Many people have high expectations when they first bring home a puppy. You anticipate the puppy’s warm snuggles, wet nose, and the joy and entertainment he brings to your family. If you’ve had a puppy before, you may have forgotten the difficult the less fun parts of puppyhood. If this is your first puppy, you’ll quickly find out it’s not all tail wags and puppy kisses. Just like you potty train children, you must house train your puppy so he can grow to be the beloved, well-mannered dog he was meant to be. Keep reading for tips on how to successfully house train your new puppy.
Set a Consistent Potty Schedule
Because of their tiny bladders and tinier attention spans, young pups have a hard time holding it. Start a feeding and potty schedule to give your puppy ample chances to relieve itself outside. Once you get it on a feeding schedule, you can better predict when your puppy will need to go outside. Start spacing his food out to three small meals a day and take him outside after each meal, nap, and playtime.
The number of hours puppies can hold their bladders usually correlates with how old they are. For example, a six-month old puppy can usually hold it for six hours. But remember, that’s a long time for anybody to go without using the bathroom. A young puppy may need to be let out every 30 minutes to half hour.
Take your puppy to the same spot every time you let him out. This will establish a pattern and help him understand that there is a proper time and place for relieving himself.
Communicate with Your Puppy
Use small phrases to communicate with your puppy. Some people train their dogs to sit at the door and bark when they need to go out. Others teach their puppy to ring a bell on the door. Whatever your method is, you should teach Fido to ask to be let out. For example, if you want your puppy to sit at the door and bark, have him do this before taking him out. After he does what you want, take him out and tell him to, “Go potty!” Reward him quickly for going potty. This will help him learn that A: he must ask to go outside and B: he gets rewarded when he pees outside.
Keep an eye on your puppy. You’ll notice he will act a certain way when he needs to go. He may start sniffing around the room, sniffing his butt, or stand by the door. When you see these behaviors, take Fido out immediately!
Puppies naturally want to please their humans. Use positive reinforcement in the form of praise and treats to let Fido know when he’s done the right thing. Communicate praise immediately when your puppy has peed or pooed outside. If you wait too long, Fido won’t understand why he’s suddenly being praised (that doesn’t mean he appreciate the love).
On the other hand, don’t punish Fido after he’s made a mess inside, especially if you don’t catch him in the act. Some websites will tell you to rub your dog’s nose in his mess. This hardly ever works and usually makes your puppy aggressive towards you. Never repeat actions that illicit aggression. It’s important to keep your temper when your puppy messes up. Loosing your cool and yelling at your dog will only make him fear you and may cause him to have anxiety issues which will not help his potty habits.
If you catch your dog having an accident, stop him and quickly move him outdoors. Reward him for finishing outside. Be sure to clean up accidents thoroughly with enzymatic cleaners or cleaners without ammonia or vinegar as these smell like urine and encourage future accidents.
Using Training Pads
If you live in areas with harsh winters or are not able to take your puppy out often enough, try using training pads. Some are absorbent cotton-like pads or doormat-sized artificial grass turfs. Teach your puppy to piddle on the pads and when the weather improves transfer the pads outside and eventually take the pads away. This can be a tricky transition for your puppy to grasp and will take lots of consistency and patience on your part, but your hard work will pay off.
Crate training can be hard to enforce. Puppies will cry at first, longing to be with their humans and missing their mothers and litter mates. Stay strong – it’s for Fido’s own good! You may lose sleep the first few nights, but eventually the puppy will learn to be comfortable in his crate and he will see it as a safe, comforting space. Puppies don’t like to pee where they sleep, so it will also help him learn to hold his bladder. Make sure you wake up a couple times through the night to take Fido out – he can only hold it for so long! Allowing him to soil his crate will teach him it’s OK to have accidents in his (and your) living space.
Give your puppy a treat whenever he goes to the crate. This will help him see being in the crate as a positive experience. Leave him in there throughout the day, taking him out frequently to eat, go potty, and get exercise. This will help him learn that peeing and pooping are outdoor activities and it will help him remain calm indoors.
Stick with It!
Housing training can be a nightmare, but hang in there! Annoying puppies grow up to be loving, sweet dogs, so don’t let the house training experience ruin it for you. Be consistent with taking Fido to the bathroom. Put him on a feeding and potty schedule and make sure the whole family sticks to it. Accidents are going to happen, so be patient. Always let your puppy know when he’s doing a good job. The hardest things to do are often the most rewarding – this is true with training a puppy.
And last of all, enjoy puppyhood. They grow up fast and – believe it or not – you’re going to miss this.
Find more puppy training tips here.