Bringing your new puppy home is one of the most exciting things.
The early days of having a puppy has many fun moments. But it can also be filled with a lot of accidents on the floor… or the furniture… or on your lap.
Potty training your puppy can be really frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be!
The litters I’ve taken care of for people had potty trained themselves by the age of five and a half weeks. So it’s possible to successfully potty train your puppy in a short period of time.
If you break it down into two parts, it’s a piece of cake. This means you need to monitor carefully and communicate clearly with your pup.
Step 1 – Monitor Your Puppy to Avoid Accidents
Prevent accidents by monitoring your puppy whenever she’s out on the loose in your home.
- This freedom should be for short periods of time.
- You should have your eyes on your puppy at all times.
- If she leaves the room, follow her!
- Don’t wait until you hear that eerie silence that means she’s up to no good.
Your puppy’s bladder is small. She has limited ability to “hold it” … and she has no idea that it’s not okay to eliminate in your living room.
So, as a rule of thumb, only let your puppy have supervised play for 20 minutes at a time.
Then give her a potty break outside. Set a timer if you have to, but be very conscientious about this.
Timing Potty Breaks Is Everything
Monitoring also means monitoring what goes in. That means food and water, and when it’s apt to come out.
My rule is that the puppy gets a chance to go outside every time she …
- Wakes from a nap
- Has been playing
- Has been eating or drinking
These frequent trips will reduce accidents in the house.
When my new puppy Kismet was small, she could barely get that last bite of puppy food in her before I had to rush her outside. She can wait longer now … and I need to give the food time to work its way through her system.
In And Out And …
This is a puppy’s life: eat, go potty, play, go potty, sleep, go potty … and repeat.
So you’re pretty much running your little pup outside all the time to make sure she’s had a chance to relieve herself. My friend and I joke about the puppy weight loss program, because we’re constantly running the pup outside.
Another aspect of monitoring is checking how, where and when your pup eliminates outdoors.
I always follow my puppy all the way out into the yard, noting whether she poops, pees, or both … how many times and what it looks like.
An Important Rule For Potty Training Your Puppy
My rule is that the puppy doesn’t have freedom inside the house if she’s not “empty” after she’s been out. Non-empty puppies have to go back into confinement of a crate or X-pen.
If you drop the ball and your puppy has an accident on your oriental rug or bedspread, just quickly make a startling noise like hey! and scoop up the little darling, mid-potty, and rush her outside.
No spanking, no lecturing, no showing her the accident.
Accidents are your fault, not the puppy’s.
If you’re going to lay blame, or smack something with a rolled up newspaper, you’d better smack yourself. The pup doesn’t understand why you would become so violent with her over a normal bodily function. Don’t strain your relationship by making punishment part of your “training.”
Step 2 – Communication For Potty Training Your Puppy
Your pup can’t possibly mind-read to find out what you want. So you’re going to show her by communicating in a way she’ll quickly understand.
Use A Clicker For Potty Training
While you watch your pup finish up her potty detail, use a clicker, or the word “yes!” to instantly mark the event … and give her a food reward. This teaches your puppy that peeing outside is the right thing to do and builds good habits.
I also start introducing some vocabulary here.
- As I feed her treats for the desired outcome, I softly say, “good girl, good potty outside!”
- If she poops, I say, “good poop!”
You can use these phrases later to ask her to go potty for you.
Remember to wait until your puppy is finishing up to click and treat. She’ll show she’s done by starting to move off … or standing up straight after going.
RELATED: How to clicker train your dog …
Give Treats And Prizes!
Positive reinforcement worked. Eventually, she understood that going potty outside was always worth treats and prizes. Then she began looking at me as she finished, as if to say, “I get paid for this, right?”
So the clicker had done its work. I began just repeating the words good potty etc, while I fed her treats one at a time to make it meaningful.
But while your puppy is still learning, it’s very important to use a clicker. This will convey the exact moment in time that you are rewarding: completing a potty outside.
Communication For Potty Training Goes Two Ways
Once your puppy realizes that pottying indoors is NOT rewardable … and earns disdain from you, she’s going in the right direction.
But, she still doesn’t have the opposing thumbs she needs to open the door by herself! You’ll have to teach her to communicate to you when she has to go potty.
I got some of those jingle bells at the dollar store that you can hang over the doorknob. At first, my puppy was so tiny that I had to attach one of those 3M removable hooks, to hang the jingle bells down where she could reach. At three months, I moved them to the doorknob.
“I Need To Go, Mom!”
Here’s how to teach her how to “train” you to open the door for her.
- With the puppy sitting, offer a really good treat, just out of her mouth’s reach.
- If she tries to grab it, close your fist around it.
- Your puppy’s next move will probably be to try to paw at your fist.
- When she does, open your hand and give her the treat.
You are rewarding having her “smack” or wave at something.
When she gets the hang of this, and is predictably responding to the hidden treat with a paw swipe, I name it smack.
Then, you can start holding up the bells to try to get the same response.
Kismet caught on to the bells super fast. Being a Boston Terrier, she uses her “hands” readily, so it went quickly.
As soon as she got the behavior, I hung the bells on the door and asked her to ring them each time we went out. Even if she’d already whined or barked in her X-pen to tell me.
Life Is Full Of Rewards For Your Puppy
Opening the door for her when she rings is a life reward that will reinforce the bell-ringing behavior … because she wants to go outside. It goes pretty quickly, once your puppy learns she can control the door.
Within two days, Kismet’s potty training made remarkable improvement. She would stop in mid-play and run to the door to let me know she had to go potty.
I’ve used clicker training for about 40 years to help with potty training, and I’ve also used bells on the door for many years. My dogs can let me know they need to go out, if I’m in the office on the computer.
This was the first time I’ve incorporated the bells at such an early age … and it helped the potty training immensely.
When I get back to my summer home, I’ll have to rehearse this with her again. She’s never been in that house. So she doesn’t know which doors she can teach me to open for her … using her open sesame bells!
With these two parts – monitoring and communication (and some patience), you will be well on your way to a perfectly potty-trained puppy in no time!