Some would say if you want to test your patience, house train a puppy. True that there are a few four-legged friends that could irritate a saint, but there are some tricks to the trade to help you in the process. Regardless of whether you got your new furry friend at 8 weeks or 6 years of age – all pets need routine. They are going to need a few weeks to understand and pick up on that routine.
Be aware that dogs, regardless of age, instinctively desire to eliminate after eating, drinking, playing, sleeping, or being confined. Usually 5-30 minutes after any of those activities, you should allow your puppy / dog to go to the bathroom. The amount of time your dog can “hold” themselves depends on their age and size. A puppy lacks development of the bladder muscles necessary to hold their urine and feces for long periods of time. This chart is just to give you a general idea of how often you should take your puppy outside:
Age of Puppy Frequency of Elimination Breaks
- 6 – 14 weeks 8-10 times daily
- 14 – 20 weeks 6-8 times daily
- 5 – 8 months 4-6 times daily
- Older than 8 months 3-4 times daily
Side note: Just like with senior citizens whose bodies can’t do the things they once did, your geriatric dog may not be able to hold it like they used to. Make sure to visit the vet if your pet has had a change in normal bathroom habits.
A feeding schedule will help you predict when your puppy/dog will need to go to the bathroom. While house training, keep your new pup in a smaller confined area (e.g. dog crate, bathroom, puppy pen). Make the area appealing by providing toys and bedding. Also, feed them in this area as well. They will come to see this area as their “den”. Puppies were taught by their mothers not to soil their dens and they have an innate aversion to do so. If you are going to be away for a long period of time, try to have someone come in to let the puppy go to the bathroom outside or provide them with a large enough area that the puppy can get away from the mess. Constantly supervise your puppy to prevent him/her from sneaking off and eliminating when you can’t correct him/her; one option is to keep them on a leash attached to your waist.
It is not in a puppy’s nature to bark or make sounds when they must go to the bathroom, but they do have visual clues that you will need to look for. When they start sniffing the ground and/or circling around, they are getting ready to go to the bathroom. If you are inside your home when you notice this, quickly but calmly take him/her to the desired elimination area. When you take your puppy outside to “go potty”, do not play with or excite him/her until they have gone to the bathroom.
Eliminating is the priority at hand. Once s/he has gone to the bathroom, then play can begin. Even with a fenced-in yard, it is a good idea to get your dog potty trained by walking on a leash. Select a site that is easily accessible and go to that spot each time. This has duel benefits: 1 – the pet will know this spot is the potty area and 2 – You won’t have to search the entire yard for feces. Unless your puppy has intestinal parasites, you should leave some feces in the desired area, when appropriate, to reinforce that this is the correct area for performing this action. Use a specific verbal cue that you want your dog to associate with desirable elimination such as “go potty”. If the pup is not doing anything, or is distracted, and you have been outside for 10 minutes, go back inside and wait approximately 15 – 30 minutes then take them back outside. When your dog begins to eliminate, quietly praise him/her.
When they are done, praise him/her enthusiastically. Most dogs are more than happy to receive attention from the person they love. If you need to reward them with food, do it immediately. Don’t wait until they are back inside the house. A food reward can be a piece of their dog food kibble.
If your puppy has an accident in the house, NEVER physically punish them for it (hitting them, rubbing their nose it). Never yell at them if you find an older mess in the house – they won’t remember nor understand why you are yelling at them. Clean up the accident thoroughly with enzymatic cleaner to remove residual smells that may entice your puppy to revisit the area. If you catch them in the act of going to the bathroom in an inappropriate place, it is ok to say NO and take them outside immediately. Resume your typical potty training as discussed above. It may take a few minutes for them to remember that they needed to go and resume looking for the right spot. It is also possible that you caught them at the end, and they are empty.
If your pup has free access to water all the time but is having accidents overnight, take the water away an hour or two before bedtime and make sure they go to the bathroom right before you go to bed.
Do not get discouraged! Accidents will happen and should be expected. Put yourself in their “shoes” – how many times do you get to go to the bathroom in a day? Then think about how you would feel if someone else dictated when you could and couldn’t. It would take a while to get used to. Be consistent and patient and you will have a great puppy to share your life with.