Potty Training 101 – How to Train the Perfect Pup

Brittney Frazier, Found Chicago Boarding and Training

Puppies are adorable. I think we can all agree on that. But there is also the other side of the coin that is the dreaded potty training, which accompanies every pup into their new home. Teaching a puppy what it can use as a toilet is one of the most grueling processes a new dog owner can endure. However, with a little persistence and a LOT of patience, it doesn’t have to be!

Gone are the days of “paper training” a dog. Personally, I’m not really a fan of the term “crate training” either. I like to think of potty training as the solidification of a habit, or a manifestation of following strict regimen. When you potty train a new dog, be it an eight-week old baby or five-year-old rescue dog, you are teaching a skill that requires both relationship bonding and commitment from both parties.

Because potty training shouldn’t leave you with your hair in your hands, below are some tips of the trade from some expert puppy raisers dedicated to helping puppies with the first step into both our homes and hearts!

  • Keep a consistent routine. This is the first and more important rule of potty training a pup. Make sure you are keeping a routine that allows your new dog a potty break every two hours at the very least when roaming free in the home. Food and water should be on a schedule as well, keeping the amounts and times of day given the same each day. A dog in training should be allowed to use the bathroom 15-30 minutes after any food or water consumption, and between transitions to new activities or spaces in the home. Predictability and habituation to a regimen is the leading force when it comes to teaching good house manners.
  • Utilize the crate. Crating a dog is a powerful tool when used during the potty training phase of a dog’s life. I like to equate freedom in the home as a reward for using the bathroom outside. If I am fairly certain the puppy is “due” for a potty and should need to go, I will take the puppy out on consecutive potty breaks every 20 minutes or so until we have succeeded in eliminating. When he or she does potty, I give lots of praise and allow freedom in the house. If he or she does not, it’s back to the crate so as not to risk an accident or risk reward the puppy when it has not completed the desired behavior. In addition, the puppy should be crated anytime it is not being directly supervised and should be pottied directing before and after any crate time.

  • Teach your dog cues to help it learn to communicate. When potty training new pups, I sometimes assign a “potty buddy” or someone for the dog to associate bathroom breaks with. Pick a family member who spends the majority of time with the dog and assign them to potty breaks in the beginning. When the dog is actively eliminating outside say “go potty” to associate the words with the behavior. Soon enough, your pup will be eliminating outside on command! The more similar the environment each time your puppy is outside, the more prone the dog will be to find their “potty buddy” and ask for a bathroom break. If not one person can be assigned to the dog, teach your pup to ring “potty bells” each time it is taken outside so that the dog will learn to let you know that way.
  • Limit access to areas in the home. Your house looks very big to a small puppy. When a puppy walks from one room to another, it may think it is outside and urinate. Keep the initial access your puppy has in the home small until you have “mastered” that area with no accidents. Add a new room once every few weeks until your puppy understands that no area inside is okay to eliminate in. If your puppy has a “special” area it sneaks off to, ensure access to that area is blocked unless the puppy is being directly supervised.
  • Supervise your puppy at all times. Remember that any accident your puppy has in the house is your fault. One of the biggest mistakes I see dog owners make is trusting the puppy too early in its training. A puppy’s bladder is very small and months are required to form a solid habit that would ensure your puppy will regularly alert you when it has to go. Erring on the side of caution and keeping your puppy crated or supervised during this critical learning period is the only way to ensure your puppy doesn’t learn to potty where it shouldn’t.

Hard work in potty training will always pay off. Puppies are like sponges. Fill them with the all good habits you need throughout their lifetime and you will thank yourself later!  

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