Puppy potty training is usually a top priority for new puppy parents. Learning how to do it correctly will save you and your puppy a lot of frustration. Sadly, accidents in the house are one of the top reasons that puppies lose their forever homes and end up in shelters. Nobody wants to clean up messes constantly or live in a stinky house!
So, taking some time to learn the ins and outs of puppy potty training is important. That way, you can decide which methods work best for your situation and have a plan in place from day one. Here are our top suggestions to set you and your new puppy up for potty training success.
Choose Your Method
You won’t be successful if you don’t have a plan, so the first step is to choose a housetraining method that suits your lifestyle and living situation. Here are three methods to choose from.
The Crate Training Method
Crate training is a highly effective tool for potty training a puppy, and it’s the one most often recommended by experts. You’ll need to choose a crate that’s just big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and stretch out in comfort. This method won’t work if the crate is too big or too small, so be sure to make your selection carefully. Also, we recommend the crate be located in a small area like the kitchen or part of the kitchen with light and plenty of opportunity to see various distances (window, desk, ceiling as to not hinder eye sight development. For this reason a crate inside a puppy playpen works!
Turn the crate into a cozy den where your puppy can rest during the day, sleep at night, and hang out with a few toys whenever you can’t be supervising him. Add a bed, some toys, and cover the crate with a blanket to make it nice and cozy. You want him to learn to love his crate and think of it as a safe place, so don’t ever use it as punishment!
Anytime you can’t be supervising your puppy, he should be in his crate inside his pen or gated off area. You’ll need to take him outside every two hours. He should also go out after each meal and immediately after he wakes up from a nap.
The Tether Method
The tether method can be used on its own or in conjunction with crate training. This method involves keeping your puppy on a leash right next to you throughout the day. Just like with crate training, you’ll take him outside every two hours, the moment he wakes up from a nap, and as soon as he finishes a meal.
Since your puppy will be right next to you, you can watch him closely for signs that he needs to go potty, such as leg lifting, squatting, or sniffing the floor. He’ll still need to go in his crate when you’re not home, can’t watch him, and at night when you’re sleeping.
The Puppy Pad Method
The puppy pad method is probably the least popular among trainers- especially for small sized dogs and especially during quarantine! In essence, it teaches your puppy that it’s ok to go to the bathroom in the house, rather than outdoors, where you ultimately want him to go. Puppy pads are also soft and absorbent, like carpet, so it’s easy to see how a puppy might get confused about where it’s ok to go to the bathroom.
However, if your apartment is in a New York City high-rise, getting your young puppy down the elevator, through the lobby, and out to a potty place in time can be a challenge. In this case, you might want to teach him to use a puppy pad first, and then transition him to going potty outdoors as he gets older and has better control.
If you can put the pad on a porch or balcony, that will at least teach the puppy that he’s supposed to go outside, rather than in the apartment, and you’ll still have quick access when he’s got to go.
Instead of taking him to an outdoor potty spot, you’ll simply take him to his puppy pad every two hours and after meals and naps. Take him to the puppy pad anytime he shows signs of needing to go to the bathroom and keep him in his crate when you can’t be supervising.
Stick to One Potty Spot
Before your new puppy comes home, you’ll need to choose a potty spot that you can stick to during the potty-training process. It should be out of the way of foot traffic and easy to get to quickly. It can be a specific spot in the yard or a patch of grass near the sidewalk in front of your house.
If you’re starting out with puppy pads, always keep them in the same spot. Once you start potty training, take him to the same spot to do his business every time. Consistency is key!
Schedule Meals and Snacks
Keeping to a schedule for meals and snacks is super important during the puppy potty training phase. Having a routine will teach your puppy what to expect and it will help you know when he needs to go out. Always take him to his potty spot as soon as he’s done eating.
Schedule Potty Breaks, Too
As a general rule, your puppy should go outside at least every two hours, as well as when he wakes up and after he eats. You should also take him out right before bed and put him in his crate to sleep. Young puppies will probably need to go out once or twice during the night, too.
Sticking to this schedule when your puppy is young will set him up for success and help to avoid accidents in the house. As your puppy gets older, you can gradually increase the length of time between potty breaks. Eventually, he’ll learn how to tell you when he needs to go out.
Address Accidents the Right Way
If your puppy has an accident in the house, stay calm and redirect him to his potty spot right away. Accidents are going to happen, but you can keep them to a minimum by following the tips and tricks outlined above. Just be sure to remove smells from the carpet completely so that he doesn’t begin to interpret that spot as a good place to go to the bathroom indoors.
Use Positive Reinforcement, Not Punishment
Punishing your puppy for having an accident in the house will only teach him to hide his behavior. He won’t understand that he’s supposed to go outside. You’re much better off offering praise and treats when he goes to the bathroom where he’s supposed. That way, he’ll associate going potty outside with good things and be eager to please.
Some Final Tips
If your puppy doesn’t seem to be making progress despite your best efforts, don’t hesitate to consult with a pro. A professional trainer can offer insight into your process and help you find solutions. It’s also a good idea to mention your issues with housetraining to your vet and/or a professional trainer. Sometimes, potty accidents can be a sign of an underlying health issue, such as a urinary tract infection.