What is Potty Training?
Potty training or commonly known as housebreaking refers to training your puppy or dog to relieve itself at appropriate times of the day and places.
Potty training is usually implemented with puppies, but it may also be needed for older dogs that have not been previously trained. The older the dog, the more challenging the potty training process is.
Is Potty Training Easy?
Dogs are instinctively clean animals, unwilling to soil their nest. In nature, young puppies spontaneously learn not to do their businesses where they eat and sleep.
Their mother keeps the den clean and teaches the puppies not to associate their home with toilet areas. Since the mother removes the scent, making the association is easy for the puppies.
When kept indoors, for the puppy, the entire home represents the nest. Therefore, in theory, potty training a puppy is not very difficult. Nevertheless, keep in mind that puppies, especially when young, do not have reliable control over their bladders.
Although housebreaking starts the moment you bring the new puppy home, it is important to not punish it for making mistakes at first.
The Right Time For Potty Training
Experts suggest that the right time to start potty training your puppy is between 12 and 16 weeks of age. By that time the puppy has enough control over his bladder and bowel movements.
How Long Does Potty Training Take?
Potty training usually takes 4-6 months. However, some puppies may need up to a year. How long the potty training period will last depends on several factors:
- Individual characteristics – some dogs are instinctively cleaner and will naturally avoid spoiling where not allowed, while other dogs may be messy and more prone to accidents.
- Learning abilities – some dogs learn faster, while others are stubborn or may even pee and poop on the floor as a sign of protest.
- Size – smaller breeds have smaller bladders and quicker metabolisms, thus requiring more frequent trips to the toilet.
- Previous habits – sometimes it may be needed to break your dog’s old habits and establish new ones. Your dog’s previous living conditions can significantly influence the pace of the potty training.
Potty Training Strategy
Tools Needed For Potty Training
Before implementing a potty training protocol, it is advisable to be prepared and obtain all the tools needed. Those include:
- A crate of proper size – to keep the puppy safe while not monitored and to prevent making mistakes since the puppy will be reluctant to spoil its den.
- A baby gate – it may be used instead of a crate or in combination. The gait will keep the puppy from wandering around the house and making mistakes in different places.
- A leash – taking your puppy out on a leash is essential even if you are in a fenced yard. If not on a leash, chances are the puppy will be more tempted to play and investigate its surroundings than to potty.
- Potent stain and odor remover – cleaning soiled spots prevent the puppy from re-using them as toilet areas.
- Treats – to immediately reward the puppy after potting in the right place. That way the puppy will learn to associate the potting activity with good experience.
Crates rank number 1 as potty training tools. The principle behind using a crate for potty training is that dogs refuse to spoil their living areas.
In order of the crate to work, it needs to be of the right size – big enough for the puppy to perceive free, but not too big so that the puppy would feel that it is ok to use one corner as a toilet area.
If in the crate, when the puppy feels the urge, it will inform you by scratching and whining. Once the puppy signalizes, act quickly. If you leave the puppy unattended, even after it signalized, it will do its business inside the crate.
Establishing A Routine
Puppies do best on a regular and well-established schedule. When trying to initiate a pattern, you need to pay attention to several moments:
- Frequently taking your puppy outside – to reduce the risk of making mistakes and get the puppy used to go out on a regular basis. If your puppy asked to be taken outside and once outside gets distracted, you can trigger its peeing or pooping instinct by wiping the puppy’s bottom with a wet and warm washcloth.
- Picking an outdoor bathroom area – choose a spot or let your puppy select it and then be consistent in using that same place.
- Implementing regular feeding schedule – simply stated, everything that goes into the puppy on a schedule comes out of the puppy on a schedule.
- Picking up the water dish – to reduce the risk of your dog relieve itself while you sleep. It is advisable to remove its water bowl around two and a half hours before bedtime. Most puppies can hold it for up to 7 hours during sleep. If the puppy wakes you up in the middle of the night because it needs to use the toilet, do not make a big deal of it. Do not talk or play with the puppy, turn on as few as possible lights and take the puppy out.
The best way to avoid accidents from happening is by taking your puppy to relieve itself when you expect it to have the need for it and to learn to recognize its body signs.
It is expected that the puppy will need to relieve itself:
- First thing in the morning
- After eating
- After drinking
- After playing
- After chewing a toy or a bone
- After spending some time in the crate
- Upon waking up from a nap
- After extreme excitement.
It also advisable to watch your puppy’s body language for obvious clues, like:
- Sniffing the floor
- Whining or barking
- Running with the nose to the floor
- Scratching at the door
- Getting ready to squat.
Understanding That Mistakes Happen
Expecting your puppy to make mistakes is an expected part of the potty training process. When young, puppies do not have full control of their bladders.
If you happen to catch your dog in the act, try interrupting it by making a startling noise, such as clapping with your hands and saying “out”.
If the dog does not react, pick it up and take it to the toilet spot. If the puppy runs to the toilet or holds while being carried, it is important to reward him with a positive reinforcement speech or a treat.
Cleaning Soiled Spots
Thoroughly cleaning spoiled spots is of crucial importance when potty training. That is because dogs are immensely motivated to continue soiling areas that smell like urine or feces.
If your puppy pees or poops in the wrong place, collect the pee/poop and place it in the right toilet spot. Make sure to clean the area where it pooped with scented but pet-friendly disinfectant.
The next time your puppy needs to poop the smell of the disinfectant will repel him, while the smell of his poop will attract him.
Until rightly trained, puppies tend to relieve themselves on carpets instead of on easily-cleaned tiles and surfaces. There is a simple and reasonable explanation for why puppies prefer carpets.
Because of their softness, carpets offer puppies the same feeling as standing on grass. Therefore, a puppy’s natural target would be the carpet set furthest from its sleeping and eating area.
Implementing A Reward System
It is essential to praise or reward your puppy as soon as it is finished with its business. A gentle talk, food treat or a short walk around the block, are the perfect positive reinforcement techniques.
Making Arrangements For When You Are Not Home
If you have a very young puppy and need to be away from home for more than 4-5 hours, the responsible thing would be to find some additional help. You can either hire a pet sitter or make arrangements with a neighbor to take your puppy for a bathroom break.
Puppy Pads – To Use Them Or Not To Use Them
When it comes to puppy pads, the experts’ opinions are quite contradictory. On the one hand, puppy pads are suitable for unvaccinated dogs that should not stay outdoors. On the other hand, it has been shown that using puppy pads can prolong the period of potty training. Plus, teaching the puppy to relieve itself on a particular surface may create a life-long surface preference. Therefore, perhaps the best compromise would be to use puppy pads only as a temporary solution.
If you decide on using puppy pads, you need to use them right. In a nutshell, it is recommended to move the pads closer and closer to the door slowly. That way, when it is time to go out for potting your puppy will be ready. Additionally, it will build an association between the door and the potting activity. With time and practice, going out that door will trigger the elimination need on itself.
What Not To Do During Potty Training
In order of understanding what not to do while potty training a dog, you need to realize that dogs do not see their waste the same way we do. While we know peeing and pooping on the floor as a mistake, for the dog is a natural and physiological need. Not to mention that most dogs find poops not only entertaining but tasty too.
Punishing Your Dog
Conservative pieces of advice suggest punishing the dog whenever it does its business out of its toilet area. According to these bits of information that is best done by either swatting the dog or rubbing its face in the waste. Today we know that this technique is not only confusing for the dog but also inefficient and unhealthy.
What is more, most dogs tend to relieve themselves when nobody is watching. So imagine the following situation – you come home from work and see a pond of pee and a pile of poop on the floor.
Chances are the dog made the mistakes sometime before you arrive and if you punish it now, the dog will not be able to understand why it is being punished. Administering corrections after the accident happened is useless.
Even reprimanding tones are felt like punishment for most dogs. Additionally, eternal punishing damages your relationship with the dog by making the dog fearful and stressed.
Disrespecting your dog’s “hold time”
Another big and unfortunately quite common mistake is expecting the puppy to hold it for longer than it is physically capable. Every puppy has a different “holding time”. A rule of the thumb is that the dog’s “hold time” equates its number of months expressed in hours.
For example, a two months old puppy can hold it for two hours, while a four months old puppy can hold it for around four hours. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Usually, as the puppy grows, it should be able to hold it for longer, especially during the nights.
It is no secret that every puppy parent wants a fast, reliable and efficient potty training strategy. Although potty training is a straightforward process, it is not a magic trick that can be learned in a day or two.
It is an ongoing and tiring process, and more often than not, it can be misunderstandings, confusions, and frustrations, for both you and your puppy.
Keep in mind that successful potty training requires patience and understanding that the dog is just starting to learn the rules.
Another useful tip, while potty training is to never walk around the house barefoot – you never know if a smelly package or wet surprise is waiting for you to step on it.