Once the excitement of bringing home a new puppy wears off, the realization of the responsibility sets in. This usually happens when the puppy decides the corner of a bedroom is the perfect place to relieve himself. That is when most owners realize they do not know what to do. How can a human communicate to an animal that it needs to go to the bathroom in certain areas and not in others? It can be a daunting and stressful time, but it is not an impossible task, as many potty trained dog owners can attest to.
Puppies, especially, need consistency. Just like human babies, puppies need to know when they are going to eat and when they are going to be able to relieve themselves. Puppies aren’t usually diapered, though, so when they have to go, they have to go (it is safe to assume that would be ten to fifteen minutes after they eat). Set a firm schedule for feeding and stick to it. Pick up the food bowl after an hour even if the puppy has not eaten. When next feeding comes around, they will eat. A puppy does not need a full bowl down at all times, and if the dog is constantly eating, it is much harder to predict when they may have to go.
Ten to fifteen minutes after feeding (sometimes less if it is a small dog), it is time to take the pup outside. Again, consistency is the key. As a new owner, decide what door to use when taking the pup outside and then continue to use that door throughout training. Eventually, the pup will associate that door with potty time and will go to that door to let the owner know it needs to go out. At first, it may take awhile for the puppy to realize that it is potty time and not playtime, so the owner should not engage in any play. Repeating a word or phrase the owner would like to associate with potty time (such as: “Go potty!” or “Poo-poo, pee-pee, outside!”) will help the pup know what is expected of him. Once the pup does his business, the owner can play and praise to her heart’s content.
Crate training is also a very helpful tool in potty training a puppy, especially if the owner has to leave the new pup unsupervised for a few hours. Never use the crate as a punishment or a time out because that will associate it with negative feelings in the pup’s mind instead of the safe den-like area the crate is supposed to represent. First, take the dog out to potty using the key words or phrase that is going to be used for training. Once the pup goes, bring him back in, give lots of love and praise, and put him in the crate. It is best to only leave the animal in the crate for two hours or less, but bigger dogs can sometimes hold it for four hours. Immediately after taking the dog out of the crate, even before greeting, take the dog outside and again use the key word or phrase. After that, greeting and praising the happy dog is in order.
Potty training is a process and will not happen overnight. It is very important to have patience and never use physical force against an animal if they have an accident in the house. Taking the dog after eating and frequently in between those times, and lots of walks will help prevent accidents and help the pup associate ‘outside’ with potty time.