Adopting a puppy has been seen to be incredibly beneficial for families, kids, and bachelors alike. Owners of dogs have reported being happier, more satisfied with their lifestyle, and generally more content during their daily activities.
While taking care of a pet can bring great joy into anybody’s life, there are some important things that any first-time owner should know to grow a positive relationship with their puppy. Among other teachings, potty training a puppy properly within the first few months of adopting him or her can be essential for their wellbeing.
However, many puppy owners have reported being overwhelmed by this challenge and finding it difficult. Let’s have a look at all the basic factors that every dog owner should know and how to potty train a puppy properly.
What you need to know about your puppy
While house training a puppy is per se a challenge, there are factors that influence which is the best potty training strategy for them. These are often overlooked by first time owners that tend to use a not-so-structured training process and fail to see satisfying results.
While he or she might be only a few weeks old, there are personality traits of the breed of your dog that you might want to consider when starting to potty train your puppy. Some breeds will need more supervision and practice than others and they might just be easier to train.
For example, poodles and shepherds are intelligent dogs that don’t need too much commitment when starting to house train them. However, cocker spaniels and beagles can take up to double the time required by other dogs to be well-behaved pets within the household.
Make sure you have informed yourself properly before adopting a specific dog breed or a pedigree puppy. While they are incredibly loving and affectionate creatures, some kinds of dogs have strong personalities and high levels of energy.
If you have your heart set on a specific breed, make sure you are aware of the difficulties you might face when trying to house-train your dog. In this case, you will also have to be extremely patient and committed and be ready to change strategy is the one you are using is not working.
If you have adopted a mixed-breed puppy and you are finding it difficult to find key information on what his or her personality might be like in the future, for training purposes, you will have to observe the way your dog behaves. Usually, mixed-breed dogs are extremely intelligent but tend to rely more on their instincts. They are also more independent and less prone to be trained than their pedigree counterparts.
Breed and size
Physical characteristics are just as important as personality traits, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Even if you have other dogs that you have trained successfully if you have adopted a smaller or larger dog, you might have to teach yourself again how to train them.
Smaller dogs have even smaller bladders that they can find difficult to control. Oppositely, larger dogs might need to be trained for longer to understand when to go to the toilet.
Generally, there are some puppy physical characteristics that you should know of. Puppies have extremely poor control over their bladder and stomachs. They will need to urinate multiple times a day or in the space of a few hours. They also have to relieve themselves within 15 minutes of waking up or after a meal.
While these are general indications, every puppy can vary slightly. In this case, you might find it helpful to note what your puppy toilet schedule is and be ready when you know he or she needs to defecate or urinate.
Moreover, don’t forget that puppies tend to be excited! They can be surprised easily and tend to have a lot of energy. If overstimulated or happy, they can be urinating continuously. It could be an excellent system to take them out more often than they need just to make sure that accidents don’t happen when you come back from work!
While this can seem a lot of work, puppies are usually involuntarily reliable and consistent when they need to relieve themselves. While the schedule can vary from dog to dog, noting down your puppy’s specific timings and habits can help you to anticipate his needs.
Any owner that has just adopted a puppy will spend the first week in adoration and coddling the new addition to the family. However, an effective potty training for your puppy should start within a few days of the adoption. It is recommended to let your new puppy adapt to the new environment, but the earlier the training starts, the better.
Experts suggest starting house training your dog when he or she is between 12 and 16 weeks old. Before age, it is extremely unlikely that your puppy will be able to hold his bladder. In fact, even if he understands your commands and requests, he has no control over where and how to relieve himself.
At the age of 12 weeks, dogs are usually in control of their bowel movements, and you can begin with training your dog properly. If you have adopted a puppy that is already older than 16 weeks, speak to his previous owners to figure out what his past habits were. In the worst-case scenario, if he had been living in a cage and defecating in it, the training will take longer. In this case, you will be required to reshape his behavior into a positive one.
Puppies can be suffering from a pre-existing condition that makes it harder for them to control their bowels or bladders. If you have been trying to train your dog with poor results for over a few months, it can be a good solution to visit your vet and speak about the conditions that your dog might be suffering from.
Urinary tract infections are among the most common causes of a puppy’s inability to hold his bladder. While they are more common in female dogs due to their physical characteristics, your male dog could be suffering from this condition too.
Equipment and strategies to potty train a puppy
Crates. (See Prices on Amazon)
Crates have been deemed some of the most useful tools to begin your training with. They can be bought in any shape or form, and you will definitely be able to find one that fits your dog’s needs. A crate is often seen by a puppy like a den, a place where he can find shelter and comfort.
Since your puppy will not urinate or defecate in the same place where he sleeps, make sure he does not have enough space in the crate to relieve himself. However, a small crate can create a negative experience for your dog. Be mindful that a crate should always have a positive connotation in your dog’s mind, and he should be able to associate it with positive experiences.
After letting your dog out of the crate, take him or her outside immediately to relieve themselves. With time and practice, they will be able to associate the time in the crate as the period when they can’t relieve themselves indoors.
However, there are three important things that you should never do:
Never leave your dog in a crate for a prolonged period of time
While he might find the crate comfortable, leaving your dog caged for over a few hours can yield opposite results that you wished for. He will need several bathroom breaks and playtimes during the day. If left in a crate for too many hours he will relieve himself in there, but this is mainly due to a neglecting owner.
Don’t use the crate as a punishment
If the dog associates the crate with negative experiences and punishment, it will be detrimental for the training.
A complete crate training does not happen overnight. You will have to commit fully to make sure that your dog understands the right commands. This might take a few weeks or longer.
Pee or potty pads are extremely helpful tools to teach your puppy where it is right or wrong to use the bathroom. However, if you decide to use these pads, you will need to supervise your dog continuously.
There are a few procedures that you can use easily to make sure your puppy understands the pad training fully:
- Take your dog to the pad often. In case of very small puppies, this can mean even up to every 15 minutes, or as long as they can hold their bladder for.
- Observe your puppy when he moves around the house. He might be repeating similar signs when he needs to use urinate or defecate. Sniffing around and smelling specific places around the house are only two of the most obvious ones.
- Teach your puppy bathroom cues. “Go potty” or “Go wee” are efficient cues as long as you use them consistently. Use these commands when you think your dog is about to relieve himself, then reward him when he is done. He will associate the cue with a reward, and you will be able to take the training outdoor faster.
- Move the pad outdoors or to the designated place. Once your dog understood that the pad indicates the place to relieve himself, move the pad where you eventually would like the dog to go to the bathroom. This place might be outside or in an indoor designated place.
Create a Schedule
Creating an affecting bathroom and feeding schedule is extremely important. This will help you understand when your puppy will need to go to the bathroom. Moreover, it will give an indication to the dog to know when is the right time to eat and defecate.
While for a small puppy implementing a precise schedule can take up to a few weeks, it is essential that a plan is created within the first days of the puppy in your house. Before deciding on a schedule, make sure you are monitoring your dog’s natural routine and daily events that regularly happen within your house.
These are the few important steps you should include in your schedule:
- Take your puppy outside often. This should happen every day around the same time and when the dog is more likely to need to urinate or defecate. Start by taking your dog outside first thing in the morning, after meals, spending time in a crate, and drinking. Don’t forget that your dog might need to urinate or defecate also after getting stimulated by playing or chewing.
- Pick a “bathroom” spot. For your convenience, this should be outdoors, but it could also be a designated pad indoors. Make sure both you and your dog are clear on where the chosen area is.
- Introduce a regular feeding schedule. Depending on their age and size, puppies will need to be fed three to four times a day. If your dog eats at regular times, he will be more likely to eliminate regularly. This will give you the advantage of being able to foresee when your dog will need to be taken outside.
Treats and rewards should be used as much as other equipment during training. This will help your dog associate going to the bathroom in the right place with a positive experience.
Generally, during training, it is always recommended to uses positive reinforcement as well as rewards and treats. This will transform the teaching sessions into a game, and your dog will learn faster.
If your puppy is praised and rewarded after he has finished going to the bathroom in the right place or on a pad, he will be more likely to return to the designated spot. However, you will need to be ready with treats immediately. Dogs tend to forget quickly the reason why they are being praised if this does not happen after the act.
Do’s and don’ts when potty training your puppy
Independently from the breed of your puppy, there are some general rules that any owner should be taken into consideration when designing an effective potty training plan.
- Allow enough time for your puppy to understand all the commands properly. While it can take a lot of commitment, a well-house trained puppy can be an even happier and more affectionate puppy.
- Design an effective schedule that works well for both you and your dog. If it takes too much of your time, you will be thinking of your puppy as a burden. However, taking your puppy outside every time you prefer while ignoring his needs won’t benefit the training
- Using the rewards. Positive reinforcement can be extremely powerful and help you move the training along faster. You don’t necessarily have to use treats, and it can be praises or just some playing time with your dog.
- Use a bathroom cue. This is an effective way to allow your pet to understand when it is right to relieve himself.
- Don’t cage your dog. Leaving your dog in a crate for a prolonged period of time will not teach him that it was wrong to urinate on the carpet! While it can be an extremely helpful tool, use it in moderation and never as a punishment.
- Don’t use negative reinforcement. While it can be difficult to maintain calm behavior when you have been training your dog for multiple weeks, negative reinforcement will be detrimental to the training. Moreover, your dog could start associating going to the bathroom as a negative experience and start hiding from you. This will make the training harder if not impossible.
- Don’t ignore your dog. They know better than you do when they need to relieve themselves. Understanding your dog’s routine and habits can be essential to implementing an effective training plan.
- Don’t give up! Completing your puppy potty training can take up to a few months, but you will be able to see some results within a week or two. However, each puppy is different, and you will need to be committed and patient throughout.
As we have examined, your just adopted puppy will not have great control over its bladder or bowel movements. Moreover, humans are prone to focus on mistakes and areas that need improvement more than other factors. However, with your puppy, you will have to do exactly the opposite.
Focus primarily on the good actions and praise and reward your dog accordingly throughout the training. Overreacting and punishing your dog for eliminating in the wrong spaces will not help them realize what is wrong or not. Moreover, they could start associating training with punishment, which will make training your puppy much more challenging.
These are suggestions on how you should react to mistakes:
- If you catch your puppy as he is eliminating, interrupt him straight away. Don’t shout or scare him, as this will make the situation worse and push him to hide when he needs to go to the bathroom the following time. Use strict but calm cues such as “oh-oh”.
- Bring your puppy to the pad or potty area when you catch him urinating by accident. This will show him which is the right place to go to the bathroom. If he finishes to eliminate on the pad, reward him immediately as soon as he is done.
- If you were not present when the accident happened, there is nothing you should do. If you punish your dog for something that happened previously, he will not understand why you are angry.
- Use an enzymatic cleaner to clean the areas where your dog eliminated by mistake. This will help reduce the smell of his urine and will not encourage him to go to the bathroom in the same spot again.
Reach out for professional help
If you have been training your dog for over six months and you have seen only unsatisfying or limited results, you could be looking into reaching out for professional help. There are manuals and books that can be found easily that will offer you step-by-step guidance to properly potty train your puppy.
If you prefer to speak directly with a professional dog trainer, you will be able to bring your dog to daily classes where he will be able to socialize with other dogs. Sharing experiences with other owners can also help you design force-free steps and exercises that you might not have thought of.
How long does potty training take?
While every owner wishes to complete a proper potty training within a few weeks of having their new addition to the family, different dogs develop in different ways. Moreover, if you are trying to teach an eight weeks old puppy, this will take much longer than a 15 weeks old dog.
While how you potty train a puppy can have an influence, sometimes how long it will take might simply come down to the personality of your puppy. Moreover, you should take into consideration the past history of your puppy. If he is coming from a more difficult situation than the one that he is currently living, he might be scared of multiple things and not comfortable with other dogs.
In this case, firstly you will have to look at modifying a pre-existing behavior and then reshape the training plan you originally had to fit the needs of your dog.
Generally, while the dog’s attitude is important, your commitment and patience are essential to speed up the training. Make sure you have the time to supervise and guide your dog throughout the first few weeks of him living in your house.
With all of your devotion and time, you will have a fully house-trained puppy within a few weeks!
Bringing a puppy into your family will benefit your wellbeing and happiness. It might be frustrating to have a puppy that is eliminating around the house and not responding well to your commands. However, with patience, commitment, and the love you have for your puppy, you will have a perfectly house-trained puppy in no time!
Are you a puppy owner? Do you know how to potty train a puppy? Do you have any suggestions for future puppy owners? Let us know by leaving a comment below!