Learn How To Potty Train A Puppy - Tips For Puppy Parents In 2023
Alice Barker BVSc MRCVS
So, you’ve brought home your brand-new puppy and everything is cute and exciting! However maybe not so much the constant cleaning up of accidents in the house. This is something to get used to while you’re starting but be reassured that you will eventually get there with puppy potty training.
Remember that the key to potty training is lots of positive reinforcement and patience. Keep reading to find out how to potty train a puppy!
At What Age Can You Potty Train a Puppy?
You can start to potty train a puppy as soon as you bring them home. This is generally from 8 weeks old onwards. Additionally, if you have an older puppy, it is never too late to start to potty train them so do not be disheartened.
It is often the case that younger puppies may take a little longer to train fully than older puppies, however, this is usually because they are less mature and also have smaller bladders. An 8-week-old puppy is more likely to accidentally urinate inside as they can’t control their bladder for as long as older puppies.
This is generally from 8 weeks old onwards. Additionally, if you have an older puppy, it is never too late to start to potty train them so do not be disheartened.
How Long Can It Take?
It depends! Some puppies get the hang of it within days to weeks, whereas others can take several months. All puppies are individuals and differ from each other so do not panic if yours is taking longer than other peoples’. Stay patient and consistent, and it will come.
The Use of Crates and Puppy Pads
Crates and puppy pads are some of the most common and effective potty-training tools for puppies.
Crates are fantastic for creating a safe space for your puppy to rest and eat. Draping a blanket over a crate and making a comfy bed inside with their favorite toys or blankets can create a lovely den for your puppy.
The principle behind crate training is that dogs do not like to spoil in a space they like to sleep and eat. Therefore, when your puppy has naptime and you put them in the crate, we encourage them to hold in their bladder. If they vocalize or scratch at the gate to be let out and allowed to go to the toilet outside, give them lots of praise!
Puppy pads work in a slightly different way. Although some people opt not to use puppy pads, as it does technically allow the puppy to go to the toilet indoors, rather than the optimal outdoors and can confuse puppies. It does let you train a dog to go in specific spots in the house when you might be out at work all day with no time to let them out or live in a high-rise apartment block.
If you want to use puppy pads, cover most of the floor where your puppy hangs out with the pads. Gradually reduce the surface area of floor covered in the pads. When you see your puppy going to the pads to toilet – give them lots of praise! Bit-by-bit take away the number of pads until you have one just covering the area it’s acceptable to toilet in.
Puppy pads work in a slightly different way. Although some people opt not to use puppy pads, as it does technically allow the puppy to go to the toilet indoors, rather than the optimal outdoors and can confuse puppies.
Making a schedule
If you know when to expect your puppy to want to go to the toilet, then you can pre-empt their sudden needs and get them outside ready for lots of praise. Puppies under 12 weeks of age need to be taken out especially frequently – aim for every 1-2 hours. Frequent visits outside are a crucial step in how to potty train a puppy.
However, certain activities will make your puppy need to go to the toilet, so make sure you take them outside immediately after. These are the moments through the day when you can expect your puppy to need to go:
- First thing in the morning
- After a meal
- After playing
- After a nap
- After lunch
- After drinking
- When very excited e.g., meeting a new person or dog
- Last thing at night
What to do when they toilet outside
If all has gone to plan, you carry your puppy outside as soon as they’ve finished their breakfast, and after 5-10 minutes they do a wee, make sure to give them lots of positive reinforcement!
It can sometimes be tempting to reward them while they toilet but wait until they are finished to avoid distracting them and making them stop. In addition, don’t wait too long after the event either, to make sure they definitely associate the reward with going to the bathroom outside.
How to recognize Your Puppy Needs the Toilet
When you take your puppy outside to use the bathroom, try to notice the sort of behaviors they do just before they are about to go. They might sniff, make circles, or raise their tail. If you see them start to carry out one of these behaviors inside, you can quickly carry them outside to toilet in the desired location.
As your puppy learns that they need to potty outside, they might whine or scratch to be let out. If they do this, praise them and take them outside. Follow any toileting with more rewards and praise.
Positive vs Negative Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is giving praise for behaviors that you want your dog to perform. This can be done by verbal praise, pets, toys, or treats. This is the most effective way of potty training a puppy.
Negative reinforcement is when you give punishment for unwanted behavior. This is a very outdated way of training puppies and is very ineffective. Although it is sometimes tempting, shouting at your puppy or pushing their face in their excrement, does not 'teach them a lesson’. Instead, it just tells them to fear you, or fear going to the toilet in front of you. This can lead to them avoiding toileting in front of you outside in the garden where you want them to or hiding to go to the bathroom inside.
Can I Add Voice Commands to Potty Training?
While your puppy is toileting outside, you can encourage them to associate the act with a voice command. People may want to train their dogs to pee on command if they can only let them out quickly or need to take them out to toilet in places the dog is not accustomed to.
While they are going to the bathroom, say your command word at the same time clearly and loudly. Repeat this every time for a few weeks, before starting to say the word just before you think they are about to go to the toilet. Once again, give them lots of positive reinforcement when they do go to the toilet after the command word.
Potty training can seem like a never-ending battle sometimes but be patient and remember your puppy will make mistakes sometimes early on, but as long as you positively reinforce good toileting behavior every time – you will get there in the end!