Potty-Training Cheat Sheet: How to Successfully Housetrain Your Puppy
Every dog is different, which means the potty-training experience will vary. But if you follow these potty-training tips for your puppy, you’re setting him up for success:
BEFORE YOU BRING YOUR PUP HOME
Set Your Expectations
One of the most important things to keep in mind when potty training your pup is that there will be accidents. Don’t expect him to be instantly perfect! For many puppies and adult dogs, being successfully housetrained takes several months.
Set Up a Crate
Even if you plan to use training pads, set up a crate for your pup before you bring him home so he has a safe haven, and so the training process can start right away. Dogs have sought out small dens for thousands of years, so your pup will appreciate having his own personal space. The crate will also help develop bowel and bladder control during the potty training process.
Make Sure It’s the Right Size
A crate that’s too big may cause your dog to “go” in one corner and lie in another without ruining his sleeping area, and a crate that’s too small will be too confining and uncomfortable. Make sure the crate you choose is well ventilated and big enough for your puppy to stand up, lie down, and turn around.
Place it in a Good Spot
Keep your puppy’s crate in an easily accessible location that allows him to remain part of the family so he doesn’t feel isolated and unhappy. The kitchen or family room often work best. Moving the crate next to your bed at night will make him feel secure and makes it easier for you to take him out in the middle of the night if he needs to go.
Get a Collar and Leash
Have a snap collar and leash ready before you bring your pup home. This type of collar goes on and off quickly, so it’s ideal for avoiding accidents while attaching his leash and collar.
Set Up Gates
Gating off one room in your home will help you keep a better eye on your pup and prevent him from leaving you any smelly surprises in other rooms of your home.
Get Pet Cleaners
Get pet cleaner, pet stain remover, paper towels, and waste bags so you can immediately clean up any accidents in your home and to prevent your pup from thinking that your floor is an acceptable toilet. Having these items nearby will also help curb frustration during the process.
Decide on a Routine
Maintaining a consistent routine might be the most important yet underrated tip! Choose a set time for your pup’s meals, playtime, exercise, and trips outside. This will help make his potty times more predictable and will also help your puppy learn that potty time occurs on a schedule.
Get on the Same Page
Make sure all members of your household know the plan (potty spot, cue word, off-limits rooms, etc.) and stick to it so they don’t confuse your puppy or disturb the routine. This is vital to your pup’s success!
WHEN THE PROCESS BEGINS
Know That Age Matters
If your puppy is 8 to 16 weeks old, he does not yet have any control over his bowels or bladder, and won’t know how to “hold it” until he gets a little older. Simply have patience and stick to your routine—he’ll get there soon!
Let Your Pup Explore His Crate
Don’t force your puppy into his crate—simply leave the door open and let him explore. Furnish it with soft bedding, and place treats and toys inside every so often to help your pup get used to going in and out. If he’s comfortable and confident, try leaving him in the crate for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, gradually increasing the time as he gets more comfortable with it. Always give your puppy treats and plenty of praise when he enters his crate.
Use One Potty Spot
Bring your pup to the same spot in your yard every time you take him out, and choose a verbal cue to use each time. “Go potty” is a pet-parent favorite! If he doesn’t go in 5 minutes or so, take him back inside, put him in his crate, and try again in about 20 minutes.
Praise Your Pup
Whenever your puppy successfully uses his potty spot, praise him enthusiastically and give him a small treat reward. Pups want to please their humans, so positive reinforcement always works best. Never yell, scold, or punish.
Know When to Go
Bring your pup outside to potty:
First thing in the morning
Before crate time
After crate time
Right before bedtime
Catch Him in the Act
Between trips outside, keep a close eye on your puppy and carry him outside if you see any indications that he is about to eliminate, like sniffing the floor or circling. If you catch him urinating inside, interrupt him and take him outside to finish.
Don’t Forget About Playtime
Make sure your puppy has plenty of time to stretch his paws when he’s not in his crate. Puppies need to be mentally and physically stimulated with plenty of exercise and fun toys to stay happy, healthy, and well adjusted! Playtime also helps you form a strong bond with your pup.
Manage Crate Time
The crate is never meant to be a place of isolation, punishment, or loneliness. Young puppies should not spend more than 2 to 4 hours at a time in their crate. If you work full time and cannot make it home frequently enough to take your pup out, hire a dog walker or have a trusted neighbor or family member take him out while you’re gone.
WHAT ABOUT TRAINING PADS?
Pads May Be Your Answer
Potty training your pup with training pads means teaching him to eliminate indoors. This method works best for furmalies who live in urban settings or apartments and may not have quick access to an outdoor spot, or for tiny breeds who tend to piddle very frequently.
One Training Pad Pitfall
While some pet parents have great success with this method, it can be confusing for puppies. Once they’re accustomed to eliminating indoors, it can be very difficult to deter them from this habit. If you choose to use training pads with the goal of getting your pup to go outdoors, know that it might take a while longer.