Whether you want your new puppy to use a potty pad indoors or go outside on the grass, he must learn the difference between the surface you want him to use and any other surface or location. We do this by simply controlling his choices and rewarding the ones we like. Start this process the moment you bring him home!
What does potty training look like?
Reinforce the behavior you want.
- Every time the pup urinates or defecates in the right place, he gets a treat.
- Give the treat so the pup relates it directly to the act of peeing or pooping.
- Timing: give the treat just as the puppy is finishing up his potty business; just as he is raising his body back up from peeing or pooping.
- Location: Have the pup on a leash so that you’re right next to him, ready to pop the treat in his mouth, whether he using grass outside or a potty pad. Yes, a leash in the house! You have to control where the pup uses the bathroom. If he’s not on a leash, you may get him to the potty pad but he can move off of it to actually do his business. Then he’s learning to potty where you don’t want him to!
- Don’t add any other behaviors to the housetraining process. Don’t ask your puppy to sit or come to you; he gets the treat simply for doing his potty business where you want him to, and immediately as he’s finishing the process.
- Reinforcing a puppy’s behavior of peeing/pooping in the right place is how you get an adult dog who “asks” you to let him outside when he needs to go!
Prevent the behavior you don’t want.
- Whenever your puppy is with you, she needs to be on a leash – yes, in the house. When you can’t watch her closely, she needs to be in a crate or kennel.
- Leash: When you’re home with her, keep your new pup on a leash and with you at all times. If she’s with you and your eyes are on her, she won’t have a chance to wander off to explore the house. You will notice the signs of her needing to eliminate before she pees or poops on the carpet. You can drop the leash and let it drag, but let it be a reminder to watch her closely to prevent poor potty choices!
- Crate or Kennel: When you’re not home, put your pup in his crate or kennel, having already worked to create an association for him that the crate is a pleasant resting place. Make sure he’s peed and pooped before you leave and don’t ask him to stay in there without relieving himself for too long. As a rule of thumb, 8 week old puppies can physically “hold it” for about 3 hours. By the age of 3 months, they can physically wait up to 4 hours. That’s long enough for any puppy to wait to potty, and remember, you have to help your puppy develop that skill to stretch the time he’ll wait.
- Potty Schedule: Take your new pup to the assigned potty area (outside or potty pad) every hour when you first arrive home with her. This routine will help you become accustomed to when and how often she needs to go. You’ll also start to recognize what her behavior looks like when she needs to go. As you progress with housetraining, you can adjust the schedule to her needs. Together, you and the puppy will establish a schedule. You’ll probably want to take her out as soon as she wakes up in the morning or after a nap, pretty soon after eating, and after a few minutes of playing, for sure.
- Feeding: Feed your pup on a schedule according to his age. This will make it easy to organize a potty schedule, too. Puppies up to the age of 4 to 6 months of age usually need to eat 3 times a day. After that, they can move to a twice-a-day feeding schedule.
- Water: Do not limit your puppy’s water availability for the purpose of housetraining, except that you don’t need to leave water available for him while he’s asleep at night. You can’t be sure when he’ll be thirsty, so he needs to have water available all day.
It’s really that simple!
You do have to make an effort. Your puppy probably doesn’t care much where he pees or poops, but you do! So you have to do the work of prevention and reinforcement to make it happen the way you want.
The reinforcement (treats) after the puppy pees or poops where you want him to is what really does the training. Everything else is so you can get that behavior to happen correctly so you can reinforce it.