I’ve talked to a lot of families about how to potty train their puppies (and even adult dogs). There are some things that make different families’ situations unique, but here are a few mistakes that nearly everyone makes:
- Not letting your puppy out at the right moments or often enough. Whether it’s been 5 hours, 1 hour, or 20 minutes since your last outing, here are times to ALWAYS take your puppy out to potty:
- AFTER any meal. Just how long after a meal? That’s up to your pup. I recommend about 15 minutes after, but keep a journal of what time they eat and what time their next poop occurs
- AFTER any big drinks of water
- AFTER any playtime, even if it was short. When your pup loses his attention on a task, he will most likely realize just how badly he needs to pee.
- AFTER any amount of sleep. Think about when you wake up from a nap or in the morning. The first thing you usually do is visit the bathroom. Same goes for your pup!
It’s better to take your puppy out too frequently than risk an accident occurring inside. Again, start keeping a log of what time your puppy eats and subsequently pees/poops to get a better idea of when your puppy will need to go outside.
- Allowing too much space. Your puppy should not have the pleasure of exploring spaces without supervision if they have not been accident-free for at least a week. Your pup may still be exploring their space, sniffing and gathering information and may feel the urge to go at any moment. Baby gates and a leash are your best friend while potty training. Use the leash to tether your kiddo to yourself or to a piece of furniture in your immediate area and use baby gates to block off areas that your puppy is most likely to visit for a potty.
If you can’t watch your pup because you’re in the shower, cooking, or any other task, put your puppy in the crate. If it’s properly sized, he most likely will not want to potty in this space. Just remember Mistake #1.
- Not properly supervising. If I have to pick the most important point, this is it! Having a dog in potty training is like having a newborn. You should not take your eyes off him! Your puppy gets rewarded every time he goes to the bathroom, not necessarily by you, but by the biological reward of how good it feels to not have to go potty anymore. If you’re not there to offset that reward by interrupting the behavior, your pup is going to get better at going inside.
When you catch your puppy pottying inside, immediately interrupt the behavior, perhaps by clapping your hands, stomping your feet, or making other loud noises. Take him out right away and wait for him to resume his duties.
You MUST CATCH YOUR PUPPY IN THE ACTION! If you walk into a room and find the mess after your puppy has walked away, IT IS TOO LATE! You have lost the opportunity to reward or punish the behavior. This is why you must keep Mistake #2 in mind.
Supervising your puppy’s potty behavior when he’s outside is just as important as keeping an eye on him when he’s inside. The way to build reliability with a desired behavior is to reward it. So keep a bag of treats by the door, grab them on the way out and treat when your puppy goes potty outside. While they’re going, give very gentle, quiet verbal praise. The second they complete their task, throw a party and give him some treats. Do not wait to give him treats when you get back inside. The timing here is very important.
Remember, these are only the most common mistakes. If you still have issues upon trying this advice, give me a call and let’s set up a private lesson!