elimination. If you are too late in taking them outside before they begin to go, interrupt them by saying “Uh-uh” or “Outside!” and then take them out to finish doing their business.
By taking them outside after interrupting them, you establish that outside is where they need to do their business. You can also designate an area of the yard for potty training so that they associate this area with using the bathroom.
Always praise your puppy for using the bathroom outside. You can even use a clicker to mark this behavior and reward them for treats. Never, ever scold your puppy for having an accident, as this will only confuse them about bathroom behavior.
The last step to success is confinement when you are unable to supervise your dog. Crate training keeps your pup from roaming about and having accidents when you can’t keep them in your direct line of sight. Be mindful of your puppy’s age, as this can dictate how long they can be confined before needing to go to the bathroom. For the first week or so, you want to let your puppy out every four hours at night as they simply don’t have the bladder space to hold pee for extended periods of time.
If your puppy is having accidents in their crate or exercise pen, you may want to reduce the area they have access to. Dogs naturally do not like to eliminate where they sleep, and the goal is for your dog to see their crate as their den. I would suggest keeping blankets and towels out of their crate for the first couple of weeks as these can be tempting for your dog to use to go to the bathroom.
During the day, try to let your puppy out to pee more often, as they will likely take a lot of naps in their crate. If you’re unable to let them out during the day, you may want to consider having a dog walker come by to let them out in the middle of the day. Leaving your puppy to free roam in your house or apartment is bound to be a disaster, so make sure you spend some time to get them properly acclimated to their crate early on.
Now all of this sounds fine and good, but, as with most things, there will enviably be hiccups. You may go three days without an accident, and then in the blink of an eye, it will seem like you’re cleaning up pee left and right. Remember, potty training is a process and will not happen overnight. Teaching your puppy where to use the bathroom and to hold it until they have access to the outside is a lot to ask, especially in the beginning.
Pee pad training is a viable option to add to potty training if you live somewhere where it is difficult to get your puppy outside quickly or in the event of bad weather. Pee pads are disposable and easy to clean up, so it can be a good tool to train your puppy to use these in addition to traditional outside potty training.
For those who have carpet or rugs, be mindful of accidents and cleaning them up. Puppies will gravitate towards areas that smell like prior elimination, so they will likely frequent the same area. The same can be said for phasing out pee pads, as your pup might return to the original spot where the pads were out of habit.