Potty training your puppy is a critical first step for new dog parents. Not accomplishing this task in a timely fashion leads to ruined carpets and loads of frustration. In fact, having a dog that is soiling in the house is one of the leading reasons that dogs end up in shelters. Given patience, consistency and the right approach, however, dogs can learn, and you can have a happy home with your new forever friend.
You can potty train your puppy in 5 days, if you are disciplined, while using a tested methodology. Keys to success are taking your puppy outside frequently, being careful about what he eats, keeping a consistent schedule, giving him enough exercise, watching for cues that he needs to go out, and making sure that you reward good behavior.
Some of the time tested successful puppy potty training techniques include crate training and paper training. Either approach can be successful, and you will want to choose the right one for your situation. With either approach, however, there are still some things that you need to be disciplined enough to follow through if your training is to be successful.
Key Elements for Any Approach
By being diligent in the following things, most dogs will be potty trained within five days, regardless of what specific method you use. Be sure to do these things in combination with the particular elements of either crate training or paper training.
- Take your puppy outside frequently. Remember that their bladder is small and they will have to pee more often. In the early stages of training, accidents may be more your fault than your puppy’s fault, especially if you are not remembering to take your puppy outside VERY OFTEN.
- Be careful about what your puppy eats. A puppy’s sensitive tummy is not ready to eat all sorts of table foods. In fact, you need to be consistent about what type and brand of food they are eating, and only introduce different foods slowly and one thing at a time. Doing otherwise could lead to some very unhappy accidents.
- Have a consistent schedule for your puppy. Be diligent about when you have feedings, trips outside (good to plan shortly after eating), and exercise, including walks and play time. Keeping a schedule for your puppy helps to establish routines for him and get him in the habit of doing his business at planned times.
- Make sure your puppy is getting sufficient exercise. It will help with the digestive process, as well as his overall well being. Exercise keeps things moving (in more ways than one). It also leads to happier dogs.
- Pay attention to cues that your puppy gives to you. As you are still getting to know your dog, these clues may be subtle, and so you have to pay attention to learn your dog’s specific behaviors. Some puppies will start to whimper or will start to sniff around when they need to go outside. Others will just go stand by the door or they may scratch near the door. Sometimes, they will circle or stick their tail straight out. If they are being crate trained, they may whine or scratch while in the crate.
- Celebrate when your dog pees or poops outside. Make a big deal about it. Give him treats, as well as lots of attention, to reward the desired behavior. Once your puppy is well adapted to going potty outside, you can use more attention based rewards rather than treats. As a puppy is still learning, however, treats can really aid the process. Just make sure that you give treats immediately when they have done what they need to do. Timelines of the reward helps the puppy connect your desired behavior to his desired reward.
When to Start Training
Many wonder when they should start to potty train a puppy. This is an important question since a puppy that is too young cannot control his bladder sufficiently. If you want to successfully train your puppy within five days, you have to start with reasonable expectations of your puppy’s ability.
Experts often recommend potty training for puppies at between 12 and 16 weeks old. By this point, your puppy is old enough to have sufficient control of his bladder and bowel movements. In some cases, you could start younger, but keep in mind, the younger your puppy, the shorter the amount of time he will be able to hold it, and the higher potential for having an accident.
Let’s take a look at some of the common, and well-tested methods for potty training. There may be several factors that will impact which of these you choose, but in either case, it is important that you be consistent in your follow through in order to make it happen. Let’s get started with crate training.
Some people don’t like the idea of crate training, thinking that it somehow equates to locking the dog in jail. They consider it some kind of punishment, but fail to see it from a broader perspective. In reality, a crate can be seen as a “safe” space for your puppy. Remember that dogs are den animals and will by nature seek out a small cave like area to make their own. That’s why a lot of dogs like to hide out under the bed. When they are comfortable with a crate as their “cave,” they will actually find security in being there, rather than see it as a negative. This can be advantageous to you as well, since they can become familiar with being there before you have a different need to put them there (like to take them to the vet or travel). Never make the crate a negative thing. It should always viewed as something good, both by you and by your dog.
Crate training works for one simple reason. Dogs actually like to have their sleeping quarters clean. They do not want urine or poop on their bedding. Therefore, they do not use the bathroom where they sleep. As long as the crate is sized correctly, just big enough for them to lie down, stand up and turn around, they will not go to the bathroom in it. If the space is too large and they are able to walk around, however, they may choose to use a corner to do their business and return happily to their blanket on the other side.
When you set up the crate, put it in an area of the house where the family spends a lot of time. Put a nice soft blanket or towel in the crate. When you are first introducing it, show it to your puppy while talking to your puppy in a happy tone. Let him go in, without shutting the door, and while you are sitting right beside it. You can encourage him to go in if he is hesitant by putting a couple little treats just inside. Don’t force him. Continue encouraging him to go in by putting treats further inside until he can walk all the way in on his own. This will help him associate the crate as a pleasant place.
After you have introduced the crate, begin placing the food bowl inside it for meal times. The further in that you can put the food dish with the dog going in on his own, the better. Once he is fully in on his own, you can shut the door of the crate and allow him to eat inside. That will also help build pleasant associations.
The puppy needs to stay in the crate during the night, for naps, and any time that you are not home. At least initially, I would recommend having the crate in your bedroom during the night, helping your puppy get comfortable and being available if he needs to go out during the night. If he whines in the crate during the night, get him out, carry him straight outside, providing a chance to pee, and then take him right back to the crate, reassuring him in the process. When the puppy is out of the crate, you will need to watch him constantly to look for cues as to when he needs to go out again.
As he begins to be trained, you can let him have additional freedom, incrementally as he progresses. That will include giving him more room to move around when he is in the crate. There are crates available that have a divider, allowing you to move it, providing more space as your dog grows.
Paper training your puppy uses newspapers or puppy pads to train. It allows the dog to pee or poop on progressively smaller areas. This can be a bit more tricky, because in reality, you are giving your puppy two potential options for where to pee (either outside or on the pad inside). For that reason, it may take a bit longer to see clear results than it would with crate training.
Ideally, you want your puppy to learn to hold it indoors and only do their business outside. That may be a challenge, however, for someone who is at work all day, or if you live some place where going outside is more difficult. The puppy pads or newspaper give your dog a spot that they are allowed to do their business inside, which may be advantageous for certain living situations.
In order to paper train, you will need to create an area where your puppy can be confined. This may be a pen or a puppy-proofed room where you also will keep his bed, water dish, and food dish when it is feeding time. To start, place paper or puppy pads over the entire area. Remove the soiled pads and replace them regularly to keep the area clean.
Every few days, take one of the pads away and start to leave a small area without a pad. Since your dog will have developed a routine of peeing on the pad, he should continue peeing in the padded area, not on the unpadded area. Because dogs do not like to soil where they sleep, start by removing pads closest to their bedding. Continue to remove a pad every few days, until there is only one pad left, and it is the one furthest from their bed and water bowl.
How Often Should the Dog Go Outside?
As mentioned, it is really important that puppies be given the opportunity to go outside frequently. When you are first training, that may be anywhere from every 10 minutes to every hour, depending on the age of the puppy and his readiness to learn. Remember that every dog is different and so you will need to learn your puppy’s specific needs.
How often exactly should they be going outside? The AKC recommends that you think of it in relation to the age of your puppy. As a guide, you can expect that your puppy can control his or her bladder about as many hours as their age in months, up to about nine months. So, for example, a four month old puppy can wait about 4 hours before they have to go out. Consider that after about 9 months, however, you are talking about 9 hours of waiting to go to the bathroom. Just as you are not likely to want to wait that long, your puppy shouldn’t have to either.
Always reinforce what you want them to do when you go outside as well. This includes a lot of praise and treats after you see them poop or pee. It can also mean leaving their poop in the area so that they can find it the next time you go out. This can trigger the dog to go there again. You can even take poop, or the soiled pads from urine that was left from an accident in the house, outside to the area where you want the dog to go. Again, this can trigger the dog to know what to do outside, since it is normal for them to want to go in the same area repeatedly.
Remember that this outside time is for a specific purpose. Do not confuse that purpose by playing or talking to your dog when it is time to do his business. Be patient and give your puppy the time needed to get it done.
How Do I Make a Schedule?
Remember that having a schedule is an important part of getting your dog into good habits, including potty training. Key elements of the schedule are eating times, play time, exercise, potty times, and nap times.
Start with eating times. Generally, it is good to spread out meals for puppies, rather than have just one feeding time. Keep in mind that a puppy is still growing, and is not ready for large meals. Their little tummies and developing digestive systems won’t handle a lot of food at once. Spreading their feeding times to three smaller meals a day is going to be better on their stomach and will help support an overall schedule. Additionally, since they tend to need to poop following their meals, if you leave food out all day, they may want to poop all day. You should plan to remove any uneaten food after 20 minutes.
As a part of your puppy’s schedule, plan out times that you will take him or her outside to pee. Generally, that should include first thing in the morning (your puppy may wake you up for this), after eating, after playing, after being in a crate or pen, after nap, and last thing before bed.
With the eating and potty times as a backbone of your puppy’s schedule, it’s relatively easy to fill in the rest, and your puppy will likely give you clues about what they need anyway. It is typical for a puppy to want to play after they have had breakfast and gone outside. Since a growing puppy needs lots of rest, play time will often be followed by nap time. You may expect a similar pattern in the afternoon. Be aware that your puppy may need to still go out at times that you have not planned, and it is important to respond to their cues. That may include getting up in the middle of the night, especially when the puppy is very young.
If you work outside the home, make arrangements for someone to help keep this schedule while you are away in order to reinforce the needed behavior. If there is no other member of the household or friend who can help, try a dog walker or dog sitter.
What If My Puppy Has An Accident?
While a puppy is still learning, there may be accidents at times, even if you are trying to be diligent in taking them outside frequently. If this happens, be understanding and patient. Yelling at the dog is not likely to help, since they will have a difficult time connecting why you are upset to what they did. In fact, if you react in anger, yell, or do things like trying to rub the dog’s nose in the accident spot, you may just be teaching the dog to fear you. This may cause him to just hide, rather than tell you, when he needs to go outside.
Rather than the negative punishment that you may think you should give to your puppy, positive reinforcement when there is desired behavior is likely to yield much better results. Always remember to celebrate extensively every time your dog goes pee or poop outside. Make your dog think that he or she is the center of the world, as you give them treats and praise and love when they do what you want.
While you don’t need to punish if your puppy has had an accident, if you do see him start to squat in the house, clap loudly to interrupt him and then pick him up quickly and take him outside. This will help to reinforce what you want them to do. Again, pile on the praise once they have done their duties (or doodies) outside.
One additional note, if your dog has had an accident, it is important to clean up the spot thoroughly with a pet urine enzymatic cleaner designed to remove odors. This is because, if the spot can still be smelled, your dog may return to go there again. This is just normal dog behavior, so your attention to how you clean is important in support of what you are trying to teach your dog.
What If Nothing Seems To Be Working?
If you have tried everything in training your puppy, and you have been consistent in the range of disciplines that we have listed, but you are still having problems, don’t just get mad at your dog. There may be other issues. Start with a veterinary exam. It may be a health concern, rather than a behavioral issue, that is at the source. It is also possible that your male dog may be marking territory, in which case, you may want to have him neutered. In any case, your vet can help you identify where the issue may be coming from and offer direction on how to resolve the problem.
Maintaining a Happy, Poop-Free Home
While you can have your dog trained in five days, remember that for your success to be permanent, you will need to maintain the disciplines that you have established. A schedule will remain important, and crating or keeping your dog contained while you are away will still be necessary for several months as your puppy grows and establishes more permanent habits. You can pull back on some of the components of your training, but only in increments. For example, when your puppy is consistent with going outside, you can stop giving treats every time, but you should still give lots of attention and praise. You can also start to give your puppy more space in his crate or pen when you are away, but only a little at a time.