The Ins and Outs of Puppy Potty Training
You just walked through the door with your new, 8-week old puppy. You’ve purchased all the puppy accouterments; food and bowls, a collar and leash, a dog bed and maybe even a crate. Everyone, including the puppy, is excited. Maybe you have had some playtime, the puppy has had something to eat and perhaps even a rest. Then, whoops, there is a puddle on the floor. So now, the big question is – how do we teach Fido where to potty? Time for puppy potty training.
Contrary to the title of this post, dogs do not really make a distinction between inside and outside while becoming housetrained. What they are doing is forming a “substrate preference,” which means that they are developing a preference for whatever kind of surface they eliminate on. If your puppy becomes used to peeing on the tile floor that surface is going to become the default surface (and we definitely don’t want the puppy to think that carpeting is the default). Most of us want our dogs to pee outside, preferably in the backyard, on the grass. We want the puppy to understand that the preferred surface for elimination is grass.
So how are we going to accomplish this puppy potty training? There are two cardinal rules in puppy potty training. The first is to take your puppy out frequently. So, you ask, what is frequent? When you first bring your puppy home frequently is going to seem like all the time. Every 20-30 minutes if he is awake. A good rule of thumb is to take the puppy out upon awakening (and if you see him squatting inside, scoop him up – the surprise will most likely cause him to cease urination) and take him outside ON THE GRASS to complete his business. During the day take him out after he eats, after he plays, after he drinks, after he naps. Remember his bladder is small and he has no control at this stage. It’s just going to happen. And, yes, you will feel like you are a doorman – one with extended duties. It is not enough to simply shepherd the puppy outside – take him out on a leash, ON THE GRASS. Now is not the time for ball playing, talking or petting. Just walk along with your puppy while he sniffs and waits for him to pee. When he is finished, praise him lavishly and reward him with a treat. Now is the time (unless it happens to be 2:30 in the morning) for playing or a short stroll. And be sure to reward your puppy for pottying right after he is through – we want him to understand what he got the reward for. If you wait until you are back in the house, you have rewarded him for coming inside, not for peeing on the grass – your preferred substrate.
The second cardinal rule for puppy potty training is supervision. If you allow your puppy to roam freely in the house, he will likely have an accident in a room where you will not see him. You will not see it until it is too late to do anything about it. You will simply have to clean it up and move on. Do not punish your dog for accidents. Dogs are very literal — they must be rewarded or corrected when the behavior occurs. Remember to scoop your puppy up if you see them squatting and take him outside to finish their business. Please do not scold your puppy – instead of learning that the rule is to pee outside on the grass, they learn not to pee in front of people. If you feel like you must use a form of punishment you may hit yourself ten times in the head with the proverbial rolled up newspaper for not supervising your puppy!
Most puppies are well on their way to becoming housetrained (puppy potty training) by 12-16 weeks. If you are having absolutely no luck with puppy potty training it is a good idea to make an appointment with your vet to rule out any medical reason for accidents to occur. Sometimes toy breed dogs like Yorkies or Chihuahuas take longer to become reliable simply because their bladders are so tiny.
If your puppy backslides, just go back to the basics: go out frequently, reward and supervise. Your puppy will soon have the “ins and outs” of housetraining down pat!