The do’s and don’ts of puppy potty training are all about planning ahead, staying on schedule and keeping your cool.
It can seem overwhelming when you’ve not done it before, but actually this stage of puppyhood is pretty straightforward once you’ve got your head around it.
So let’s start with a simple list. The top do’s and don’ts of puppy potty training.
Then we’ll delve into more detail with each one, to see exactly why they’ve made the cut!
DO’s of Puppy Potty Training
- Have a schedule
- Stick to your schedule
- Watch your puppy
- Have a pee spot
- Clean up mistakes immediately
- Get the right tools for the job
- Crate train
- Stay calm
DON’TS of Puppy Potty Training
- Punish your puppy for mistakes
- Rub their nose in it!
- Leave them unsupervised
- Put them on the floor indoors if they failed to pee in the yard
- Give them the run of the house
- Let other people interfere with your plans
- Compare your puppy’s progress with others
DO Have a schedule
Puppies change quickly, but it still pays to know what their general routine is at each stage.
When your puppy arrives home at 8 weeks old their schedule will be jam packed, and make up most of your day.
It’s even more important to know exactly where they should be and what they should be doing if you normally work away from the house.
Simple generally works best and is easiest to follow.
Between the hours of 6am and 11pm you’ll want to let your puppy out every two hours at a maximum, and again after each of their four meals.
DO Stick to your schedule
Once you’ve got your schedule arranged, fight hard to stick to it.
Life, work and family will all try to foil you, but the closer you can keep to your puppy’s routine the better your chances will be of succeeding soon.
I like to write out the timings on paper and stick it to the fridge.
That way everyone in the family knows what to expect, and are more inclined to get on board!
DO Watch your puppy
When your puppy is having time on the floor indoors, then you need to be watching them.
Although many puppies can go two hours between pees at this point, some will want to go again after just twenty minutes.
If they start sniffing in one spot, backing up, wiggling their cute little butt or squatting, scoop them up and pop them in their pee spot in the backyard.
DO Have a pee spot
This is an area in the backyard where you want their pees and poops to go.
Ideally it will be enclosed and on the surface you want your puppy to associate with doing their business.
So if when they are older you’ll want them to pee on a lawn, then make sure the pee spot is grassed.
If you are hoping they’ll pee on the patio, then make the pee spot here.
DO Clean up mistakes immediately
You aren’t going to catch every pee or poop your puppy does in those early weeks. Even with the best planning in the world.
So when they go in the house, you’ll want to clear it up straight away.
Get a good pet safe detergent, which will destroy the odor of the waste.
Clearing up straight away will discourage your pup from using the same spot for repeated toilet trips!
DO Get the right tools for the job
As well as a good cleaning kit, you’ll need some puppy barriers too!
My essentials for puppy potty training include:
- Baby gates (enough for each door to the puppy’s main room)
- Puppy crate (big enough for the pup to stand up and turn around, no bigger)
- Indoor puppy play pen (to go around the crate for when you can’t supervise them for a time)
Outdoor puppy play pen (to help establish the pee area!)
DO Crate train
For the easiest path to potty training success, do invest in a dog crate and use it carefully and sparingly.
This isn’t a cage for storing your dog in during the day. It’s a snug, well-fitted, cosy den where they can rest their head.
And because it’s relatively small, they won’t want to pee when they are in there.
You’ll start by closing the door just for seconds at a time, and slowly build this up.
Make sure to associate it with lovely things, like surprise piles of kibble and puppy safe toys.
You can find more detailed instructions for doing this in our online Puppy Parenting course here.
DO Stay calm
Bringing home a new puppy is stressful for many of us. They turn our lives upside down temporarily.
Remember, it’s okay to feel annoyed or fed up. But when you do, don’t let it overwhelm you.
I try to go into a different room, take a (lot of) deep breath(s), drink a vat of coffee.
Anything to make you feel a bit more centered again.
It’s such a short period of time, and you can do it!
Do’s and Don’ts of Puppy Potty Training…!
The do’s and don’ts of puppy potty training would of course not be complete without the don’ts…
DON’T Punish your puppy for mistakes
Punishing a puppy for peeing or pooping won’t make them less likely to go to the bathroom indoors.
What it will make them less likely to do, is get caught.
Puppies that have been punished for their mistakes form an association between you and the act. Not the location and the act.
So next time they need to pee or poop, they’ll nip out of your eye line. To make sure you don’t see them doing it.
It will also impact upon your bond between them, and decrease their enthusiasm to try different things to please you. Which is fundamental to succeeding with positive reinforcement training.
DON’T Rub their nose in it!
It’s something I’ve only ever seen people do on television, but it comes up a lot as a question from our readers.
Rubbing a puppy’s nose in their mess will not make them associate the location and your anger. It will just make them sad and confused.
DON’T Leave them unsupervised loose in the house
Whenever your pup is playing on the floor, or having a scout about, you need to be keeping a bit of an eye.
If you work from home, bring your laptop into whichever room is their main puppy zone and work from the table.
Puppies get into trouble when they aren’t watched, and you won’t be able to pre-empt those signs of a filling bladder if you aren’t keeping a close eye.
Don’t worry, this period of extreme vigilance won’t last for long!
DON’T Leave them alone to pee
Because the chances are, if you do, they won’t!
Your puppy is hard wired to want to be together.
If you want her to pee in her designated spot, rain or shine, you need to join her to get it established.
DON’T Put them on the floor indoors if they failed to pee in the yard
This is an important one.
If your puppy is scheduled for a pee, but they don’t go, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to…
With the best will, and pee place attendance, in the world, your pup will sometimes hold it in.
This might be because they want to pee indoors in the warm, or it could be some other random and inexplicable reason.
Your job is to help them understand that there is only one place that pee is coming out.
And you can do that by holding them on your lap for the next 15 minutes, or popping them in their crate, before trying again.
You’ll need to repeat this until the pee finally emerges!
If you have to go through this several times in a day it might be time to adjust their pee schedule to allow for bigger gaps between them.
DON’T Let other people interfere with your plans
If you’ve ever been a puppy (or human!) parent before, you’ll be very familiar with this one.
But it can take new puppy parents by surprise.
People will try to say “oh just stay a little longer, your puppy will be fine”. They will try to play with the pup on the floor indoors during a pee break.
They will mess with your system!
You need to have some firm lines ready to reel off when this happens.
“Sorry to be a party pooper, but I’m leaving now”
“We don’t want her over excited, so the game is ending now”.
Give your lines with a cheery grin, but immediately set that in motion by acting on what you are saying.
Remember, you are the boss and the person who will help this process go as smoothly as possible.
Sadly, smoothly doesn’t necessarily mean quickly.
There are quick methods that some people tout, but these usually involve short cuts that come back to bite them later.
For example, leaving the backdoor open so the puppy always has access to the yard.
This gives the illusion that potty training is complete really quickly, but then the weather turns…
DON’T Compare your puppy to others
So, your friend’s puppy is a week younger and can go without peeing for four hours?
Good for them!
Your puppy however doesn’t conform to the same schedule.
Just because someone else has had some success at the same or an earlier stage, doesn’t mean you and your puppy are failing.
Puppies’ bladders are all different, and they take their own time. In a single litter each sibling won’t crack potty training on the same day, even with the exact same management.
And remember, smaller breeds have tiny bladders and potty training will often take longer in these cases.
In fact, I’d also take brags like this with a pinch of salt.
The do’s and don’ts of puppy potty training are a nice way to summarise this detailed process.
And one of the most important ones is this. Don’t worry.
Puppies are stressful, and potty training is important, but you’ve got this.
If you use your head, stay calm and follow your plan, you’ll both get there soon enough.
You can find more detailed help and information regarding potty training on our online Puppy Parenting course.
And get access to our private, members only forum. We can’t wait to meet you there!
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