It’s so exciting when you first bring your new fur baby home. Their energy is infectious. All you want to do is play and cuddle, but all of a sudden, you spot a puddle on the floor… poop behind the furniture… or even piddle on your new pants! (YUCK) And, now you’re reminded that your puppy views their whole world as a giant toilet, and it’s your job to teach them where and when to take potty breaks.
Potty training is messy and can be really frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be! It’s all about incentives, positive reinforcement, and setting new habits for your pooch.
Here are some tips on making it work for you and your puppy:
Make Your House Smaller (For the Dog)
A house or apartment is a very large and confusing space for a puppy. Their new home has many different eating, sleeping, playing, and bathroom places. So, instead of giving your pup complete run of the house, keep them in one area, like a living room. This way, they won’t be able to go off into another room when nature calls.
Then, as your good boy or girl gets older and used to holding it or letting you know when it’s time to go, you can give them more freedom to roam one room at a time.
Develop a Potty Break Routine
Consistency is key when it comes to potty training. Your puppy’s bladder is small, and their ability to “hold it” is limited. So, as a rule of thumb, only let your puppy have supervised play for 20 minutes at a time. Then take them outside for a potty break. Set a timer if you have to, but be very conscientious about this.
Taking your dog for frequent potty breaks can help minimize accidents in the house. You should also always take your dog out immediately after they wake up, after meals or drinking lots of water, and right before bed. To help your pup understand it’s time to potty, place them in the same spot they went before and let them explore the area.
Encourage your puppy to go potty with a word or phrase you will use from now on to communicate the behavior, such as “go potty” or “do your business.” Just make sure to pick a phrase you won’t likely use in other situations.
REWARD, REWARD, REWARD!
Puppies are motivated by praise and positive reinforcements. Most dogs want to make their owners happy and love to be rewarded when they do something right. So, after your puppy goes potty in the right spot, “holds it” until they reach the outdoors, or reaches another milestone in the potty training process, be sure to REWARD, REWARD, REWARD! We’re talking full-blown fireworks worth of praise, love, and if they are food motivated with high-value treats.
Pro Tip: Take the treat with you outside and reward your puppy immediately after doing their business.
Accidents happen, but you should never punish a dog for making a potty mistake. Honestly, any oopsies are really your fault for not paying attention. Plus, it is impossible for your dog to understand that you are punishing them for their choice of bathroom place.
We know it's natural to get mad and want to yell, but that reaction might backfire, resulting in your dog not wanting to use the restroom in front of you. This can lead to hidden brown treasures or pee spots under the couch that you won't discover until a week later. So instead, take your dog outside to their usual potty spot to finish. (Even if they appear to be done.) This will help them build an association between the outdoors and relieving themselves.
Potty training a puppy can be hard at first, but the more consistent you are, the faster your puppy will learn. Don’t forget to stock up in poo bags! Trust us, you’re going to need a lot of these while potty training.