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Bringing a new puppy home is an exciting time for both the puppy and the parent. But if you're not prepared for puppy potty training, that excitement could quickly turn to stress. Much like baby humans, young puppies have a lot to learn during their first months in the world. One of their biggest learning curves is figuring out how to appropriately relieve themselves when nature calls. Nobody enjoys waking up to a soiled carpet, but until your puppy gets the hang of potty training, you can expect to deal with a slight mess every now and then.
Luckily, there are plenty of puppy potty training tips out there to help make the process easier for both you and your pup. Just remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution or a quick fix when it comes to potty training a puppy. Every dog is different and will learn at a different pace. With this in mind, the most important thing you can do is stay patient and trust in the process. Even if it takes a while, your pup will get there.
Most puppies can start potty training at around 12 to 16 weeks old. However, some puppies may be ready earlier or later than this. You can consult with your veterinarian if you're not sure whether it's time to start training.
If a puppy is older than 16 weeks and spent its early life going potty inside a cage, then it may take longer before you see any progress with potty training. However, that doesn't mean it's too late. Old dogs can still learn new tricks!
Training older dogs may take longer because they must unlearn certain behaviors before they can learn the new ones. Practice patience and remember that punishment isn’t the answer. It only stresses the dog and doesn't do anything to speed up the potty training process.
Now that you know a bit more about when and how to start potty training your pup, let’s move onto some tips. By following these basic guidelines, you'll be well on your way to potty training success. Here are five of our best tips below.
One of the best ways to potty train a puppy is to create a routine and stick to it. This means taking your pup outside to empty their bladder at the same time every day. If you can't take your pup outside for any reason, give them a designated potty area in your home with a pee pad or some other absorbent material such as an artificial grass mat. And be sure to praise your pup when they go potty in this spot — even if it's not outside.
There is no perfect schedule for potty training puppies, as every dog will learn at a different pace. However, a good rule of thumb is to take your pup outside first thing in the morning, after each meal, and before going to bed at night.
A small puppy may need to go outside more frequently because of their smaller bladder. Younger puppies also have less capacity to hold urine. Generally, they can hold urine for a number of hours corresponding with their age in months while they’re young. So, if they are six months old, they can be expected to hold urine for no more than six hours. To combat this, some pup parents take their puppies out every hour, on the dot.
Another way to make potty training your pup easier is to control their water intake and meal timings. This means sticking to a schedule and coordinating that schedule with their trips outdoors.
For example, once your puppy has eaten a meal, you can expect them to need to go just 15 minutes after eating. That means every time you feed your pup, be prepared to take them outdoors. As for water, the same rule applies. If you keep this in mind and remember to allow them to eliminate each time they eat or drink, you’re more likely to avoid unnecessary potty-training accidents in the home.
When it comes to bedtime, your puppy may not be able to hold its urine for as long as an adult dog. A puppy’s bladder does not fully mature before four to six months of age, so younger puppies cannot be expected to hold for very long. For this reason, always remember to take them outside to empty their bladder right before bed.
Wouldn't it be nice if your dog could simply tell you when they want to go? Well, here's an easy way to let them do it. Place a bell near your front door at dog level and start training your dog to use it every time they need to do their business outside. This will give you a heads up, allowing you time to take them outside before an accident happens.
To start training your pup, draw their attention to the bell. Use a gesture to indicate that you want them to touch the bell. Studies have shown that dogs respond more readily to gestures than to human speech, so this is the best way to train and communicate with your dog.
Once they ring the bell, make a big fuss, give them a rewarding treat, and open the door for them. The next step is the most important part: the moment they do their business outside, you need to make a big celebration out of it again. Reward them with another treat and make sure they feel like they’ve done something amazing. Over time, this will train them to only ring the bell when nature calls.
With very young pups, you should pre-empt their need to go to the toilet by frequently taking them outside and encouraging them to go.
However, as your doggy gets a bit older, they'll start to show you some warning signs before they need to let it out. Learning to read your pup's body language and recognizing the signs that an accident is imminent will make potty training much less frustrating.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you must remain incredibly attentive to your dog's whereabouts. If you see them start to wander off or go into a corner, chances are they need to go potty. Other signals to watch for include sniffing the ground, squatting, circling around, and restlessness. If you see your dog exhibiting any of these behaviors, take them outside immediately.
Although historically it was common for dog parents to train puppies using negative reinforcement, it has been shown that punishing your dog can increase their risk of displaying undesirable behaviors. Positive reinforcement is far more effective (and kinder). By rewarding your dog each time they eliminate correctly, you strengthen the positive association between going to the toilet in the right place and receiving a reward. A simple way to do this is to give your pup a treat after they pee or poop outside. You could also give them verbal praise, pet them, or let them play with one of their favorite toys. Anything to make them feel happy and appreciated will work.
Keep a selection of treats handy so that you can reward them whenever needed. It’s very important that you provide an immediate reward. Research has shown that any delay to reward can negatively impact dog behavioral training. You may be concerned that by using treat rewards every time they go to the toilet, you'll be stuck doing it forever, but this won't be the case. Once they’ve learned to reliably follow your potty training rules and they stop soiling indoors or in inappropriate places, you can begin weaning them off the treats.
Start by handing out the treats inconsistently, so your dog can't predict whether they’ll receive one or not. Continue heaping on the praise as a replacement for the treats, but over time you can tone this down as well. Eventually, doing their business outside will become second nature and they’ll forget their expectations of receiving a treat every time.
There are a few potty training products on the market that can make the process a little easier. If you're struggling to get your pup to go outside, you might want to consider investing in some of these items.
Potty bells are a training tool that can help your pup learn to potty outside. The bell is hung near the door so that when the dog needs to go, they can easily signal for you to let them out.
Some dog owners fall into the trap of unwittingly rewarding negative behavior such as barking and scratching at the door. If a dog realizes that you will open the door every time they bark or scratch at it, then you will reinforce that unwanted behavior every time you let them out. The benefit of using the bell is that it provides your dog with a preferable way to communicate, and it's also easy to identify what they want because they’re not just indiscriminately barking.
Here are some of the best potty bells on the market:
Many pup parents use artificial grass mats in their homes for the times they’re unable to take their dogs outside. If you don't have a backyard or live in a climate that gets very cold in winter, grass mats provide an absorbable (and clean) place you can designate in your home for your dog to urinate. They are also useful for small pups that can't hold their urine for long periods overnight.
The benefit of a grass mat is that it still teaches your pup to only go on grass, while also confining all the mess to one part of your house. It helps you avoid the unpleasant situation of waking up to a soiled carpet.
To get your pup to start using an artificial grass mat, you need to get back to puppy potty training basics. That means taking your pup to the grass mat frequently and encouraging them to use it as their very own throne. If they successfully use it, reward them immediately.
Here are some great artificial grass mats that you can buy online:
Once your pup is potty trained and ready for a groom, schedule an appointment with the Barkbus team today!