Potty Training Plan
Teaching your puppy how to reliably eliminate either outdoors, on a potty pad, or in a litter box requires that YOU understand you have two goals:
- First, you are setting your puppies body clock so you can then ...
- Teach your puppy how to control their bladder/bowel functions
When Does My Puppy Have to Potty?
There are certain times your puppy has to potty, and you don't have to ask or wonder if she needs to go outside. When it's one of the following times, just take your puppy outdoors! If you wait and your puppy has an accident inside the house or crate, it is more likely that YOU did something incorrectly, not your puppy. Watch for these times:
- When your puppy first comes out of the crate.
- When your puppy first wakes up from night or a nap.
- When your puppy has finished eating.
- When your puppy has taken a long drink of water.
- When your puppy is in the middle of playing, racing around the house doing laps. Suddenly your puppy will stop and just start eliminating. Watch your puppy and when she starts acting like this, take her outside (or to her potty pad or litter box). She will definitely eliminate when she is racing around, it's just a matter of when. Don't wait for your puppy to get into trouble, get up and get her out!
Puppy's age in months plus one!
How Often Does Your Puppy Have to Go Outdoors?
Rule of thumb is your puppy's age in months plus one. So if your dog is eight weeks old she should be able to last three hours between trips outdoors. However, during the day hours when your pup is more active and her metabolism runs faster, she may require more frequent potty breaks so please do supervise her. A healthy puppy may have a bowel movement 4 - 6 times a day. As she matures, there will be less frequent bowel movements.
Watch your puppy's body language:
- If you see her become suddenly active when just the moment before she was quiet, then you can safely assume it's because she has to eliminate. Take her outdoors!
- If you see her sniffing around the carpet, especially if she seems to be pushing her nose deeper into the carpet, it's likely she has to potty. Take her outdoors!
- If she starts to spin, turn, or squat take her outdoors because she definitely has to potty! Be observant and get to know your puppy's specific body language.
She usually communicates through her body language that she needs to eliminate. It's your job to learn how to see that body language in your puppy, and with puppies the body language is quick and subtle!
The Potty Training Process:
Take her out on a 6 - 10 foot leash to the spot you want her to eliminate, using the same path and the same potty spot. Yes, you need to take her out on leash and you need to stay with her so she learns to eliminate BEFORE getting distracted by playing. And you need to stay right by her so you can reward her where she eliminates, not back in the house.
To prevent your puppy from not eliminating outdoors, then coming in and eliminating in the house:
Take her on leash to her elimination spot, be quiet and calm, and stay there no longer than five minutes. Do NOT play with her during this five minutes, which means don't shake the leash, toss any toys, jump around to get her excited. She's learning how to eliminate in the first five minutes, so don't distract her and be sure your kids understand this! If she doesn't eliminate in the first five minutes, bring her back into the house and put her in her crate for 10 minutes, or keep her tethered to you where you can constantly see her. This is so she doesn't wander off and eliminate some place in the house.
While she is inside for this 10-minute window, do NOT play with her. Playtime happens ONLY after she has eliminated. This means do NOT pet her, give her a toy, wrestle with her or any other interaction she might think is play. She's back inside because she didn't eliminate outdoors in the first five minutes. She's in her crate or tethered to you so her body can keep working to help her eliminate while you are constantly watching her to prevent her from wandering in the house and eliminating.
Be sure to take her back outdoors in 10 minutes. Don't get lazy and leave her in the crate 60 minutes while you go do something else, because she'll then have an accident in the crate; ten minutes inside and then take her back out. Give it another five minutes outdoors and if she eliminates give her praise and a treat where she eliminated.
After she's eliminated you can have playtime with her, but not before she has finished. If she did not eliminate the second time either, then take her back inside and crate or tether again. Keep repeating this process until your puppy eliminates and you can then reward her.
Take your puppy outside on the following schedule to teach her that there is a reliable amount of time between potty breaks, which is how she learns to control her bladder because she starts to understand that you are sticking to a consistent and reliable clock … and when she succeeds she is rewarded.
- - Every 30 minutes for the first four hours she is in your home.
- - Every hour for the rest of the first day she is in your home.
- - Every hour for the first two hours of the second day.
- - Every 90 minutes for the third and fourth hours.
- - Every two hours for the balance of the second day.
- - Every two hours for the first two hours of the third day.
- - Every two and a half hours for the balance of the third day.
- - Start with two and a half hours for the first half of the day, then edge her up to the appropriate time she should be able to control her bladder for her age, such as three hours for an 8-week-old puppy.
Day Four and Beyond
- - Continue on the schedule increasing the time between outdoor visits as your puppy ages: 3 months = 4 hours, 4 months = 5 hours, 5 months = 6 hours, 6 months = 7 hours, 7 months = 8 hours, 8 months = 9 hours-plus.
TIP: Say "go potty" DURING the action.
Go Potty − Adding Your Verbal Cue
When you first start teaching the dog don't bother to say "go potty" before your puppy eliminates. She has no idea what you are saying... she doesn't understand our language or words. All she hears is you making jibber-jabber noises. You first need to associate those noises (our words) to the action in order for her to begin to understand. To teach your puppy what the words "go potty" mean, say the words DURING the action for at least one week, so she learns what you are asking her to do. Associate the words with the actions! It takes at least 60 repetitions of an exercise before your puppy starts to understand what you are asking of her. Be consistent and every time she is eliminating tell her "go potty" so you have repeated it enough times for her to learn the association.
How Will My Puppy Tell Me She Has to Go Potty
Barking or scratching at the door does not come naturally to puppies to let you know she has to go out. Help her communicate by using a bell.
Hang a bell by the door at floor level and ring it every time you take your puppy out to potty. Ring the bell and immediately open the door and take out your puppy. After a couple of days (maybe weeks depending on her personality) she will most likely become curious enough about the bell that while exploring it she bumps the bell with her nose. When she does, take her outdoors right away! She needs to learn that ringing that bell is a reliable way to communicate with you! During this learning window, if your puppy bumps the bell just out of curiosity, get that door open and take her outside, walk her to her potty spot and reward her! You need to let her know that bumping the bell works! So don't put her off until the commercial break or until you finish one more thing on the computer, you need to respond right away! You can find training bells at your local pet store or a craft store.
TIP: Do NOT yell at your puppy... she'll think you yelled at her for whatever she was doing when you yelled, not for having an accident in the house!
No Yelling Please
If you come into the room and you see a puddle or pile, do NOT yell at your puppy or rub her nose in it. It doesn't work and dog behaviorists have now learned that technique was a bad idea. If you see the puddle/pile, then make a note when it might have happened so you know the next time to get your puppy outside before this time. If you yell at your puppy, you will merely frighten her into hiding somewhere to eliminate in the house; it will NOT frighten her into stopping. What your puppy will really think is that you just yelled at her for whatever she was doing when you yelled. Guilt is not an emotion that your puppy has been given, it's one of our emotions, but not a canine emotion. Canines don't feel guilt so that body language that makes you think she knows what she did wrong, that's not guilt, it's fear. And it's fear of you! She doesn't understand you are angry because you just discovered a puddle on the floor. She doesn't understand that eliminating in the house is a bad thing because in her natural world eliminating wherever she desires is normal canine behavior. Your puppy processes her thoughts and actions different from humans because nature made your puppy that way! If your puppy starts to eliminate in front of you, scoop her up and get her outdoors, then praise and reward her when she's finished! Don't yell, it doesn't work, but it sure does damage your bond with your puppy and her trust in you.
Clean up accidents with a stain and odor remover from the pet store. These specialized cleaners are designed to neutralize the smell of the urine or poop; otherwise those odors will attract your puppy back to that spot. You can find them at your local pet store, and are safe for both your puppy and the surface you are cleaning.
Let the Crate Help You
Crates don't potty train a puppy, but they do keep your puppy confined in a safe area to ensure she doesn't eliminate in the house. Just be aware, though, that if you leave your puppy in the crate too long and she has to potty, she WILL potty. It's not necessarily accurate that a puppy will not eliminate in the crate because she doesn't want to lay in it. If she's gotta go, she's gotta go! Be sure that you take her out to potty within the limitations of her age.
Water & Food
Water should be available at all times. You cannot cut back on your puppy's water needs or you will cause internal organ damage to her.
Hang a water bottle outside the crate rather than a dish and let your puppy drink her water from the bottle when in the crate. The bottle will keep the water from spilling and make it more difficult for her to consume large quantities of water. You can remove water after 8:00 pm for a puppy, if you absolutely must, until she is potty trained. However, a healthy and well-exercised puppy will be sleeping rather than up drinking water during the night. If she is drinking large quantities of water, have her checked by your vet. At meal times and when your puppy is out of the crate, allow her easy access to water. After exercise, please let your puppy replenish herself from a water bowl rather than the water bottle.
When you feed your puppy, leave the food out for 20 minutes. If your puppy doesn't eat all of it in 20 minutes, pick up the bowl and put it away. Do NOT compensate at the next meal, though, by feeding her what she didn't finish. Feed only the normal allotment at the next meal. Your puppy will learn to eat all of her food in 20 minutes if she's given only that window of time. Don't know how much to feed your pup? Read the bag of food for instructions; ask your pet professional or your vet.
Still Having Problems?
- Keep a Journal − mark the date, time and place your pup eliminated. Add any other notable items, such as fireworks or thunderstorms when the accident happened. Or lots of children running around, heavy winds, strange odors or tension in the household. You can often pickup behavioral patterns when you see it in writing and you can then adjust your schedule.
- Food Problems − Have you been changing foods or using an array of different treats? It may be causing bowel issues. To change your dog's food follow this formula:
- 20 percent new, 80 percent old food mixture for 3 days
- 50 percent new, 50 percent old food mixture for 3 days
- 80 percent new, 20 percent old food mixture for 3 days
- Then transition to all new food
Other Helpful Things to Know
Dogs do not view their waste elimination functions as disgusting as we do. Frankly, they are interested in it and use it to find out information about other dogs. Dogs sniff where other dogs have eliminated to learn all kinds of information about the dog there before them. Recognize that your puppy doesn't think it odd to pee and poop wherever she is because to her it's perfectly normal. Your puppy was born with the instinct to potty wherever the urge hits her, either to communicate or to eliminate. She doesn't understand grass from carpet.
Many puppies have spent most of their first few weeks living and eliminating in a crate or other confined area where they live, play, sleep and eat such as a kitchen area, so for your puppy it's normal to potty in her crate and/or eliminate wherever she is without communicating to a person that she needs to go out. Your puppy has never had to communicate before, why would she think she has to communicate now or even know how to get your attention? Teach her how to use a bell!
It's a myth that dogs will not poop or pee where they live (such as in a crate). More precisely, they PREFER not to poop or pee near where they EAT, but if left too long when they have to eliminate they will do so in their crate. Dogs will urinate in a crate, lay in it, drink it and play with it. If you want to prevent that with your puppy, you must take her outdoors on a regular schedule.
How long does the potty training process take before your puppy will automatically ask to go outdoors? Well, I ask you; how long did YOU take to potty train? How long did it take you to teach your children? A couple of months, you reply? Well, then, why do you think that your puppy should learn more quickly than a human? Fortunately, for us, they do learn more quickly than humans. But if you're expecting 100 percent reliable results in days or a few weeks your expectations are out of line.
Your puppy will learn as quickly as you are calm, consistent and reliable. If YOU do not set a regular and consistent schedule for your puppy, she will not be consistent and regular in return. If you are not achieving progress with potty training, best to look at what you're doing or not doing before you start blaming your puppy.
No free feeding, or leaving the bowl out full of food all the time. You need to set a consistent feeding schedule for your puppy, or she will eat when she wants and potty when she wants. Use a consistent feeding schedule if you want to potty train your puppy, or you can get used to her pooping in your house because your inconsistency is not helping her body become consistent. Ask your pet professional or vet how often you should be feeding your puppy. At the very least it will be two times/day, and usually three times a day up to six months of age. Toy breeds require four times/day. Your pet professional or vet should tell you the specific needs of your puppy.
It's your job to help your puppy succeed in learning potty training. Remember, your puppy has a small bladder that has not become accustomed to being controlled.
Under NO circumstances do you hit or yell at your puppy for having an accident in your house. First, it's inhumane. Second, it's counter-productive, all you do is cause confusion. If your puppy eliminates in your house, hit yourself rather than the puppy, because she is eliminating due to lack of your teaching or consistency or motivation. Even older dogs from shelters have to be taught how to communicate in your house. Visiting dogs also need a way to communicate with you, and if you don't show them they will not automatically know which door to head toward.
TIP: Your puppy needs to learn potty training at YOUR home … where your doors are … where the correct area of the yard is … and how to communicate with YOU that she needs to go out. No one can do this training for you.
There Are No Short Cuts
There are no short cuts to potty train your puppy. No one else can do it for you. No one can take your puppy and potty train her away from your home. Your puppy needs to learn potty training at YOUR home … where your doors are … where the correct area of the yard is … how to communicate with you that she needs to go out. Unless someone lives with you 24 hours/day, no one else can potty train your puppy. It takes YOUR time and YOUR consistency to build this communication with your puppy. If you try to short cut the process or turn it over to someone else, you will make the problems in your home last longer.