Housebreaking: Everything You Need to Know About Potty Training Your Puppy
Training your new puppy or adopted adult dog to go potty in the proper location can be a challenge. The sooner you start, the easier the process will be. Don’t forget, your puppy or new dog is dealing with a lot of new situations and the stress that goes along with that. Be patient, proactive, and make any type of training FUN to help make it a good experience for you both.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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How to Potty Train Your Puppy
There are 3 main things to remember any time you’re training your puppy:
- Make it fun with lots of praise and treat rewards.
- Keep the sessions short, 5-10 minutes each. You can have multiple training sessions daily.
- Be consistent!
Reward Your Puppy Immediately!
Did you know your dog has about a 3-second attention span? This means you need to reward your puppy immediately after they did a good job. Since you might not be able to give them a treat this quickly, be sure to verbally praise them or use a clicker so they know exactly what you’re proud of them for doing.
This short attention span also means you can’t effectively punish them for going potty in the wrong location if you don’t see them actually doing it. Rubbing your dog’s nose in a urine puddle you find when you get home will only confuse them. It’s also likely to make them fearful of you since they will NOT associate the punishment with the urine accident. If you do see your puppy urinating inside, you can certainly say “No!” in a firm voice, then pick them up and move them to the proper area to finish. Once they finish in the right spot, be sure to praise and reward them!
Have high-reward, small pieces of food to give your puppy. The training treats should be very special and used just for training so your dog looks forward to the treat! The treat size should be small, about the size of your fingernail, so your pup can resume training quickly and isn’t stopping to lay down and chew on the treat. There are many small training treats available at your local pet store. You can also use small pieces of string cheese or other cheese, small bits of hotdog, etc.
Puppy Housetraining Tips
Puppies under 2 months of age really can’t hold their bladder or bowels, so they need very frequent trips outside or over to the puppy pad to train.
You should especially focus on potty training during these times:
- As soon as the puppy wakes up
- 15-20 minutes after eating
- Every 1-2 hours when the puppy is awake
- When you notice the puppy sniffing around a lot (which can be a clue they are looking for a place to go potty)
Puppies 3 months and older can hold their bladder and bowels longer. A good rule of thumb is 1 hour for every month in age, plus 1. For example, a 3-month-old puppy can often hold their bladder for 4 hours or even longer overnight.
When you take your puppy outside, keep her on a leash. This allows you to stay close so you can praise and reward her faster. It also limits wandering and distraction! Leash walks help you both focus on the task at hand.
Crate Training Your Puppy or Dog
Crate training is so important and should not be thought of as a punishment! The crate should be a safe zone for your puppy to nap in, relax in, or even eat in. Crating your pup also eliminates their ability to wander off unsupervised and have accidents overnight. During the day, keep your puppy confined to smaller areas of the house, ideally areas you are also in so you can keep an eye on them. Dogs don’t like urinating and defecating in their “den” area, so keeping the space small and homey will encourage your pup to go potty outside rather than mess up their space. Having your dog crate trained will make life easier if they need to board anywhere, travel with you, if you’re having guests over, or staying at the vet clinic for a day.
What if your puppy has an accident in the house?
If your puppy does have an accident inside the house, be sure to clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner like Natures Miracle. These types of cleaners help eliminate the odors effectively so your pup won’t be able to smell it and think they can go in the same area again and again.
You can use a black light to find hidden accidents! The urine will glow green/yellow in the light, so even dried areas can be located.
Is your dog or puppy still having a hard time?
There are pheromone infused collars that can help your puppy relax and focus on training. Please discuss this option with your veterinarian.
If you have an adult dog that suddenly seems to have lost their housetraining, be sure to schedule a consult with us or a visit to your veterinarian. Urinary tract infections, diabetes, vision issues, behavioral issues, and cognitive dysfunction are just a few possible causes that need intervention and treatment if diagnosed.
Please review this great handout written by a veterinary behaviorist on housetraining:
Still have questions about potty training or crate training your puppy?
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