Whether you’re bringing home an 8 week old puppy or an adult rescue dog, plan on spending some time teaching your dog to go potty outside!
When should you start house training and how should you do it?
During the first stages of potty training, your dog should ALWAYS be within your immediate supervision and control – on a leash with you, behind a barrier that prevents her from leaving you, or in a crate if you don’t have time to watch her every move.
Constant supervision helps you do the following things:
- prevent accidents in the house
- learn your pup’s potty cues (sniffing, circling, quiet, etc.)
- be present to take her outside and reward her for a job well done!
Reinforcing the Potty Outside Behavior
Take your pup outside after any of the following events:
- When she wakes up (in the morning and after naps)
- After eating/drinking
- After a little bit of playtime
- When she gets excited (aka visitors!)
- When you get home from work/school/errands
- Before bed
When you take your pup outside, do so calmly and quietly. Try not to distract the puppy – most dogs will happily choose distractions and play over doing their business. Give your pup a few minutes to sniff around and find a good spot to eliminate. Sometimes dogs need to move around a bit to get their bowels moving. When your pup is done eliminating, use a happy voice to praise your pup and give her a yummy treat for a job well done.
Make sure you stay outside for a few minutes after your puppy has gone to the bathroom – you can play, or run around, or cuddle. The important thing is for your puppy to enjoy the outdoors after they’ve gone potty. This encourages your pup to go potty quickly once outside – they know they’ve got to get that out of the way before the fun stuff happens! This also helps prevent your dog from deciding to hold it as long as possible to extend their outdoor time (if they start making the association that elimination leads to going back inside).
Once your puppy is reliably going to the bathroom outside, you can start adding a verbal cue like “go potty” or “get busy” right before your puppy gets to the potty spot.
If your pup doesn’t go to the bathroom after one of these events and you’ve spent a few minutes outside, bring her back inside and keep her with you or put her in her crate. After about 15 minutes, take her out again.
NEVER scold your pup for an indoor accident – this can cause your pup to become fearful of you in general, or encourage the pup to get creative with hiding her accidents so she doesn’t get scolded again. A puddle in the kitchen is far easier to clean up than one hidden in the back of your closet!
If you catch your puppy in the middle of an accident, quickly interrupt the behavior by picking up your puppy and taking them outside to let them finish.
Make sure you clean up any accidents with a urine specific cleaner – ask us for recommendations!
- Leaving food out, aka free feeding, is a big no-no during housetraining! This gives your puppy the opportunity to eat even when you aren’t around – preventing you from being aware that your pup has eaten and setting up the scene for an accident. Your puppy will eliminate when the need arises, whether you’re taking her outside or not.
- Make sure you follow these rules even if you take your puppy out in the neighborhood or to a friends’ house – CONSISTENCY IS KEY!
- Keeping a record of all elimination events will help you know when your puppy is most likely to go, which can help you watch your puppy better and learn those potty cues! This will also be helpful as you start to stretch the time in between potty breaks – each dog will develop bladder control at their own speed so it’s important to figure out what is appropriate for your pup specifically.
- If your pup starts suddenly starts going backward in housetraining skills, a vet check is recommended. Sudden changes can signal a medical issue like a urinary tract infection.
- DO NOT withhold access to water to facilitate housetraining. While it’s okay to pick the water bowl up 20-30 minutes before bedtime, water should always be available during day time hours. Puppies are at high risk of rapid dehydration! Restricting water can also lead to behavioral issues around water intake and over consuming water when it is available (which can lead to vomiting, water intoxication, and bloat).