Potty training! What a fun time. Some pups get it immediately…other’s pee all over your couch cushions. Again, all the joys of puppy-hood, right? With potty training, go back to the famous quote “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Your puppy WILL get it, but it can take time. Roughly, puppies can be potty trained within 4-6 months (again, some can get it so much quicker, others may take a little longer depending on their situation). The more you (or a sitter) can be home, the more likely they are to be let out in advance or caught in the act and immediately taken outside (and associate going potty outside, not inside your house). Here are some tips I have for the glamorous potty training season!
MAKE (& STICK TO) A SCHEDULE
Make a schedule for your puppy that fits within your schedule and stick to it as best you can! Puppies (like kids) need to be set up for success, not to mention, they thrive with a schedule. Of course, not all days will be perfect (remember, give yourself grace), but it’s important to have a reference and baseline.
Of course, this is completely up to you! We didn’t think we’d crate train Nash because my husband didn’t choose to do it with Beau. But after reading many, many articles sharing that it was the best way to kick start potty training, we chose to go with it. I’ll be honest, before we made our decision, we felt like we would be shoving Nash into a cage…and it felt mean and wrong. But the more research I did, the more I learned that dogs are “den animals” and actually can like their crates! We never use the crate as punishment and used a lot of treats and positive reinforcement to introduce it. Some articles say to feed puppies their meals in their crate — that felt a little too much for us, but again, up to you as an option.
DON’T USE TRAINING PADS
Again, this is completely up to you! Some that have small pups with little bladders or live in apartments may not have a choice on this because they may not be able to get their pups to grass quickly. I will say we DID purchase a pack of training pads but chose not to use them for two simple reasons:
- Nash kept trying to eat them when I put them on the floor (lol)
- Nash ultimately wouldn’t know the difference between the training pads and the floor (and he needed to learn that he needed to go to the bathroom outside, not inside regardless)
We chose not to use the puppy pads for those reasons.
SHUT DOORS & KEEP PUP IN DESIGNATED AREAS
This goes back to my earlier note on setting boundaries. Puppies are curious creatures, I don’t blame them. They are in a new place with a lot of new smells and delicious looking items to nibble on. Avoid unnecessary discipline (and heartbreak if they nibble on your favorite shoes or your kid’s stuffed animal) and shut the doors around your house. Set notes up for family reminders if you have to in order to keep those doors shut.
Keeping your new pup in a small section of your house will also help avoid accidents.
Christina Tip: If you have hardwood or tile floors, that’s the best common area for your pup to spend most of their days, especially the early days. Easy cleanup when accidents do happen.
NEVER LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT
At first, I thought this was crazy, but it’s essential to keep your puppy safe and out of trouble. I heard multiple trainers say to keep your puppy on their leash, even in the house, and connected to you at all times. Holy cow, I thought. That’s a tall order. But I did do this for a few weeks, and as difficult as it was, it kept Nash out of trouble and helped cut down on accidents and avoid chewing on something he shouldn’t have been.
GIVING THEM A DESIGNATED SPOT OUTSIDE
This will probably happen naturally, but taking your puppy outside to the same, designated spot when potty training really does help them.
TAKE THEM OUT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE
While your pup is brand new (first week or two at home especially), take them out any chance you can when you feel they need to go to the bathroom (or even before you think they are at that point). Taking them out the same front door and to the same section of grass, using the same command, and praising them when they go to the bathroom will help them associate GOOD THINGS with going potty OUTSIDE.
Puppies will need to go potty every 60-90 minutes at first. As they get older, this will lessen and they will gradually only need to go out between 2-4x/day.
For reference, I read an article that said, for every month old they are is how many hours they can hold their bladder (i.e. if they are 3 months old, they can hold it for roughly 3 hours max).
ESSENTIAL POTTY BREAKS
Playing makes your puppies excited, which then makes them have to go to the bathroom, so anytime after a play session (you may even need to take a mid-play potty break), make sure to run them outside and tell them to “go potty” (or whatever command you choose). Set them up for success. Remember, constant reinforcement during this learning period is crucial.
Puppies should go potty first thing when they wake up, 10-30 minutes after each meal, mid-day, mid-afternoon, and in the evening (and whenever else they are showing signs of needing to go potty). Signs usually involve sniffing.
ACCIDENTS HAPPEN (& WHEN TO DISCIPLINE & PRAISE)
If an accident happens and you DON’T see it, simply clean it up and move on with life. Do not discipline unless you catch them in the act. Puppies have short attention spans, so if you even discipline them just a few minutes after they potty, they won’t know what they are in trouble for.
If you DO catch them in the act, act FAST! You can make a loud noise and/or clap your hands…anything to startle them a little bit. Then, pick them up as quickly as you can and rush them outside. Once outside, place them in the grass and tell them to “Go potty” (or whatever command you choose). When they do their business outside, praise them as much as possible. Have an excited voice and be their biggest cheerleader in that moment. Only use treats if you have them on you in that moment. Again, because puppies have short attention spans, if you wait until you get back inside, they won’t know what they are getting a treat for.
Christina Tip: If you want to praise with treats, keep a fanny pack with treats next to their leash at all times, so you can grab and go in an instant!
Now potty training is one of those things we could talk about for forever, but those are my biggest tips and takeaways from training Nash, even though I feel like we just covered a tip of the iceberg! What are some of your biggest tips? Did your pup learn quickly or did it take longer than you expected? tell us in the comments!