By Deana Case. Deana Case is a freelance writer, canine behavior specialist, and animal advocate.
Bringing a new puppy home is a very happy day, and people are excited about building a life with their furry family member. Puppies have much to learn, and they count on their owners to teach them about living in their new home. One of the most critical lessons is puppy potty training. Potty accidents in the house are an undesirable event and preventing them from happening begins the moment the pup arrives. Planning, training and consistent management from the very beginning will make housetraining easier and successful.
Managing your puppy until he is fully housetrained is the first step in preventing household potty accidents. Crate training a puppy is useful not only for potty training, but will make travel, vet visits, boarding and grooming much less stressful for him as he sees his crate as a safe place to nap or enjoy a good chew.
Introduce the puppy to his crate by feeding him in it. Give him tasty treats for going in it and offer good chewy items like stuffed Kongs or bully sticks in addition to his meals. He should be able to see his owner when he is in his crate, so he does not associate being in the crate with being alone. Puppies do need to be let out of their crate regularly to go potty. Young puppies cannot be crated for long periods of time and left unattended there. Puppies should not be crated for the whole day while their owner is at work, and they will likely not be able to go all night without being taken out initially.
If a puppy is going to be unsupervised for longer than a couple of hours, he should stay in a puppy safe area. The area should be easy to clean, such as a laundry room, kitchen or bathroom. Owners should be sure that the puppy cannot get into things that might hurt him such as household cleaners, medications or foods he should not have. Access to the rest of the house needs to be restricted. This can be done by using baby gates or exercise pens. The puppy space will require a potty area such as a potty pad or another alternative. Water, food, toys chews and a bed will help keep the puppy comfortable and busy.
Confining a puppy when his human is not supervising him will keep him safe and reduce the number of potty accidents in the house, and it prevents him from getting into things. Good management prevents accidents, and the fewer accidents a puppy has the more quickly he can be successfully potty trained.
Train your puppy to relieve himself in a desired location. Puppies need to go out immediately when they wake up, after playing and a few minutes after meals or just taking in water. This step is a matter of taking him on leash to that spot and rewarding his success on a consistent basis. Just placing the puppy outdoors alone for a few minutes and then bringing him back indoors does not insure he successfully relieved himself outside. He will often be worried because he is alone or become too distracted with smells or trying to find you to take care of his business. Stay with him, do not play with him until he relieves himself. Once he has success, praise, treat and play time or give him a chance to explore the yard and house as a reward. This reinforces the lesson you are teaching.
Puppies should go out hourly in the early stages of potty training. Each time the puppy is taken out, he should be given 10 minutes or so to go potty. If he is not able to do so, bring him back to his crate and try again in a half hour. Do not forget to reward each success.
Planning is important. Be prepared for your puppy’s first day in his new home. Having the appropriate tools and supplies on hand can make the unexpected easier. The goal of potty training is to not have accidents to clean up, but nobody is perfect and easy clean up makes accidents less stressful for people and puppies. Gather cleaning supplies and assemble them in a box or bucket, have a closet or other designated cleaning supply station in the house so that clean up items are easy to find and use quickly.
Some of the best things to keep in your cleaning station are:
Gloves-rubber or disposable (this just makes clean up less icky)
Old towels and rags
Potty pads or chucks (very absorbent and good for wet messes)
General spray cleaner (Simple Green is a good choice)
Rug and upholstery cleaner spray
Spot cleaning machine like The Little Green Machine or Spot Bot
Remember to keep your puppy away when you are cleaning to avoid aggravation as he will try to “help” and learn about cleaning up. He will also be at risk of getting irritants in his eyes or nose or ingesting cleaning supplies. Cleaning up a puppy accident is no place for a puppy!
The most important things to remember about housetraining a puppy or dog are:
Puppies need to have limited access to the house when not being supervised
Take the puppy out consistently and especially after sleep, play and eating
Reward success with food and play
Do NOT scold or frighten him for mistakes (this does not teach a puppy to be housetrained. It teaches him to hide from you when he relieves himself.)
Be prepared for clean up
The more consistent the owner is the faster the puppy will learn
Management, training and clean up done consistently in a positive manner will result in a happy and housetrained puppy, and a happy and satisfied owner!
Deana Case is a freelance writer, canine behavior specialist, and animal advocate.