It's not easy, but it's well worth the effort!
Having a dog in
your home can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, aside from
the birth of children/grandchildren and major human milestones. :-) But it
does take some effort to completely potty train a new puppy, and it's all up to
you as a new puppy buyer because puppies aren't developmentally ready to house
break until right about the time they are ready to leave their littermates to
join your home.
A lot of research has been done in recent years, and the days of
the rolled up newspapers are behind us. Today, we look to prevent accidents
rather than punish for accidents.
To me, some big factors that affect potty training are:
How much time the new family spends with the puppy diligently in
the first few weeks after getting him/her
Being "effective" in HOW you potty train: regardless of the
method used, being consistent and constant in applying the techniques
The living arrangements the puppy was in from age 5 to 8 weeks
(or while at the breeder). If raised
indoors from birth until leaving littermates, the puppy learns to potty
inside their house/den. If raised indoors with free access to outdoors,
the puppies tend to understand that pottying inside is not necessary or good at
an earlier age. This is why we raise our puppies with a doggie door allowing
them to go outside as soon as the figure out how to operate it.
Tips for New Puppy Owners:
I really do support crate training
while potty training, because it teaches the puppy that there is a procedure for
pottying, and that after pottying, he/she gets to come back inside and play
loose. But it does require strength on the part of the family, because the puppy
will cry while in the crate/kennel until she learns that she is going to be in
for a predictable amount of time. She'll learn that she gets to come out, and
after she potties, she will be with the family to play and snuggle.
A big key seems to be the timing. She should not potty inside her crate/kennel
(usually not larger than about 2' wide and 3 or 4' deep) because she won't want
to soil her own living area. Each time she is fed, she will "probably" need to
potty within 10 to 20 minutes. So some people feed/water in the kennel, and then
let the puppy out about 10 minutes later while watching carefully. As soon as
she puts her nose to the ground, it's possibly time to pick her up quickly. Set
her down by the door and ask if she wants to go outside. Some people even put the
puppy's paw on the door and help her learn to tap the door. I've also heard of
putting a bell at the door, and teach her to ring the bell by tapping it with
Then pick her up and go out. If on a leash, go to the same place
in the yard each time so she can smell previous jobs. If she has gone in the
house, carry the solids to that place in the yard, too. All potty should be in
one place to help give her the scent cue. Stay until she potties, and praise her
when she's done with both jobs (but not during). Then, she gets to come back
One person that has a puppy from us tried something very unique. She cut sod
from a yard, and bought a kitty litter pan to put it in, which went inside her
crate. The puppy seemed to choose on her own to potty in the pan on the grass,
rather than on the blanket or carpet piece that was in the crate/kennel. She did
make messes digging a couple times, so it probably was messy at first. But it
didn't sound like that happened often. Within a couple weeks, she was also
trained to go to the door and went in the grass.
I think that if you try the crate training, you'll have much faster and better
luck with the potty training because it helps you to not have to be watching
every minute of the day. Most dogs don't mind it at all after a few days, and
some are actually more confident and happy, because the crate is their safe
haven and their own "personal space."
Living Arrangements at the Breeder's Home:
We have had puppies leave us that have been going to the door and whining or
ringing a bell within 3 days of leaving for their new homes. That is not the
norm, but it does indicate what can be done if the new owners have the time to
I think an important part of potty training in the early days depends
upon how the puppies were raised. Many people raise puppies in a small area with
papers on the floor, and the puppies learn to poo/pee in the same place that
That is not how we raise our puppies. We have an eating/sleeping kennel, with a doggie door to an
outside area. "Most" of our puppies are going outside to potty 100% of the time
before they are 7 weeks old, so they already have a desire to stay clean.
If you buy from a pet store or a breeder that doesn't have an indoor-outdoor
free-will setup like we do, I think you'll have a harder time potty training
than with someone that has set up a puppy area like we have, where puppies learn
to go outside to potty instead of doing so in their eating/sleeping area.
I could write a long article (or a short and to-the-point one)
about potty training, but why reinvent the wheel? There are some fantastic
references online that have already done a thorough job.
If you know of another superb link to add that would help puppy
owners, please let us know so we can add it here.
Because potty training and general obedience training benefit
each other, the links below cover more than just house training.
Potty Training (Housetraining)
The potty training is the toughest thing for me, also. So much of it is
"timing," so we start by taking the puppy outside as soon as he/she wakes up
from a nap, and also within 20 minutes of eating if he hasn't shown signs of
wanting to go after eating.
We can usually tell if a puppy has to (I guess I have to say this
word...unavoidable, LOL!) poop. ;-) When they need to go, their bottom/anus
will be puffing out a little bit. If it isn't puffing out, "usually," they
aren't close enough to needing to potty to be able to get them to go at this
age. You'll quickly learn to recognize that physical sign, and also his
signs of looking for a place to go.
We like to take them to the door, set them on the floor, and either tap
their paw on the door or ring a bell (hanging from a string or a bell that
is suctioned to the floor) before proceeding outside. This teaches them that
they need to "give a sign" at the door to signify that they need to go
outside. If we pick them up and carry outside, without stopping and asking
them to make a sign, it may take longer to get them to give you a sign.
When I'm outside with a puppy that I want to go potty, I stand completely
still (unless that doesn't work after a week or two, and then I might try
slow walking). Sometimes, the puppies will come to me and want me to pick
them up, but I ignore them. If I walk around, they seem more interested in
moving with me and not looking for a place to go. I also stand in the same
place every time, so they go potty in the same area every time. Each time
they go outside, they can smell their previous potties there, which I think
also helps them prepare to go. When we play outside, I go to a different
place (away from the potty area) to play for both cleanliness reasons and
also to keep play and potty separate. Many people/trainers even suggest
taking soiled paper towels (pee) and stools from indoor accidents outside
and placing them at the potty location in the yard.
With that said, I also have to acknowledge that young puppies often go
outside, don't go potty, and then return to the house and potty within a few
minutes. Or, they will pee outside a little, go back to the house, and
within a couple minutes will pee more (this often happens if we praise them
before they are finished pottying, which interrupts them so they still have
more urine to expel...it's best to not praise them or move until they are
totally finished). It is normal, because sometimes they really don't have to
go to the bathroom when we take them out. As they learn the potty training
process, they learn to "try" when they go outside, but it's too early for
Pottying in the crate isn't unusual at first, as puppies can't "hold it" for
very long. But, having a too-large crate does give the puppy the idea that
he can use part of the crate for a bathroom, and part for sleeping. So,
blocking off part of the crate so it is just large enough for the bed may be
a good idea until the puppy is potty trained. If a puppy continually pees in
the crate, a drastic measure might need to be taken: leave the wet towel in
the crate and don't use a bed. Quickly, the puppy will discover that you are
no longer refreshing the bed, and he will try to hold it to avoid having to
live in his potty.
Training (and Grooming)