No matter how much training you intend to devote to your new puppy, one thing is for sure: you have to potty train them! Accidents in the house are bound to happen, but with the right skills – and a lot of patience – you may be able to avoid experiencing a lot of messes. Here are five expert tips on housetraining your puppy that will help you to be done with bathroom accidents – for good!
- Keep a Schedule
Keeping a potty schedule for a puppy is definitely one of the most crucial aspects of training your new bundle of joy. Your new dog is learning every day what their new life with you is like. Keeping a consistent schedule means your dog will learn what you want from them – and they will learn it fast!
But how do you know what the schedule should be? The Humane Society of the United States says there is a general rule of thumb for creating a bathroom schedule for puppies. Most puppies can “hold it” for one hour for every month of their age. For example, a brand new puppy will be no more than 8 weeks old, or about 2 months old. This puppy will be able to hold their bladder for approximately two hours before an accident occurs. Once your puppy reaches 3 months of age, they should be able to hold it for 3 hours, and so on until they are adults. Create a bathroom schedule for your dog that works within their capabilities. As your dog gets older, these breaks can be less frequent. You may need to hire a dog walker to provide consistent bathroom breaks if you are not home.
It’s also important to get your puppy on a consistent feeding schedule. The American Humane Association states that if a dog is eating all day, whenever they want to, this will inevitably mean they will be pooping all day. And pooping all day means more accidents that you have to clean up. Create a schedule and stick to it. Make sure you take your puppy outside for a bathroom break after every meal.
If you are worried that your dog is either eating too much or too little, consult with your veterinarian. They will be able to recommend the appropriate amount of food for every meal. Expect to feed your puppy Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Adult dogs typically only need to eat Breakfast and Dinner. Your veterinarian will be able to provide a healthy recommendation.
- Clean Up Messes Thoroughly
Dogs are extremely smell motivated. According to the American Humane Association, a dog is much more likely to return to the location of a previous accident if it still smells like urine or feces. Because of this, it’s extremely important to clean up the mess quickly and thoroughly!
To prevent accidents, supervise your puppy as carefully as possible. If you catch your puppy in the middle of creating a mess in the house, interrupt them! But do so without any aggression or creating fear. The Humane Society of the United States suggests making a startling noise or using a corrective word such as “outside!” This will serve to stop your puppy mid-mess. Immediately bring your puppy outside to finish. Then, praise your puppy for going to the bathroom outdoors.
If you don’t catch your puppy in the act, do not punish them! The mess has already been made and your dog will not understand why you are angry. It is best to clean up the mess as quickly as possible. Your veterinarian or local pet supply shop will be able to suggest cleaning products that are puppy-safe and will completely eliminate odors and stains.
- But Leave Messes Outside!
So how about those messes outside? If your puppy is using the bathroom in public areas such as dog parks or sidewalks, you should absolutely clean up any solid waste. But if your furry friend is pooping in your private back yard? The American Humane Society actually suggests leaving it right where it is!
This might seem a little gross, but it can be extremely helpful during the housetraining process. As we mentioned earlier, dogs are smell focused and will return to a bathroom spot over and over again if it smells like urine and feces. Why not use this to your advantage?
In addition to leaving messes where they are, you can even move an accident to the preferred bathroom corner in your yard. The smell of this recent poop will encourage your puppy to return to that spot the next time they have to go to the bathroom. But don’t worry – you don’t need to have a whole pile of dog poop in your yard while potty training! Once your puppy makes a new mess, simply clean up the previous one. This way your yard doesn’t become an eyesore or a danger-zone for bare feet. And once your dog is fully housetrained, you no longer need to leave anything behind.
- Consider Using a Crate
While every well-intentioned dog owner would like to be there for their puppy 24/7, sometimes this simply isn’t the reality. And when no one is available to supervise their fur-baby, it may be time to consider using a crate.
For some dog owners, the idea of keeping a dog in a crate seems cruel. But in fact, most dogs come to love their crate. Dogs are den animals, and will naturally gravitate towards small spaces that feel safe – even if they don’t have a crate. Crate training also has additional benefits like getting your dog warmed up to jumping in the car with you to visit a friend or the vet.
So how can a crate help with housetraining? Well, it may surprise you to learn that dogs are actually very clean animals. Unless they are absolutely desperate, they will not go to the bathroom in their crate area. A safe-feeling and comfortable crate becomes their living space, and just like humans, dogs don’t want messes like that in their living space.
Keeping your puppy in the crate for extended periods will train them to hold it longer, but don’t push this too far. Your puppy will likely scratch or whine to let you know they are ready to come out of the crate and use the bathroom, so let them out. If you wait too long with the intention of teaching them to hold it in, you will likely have an accident on your hands.
As your puppy matures, the crate can be an excellent place for your fully grown dog to rest while you are away from the house. Your dog will feel safe while you are gone, and you will have peace of mind knowing that an accident will not occur while you are away.
- Plenty of Positive Reinforcement!
Training a puppy is tough, no matter what skill you are attempting to teach them and potty training is no different. Positive reinforcement might seem like an especially silly thing to do after your dog uses the bathroom, but do it anyway. Let your dog know that you are happy to see them doing the right thing. Reinforcing this message will go a long way during the training process.
It is also important to stay away from negative reinforcement while potty training. If you continuously punish your dog for performing normal bodily functions, you could end up with a very confused and upset dog. Staying calm, firm, and patient can be difficult sometimes, but keep it up! When done calmly, housebreaking your puppy should only take a few weeks.
How did you housetrain your puppy? Did it go smoothly? Or was it a challenge? Share your stories with us!