If you have just acquired a new dog, you may be cringing at the thought of how to potty train your puppy. Perhaps one of the most dreaded tasks a pet parent has to face, potty training does not have to be the messy, time-consuming task it is made out to be.
The fastest way to potty train a puppy is with plenty of positive reinforcement, consistency, and attention to routine.
When to Start?
Potty training can begin once a puppy turns 12 weeks old, although some individual dogs may not be ready until 16 weeks of age.
Owners often run into puppy potty training problems when trying to force a dog to hold its bladder or bowels before he is ready. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that puppies can generally “hold it” for as many hours as they are old in months.
For instance, a 4 month old dog can only reasonably be expected to wait 4 hours before needing to relieve himself. Of course, this is just a “general” rule of thumb.
Puppy Potty Training Tips
Regardless of which method you choose for how to housebreak a puppy, there are a number of universal tips that can be helpful.
Puppies thrive on routine, so it is very important to feed them, take them outside (or to the potty pad), and send them to bed at the same time every day. Not only does this help the puppy’s body develop a schedule, but it will also help you better predict when your puppy will need to go outside (or to the potty pad) and also help you avoid having to clean up messes.
A second important tip is to consistently give plenty of positive praise every time your puppy correctly potties in an appropriate area. The better the association with good behavior and reward, the faster your dog will be fully trained.
Method #1: Outside Often
When choosing how to potty train a puppy, one of the easiest methods is to take your puppy outside very often, and always on the same schedule.
For instance, in the beginning take your puppy outside every two hours. Always go to the same area of the yard and wait for your dog to do his business. When your puppy begins to “go,” give a command (such as “go potty”) and give plenty of positive praise as soon as he is finished.
When indoors it may be helpful to keep your pet nearby at all times (or even on a leash) so that you can watch for obvious behavior that your puppy is about to relieve himself so that you can take him outside immediately.
Method #2: Crate Training
Perhaps the best way to potty train a puppy is with a crate. Instinctively, dogs will not urinate or defecate where they sleep, in order to not attract predators.
You should first purchase a crate that is the proper size for your puppy. If the crate is too large, he may simply relieve himself at one end and then sleep on the other side.
A properly sized crate will be just large enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around comfortably. To potty train, you should first accustom your pet to the crate, and then place your pet in it whenever you are not exercising or playing together.
Since your puppy will naturally not want to urinate or defecate in his “den,” he will likely let you know it is time to go outside by whining, crying, or scratching. If choosing this method, remember to be sure your puppy gets proper exercise and playtime, and never confine him to the crate for stretches longer than a couple hours.
Method #3: Potty Pad Training
If you plan to train your puppy to use a potty pad inside the house, you should follow similar steps as listed above for method #1, except that you will often lead your pet to the potty pads, instead of outside.
In the beginning, you may have to be especially vigilant to first watch for signs that your puppy is about to do his business indoors and then carry your pet to the pads. This step will help to make the association that the potty pads are an appropriate location for pottying.
Always keep the potty pads in the same area of the house and be extra attentive about positive reinforcement since pottying indoors (where the dog lives) may seem counter intuitive to an animal whose instinct is to not potty near its den.
Behaviors to Avoid
Potty training a puppy can be a frustrating endeavor, even when utmost attention is paid to routine, consistency, and providing plenty of positive praise.
Always keep your cool around your pet, and never scold him for having an accident.
Instead, if you catch your puppy urinating or defecating in the house, quickly relocate your pet outdoors or onto a potty pad to finish his business.
Be sure to provide praise with an enthusiastic tone in your voice when the puppy is finished.
If your puppy has an accident but you did not see it occur, do not punish your puppy after the fact. Doing so will confuse your dog and he will have no idea why he is being punished.
There are a number of common problems that pet owners may face when housebreaking their puppies.
If your pet continually has accidents in the same area of the house every day, more supervision is required. Consider confining your puppy to a single room (or crate) so that he is better supervised.
If you are unable to maintain a steady routine, especially during the day, consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker to stop by at the same time every day to help work on your puppy’s potty training skills.
If your puppy urinates when excited or when meeting someone new, bear in mind that this is not a housebreaking problem, rather a behavioral issue. To remedy this problem, you should work with a dog trainer to overcome your dog’s overly submissive tendencies.