For the Humans:

Manage expectations.

You’re an adult. He’s a puppy. It’s easy to get upset when you find the latest surprise, but think of him as you would a potty-training toddler — there are bound to be a few accidents.

Also, consider your dog’s breed, size, and age. Small breeds have small bladders, so they just need to go more often. And very young dogs, especially ones weaned early, simply might not be ready.

Prepare for accidents.

If you are surprised by a squish, the common reaction is anger (and general gross-out). Puppies can sense your emotions, though, and your negative reaction to his natural behavior will confuse him. If he associates your anger with whatwhat he did rather than where he did it, he might try to hide it better in the future rather than learn to go outside.

Clean accidents quickly and thoroughly.

If smells linger, he’ll be attracted back to the same spot. And do NOT clean up with ammonia-based cleaners. Ammonia smells like urine to him, and it might inspire your puppy to mark his territory against the “intruder.”

Make it a family affair.

Everyone in your family should participate in the training so your puppy learns to go for everyone. If you have a neighbor or petsitter or anyone else who’s likely to have a lot of contact with him, include them in the training, too.

For the Canine:

Focus on the positives.

Reward him with a treat after he potties outside, and ignore the inside accidents. The only time to focus on the incorrect behavior: when you catch him while he’s doing it. Startle him enough to stop (do not scare him), move him quickly outside, and praise him when he goes in the right spot.

Set a schedule.

Remember: what goes in, must come out! Structure his time for pottying AND for eating and drinking, and be sure to connect the two. And it might seem like common sense, but many people forget it’s not wise to feed him or let him drink within the last couple hours before bedtime.

Take him out OFTEN.

Take him out first thing in the morning (BEFORE you get your coffee), after he eats and drinks, and every 1-2 hours when he’s first home (yes, even at night). As he gets a little older and able to hold it longer, you can extend the time between trips outside, but never stretch it longer than his little bladder can handle. Hint: it’s smaller than yours.

Focus when you’re outside.

Potty time is not play time. While you’re training him, take him out, wait for him to do his business, reward him, and take him back in. Of course this doesn’t mean he can’t potty while he’s out to play…he probably will. But intentional house-training time needs to be intentional.

Teach him to use one spot.

Preferably not right next to your prized azalea. Take him to the right spot every time and reward him when he goes there. If necessary to have an indoor spot (if you have to be away longer than he can hold it, and you can’t arrange outdoor breaks for him), you can litter or pad train him, too.

Teach him a signal.

Many people have had success with hanging a bell or a baby’s rattle near the door. Ring the bell every time as you’re going out to potty, and gradually teach your dog to tap the bell with his paw each time he goes out.

Contain him. 

If you’re containing him for short periods of time where he should physically be able to hold it, keep him in a very small area, such as a crate. It should be just big enough for him to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down, but not big enough for him to soil an area and get away from it. If you need to leave him longer than he can hold it, put him in a larger area with easy to clean floors*. Use a litter pan or absorbent puppy pads to show him where it’s OK to go.

*Side note: If you use the laundry room, put absorbant pads in front of the washer and dryer so when he pees it doesn’t run under the machines! If you put him in a space with ceramic tile, make sure you seal your grout!!! The goal here is to make cleanup super-easy and less stressful.

And a bonus tip:

In the end, remember consistency is more important than any special tricks. If you always make sure your new puppy has opportunities to go outside and he knows it makes you happy, he’ll learn quickly and work hard to please you!

Tags: Training and Behavior

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