What's one of the most challenging parts of raising a puppy? Potty training or house training.
Folks who have had multiple dogs over the years know that it never really gets easier, you just become more patient and learn a few tricks of the trade.
While we can’t guarantee that your house will be totally mess-free and peaceful during this process, we can give you a proven potty training outline that reduces accidents and will help you keep a bit of sanity.
When should you begin house training a puppy?
You'll want to start house training your puppy as soon as you bring them home. While house training can be a process and take a few months before your pup is fully accident free, you'll want to start immediately. This will set your new puppy up for success and minimize accidents.
House Training Do's and Don'ts
Use a crate
As the American Kennel Club points out, the crate creates a clear distinction between inside and out, which is an important principle to drill down early on. Because the crate becomes equated with personal space, the pup will not want to make a mess inside of it, meaning they’ll naturally want to escape to do their business.
In the early days of your dog’s life at home, your dog will need to sleep a lot and the crate is a great place for them to rest. If your dog does stir, they'll probably need a bathroom break in pretty short order, so be ready to take them out when they get up from a nap.
You’ll be tempted to play with your pup on the couch or carpet, but it’s important that you bring them outside to go potty as soon as you open the door to the crate. If you want to use puppy pads or paper to designate spots to go around the home, that’s fine, just realize it will be tougher for them down the line to use the yard.
It’s also crucial to associate certain activities with bathroom time since this helps sync up their developing systems with daily habits. For instance, always bring your puppy outside first thing in the morning when they wake up, and make sure it’s the last thing they do before saying goodnight. After a long indoor play session, bring them outside to indicate it’s time to relax and use the bathroom if necessary.
Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to associate eating and drinking with bathroom time, even if they just take a short break at the water bowl. The puppy digestive system moves very fast, and the younger the dog, the quicker the turnaround time. It’s always better to plan ahead than deal with potential emergencies.
There will be frustrations at first, but things will get easier, and quickly!
Let your pup explore gradually
Once your pup seems to have a clear understanding of when and where to use the bathroom, you can start cutting down on crate or pen time and give them more room to roam.
When moving into this phase, it’s important that you watch for any patterns or signals that indicate it may be time for a trip outside. Many puppies have a sign or tell that they are about to go to the bathroom. These signs can include anxious pacing, sniffing, awkward waddling or even some whimpering. The golden rule here is that if anything seems out of the ordinary from fun and carefree puppy behavior, it’s probably the right time to hit the yard for a break.
As you give your dog more independence, it’s extra important to reward good behavior. Make sure your praise is loud and clear when they make a big step forward. If your dog is alerting you that they need to go out - reward and celebrate that. How would your dog tell you? They might bark, go to the door that you use to take them outside or even ring a bell. Some pet parents train their pups to ring a set of bells on the door when they have to go outside. As long as you and your dog are learning to communicate about outside needs, there is no one right way to train this.
Remember, you are the one constant factor in the hectic mind of a young pup, so keep the rules consistent and they will learn, even if it takes some time.
If and when you do decide to take a vacation or pass the pup off to a family member for a few days of rest, make sure you fully communicate the schedule from top to bottom. This is doubly true when introducing a puppy to another brand new environment as they’re still figuring out the basics of living in your home.
Be clear about your training style, map out the behaviors you’ve been working on, and tell them about any bathroom idiosyncrasies. Ideally, you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off when you get home.
Know that there will be accidents, even if you do everything right, and you should be okay with cleaning up any problems quickly and thoroughly without hesitation. Deodorizing the accident area is key because dogs tend to associate those smells with a comfortable spot to go. Make sure no scent is left behind and they’ll be less likely to repeat. Even if you can't smell urine, chances are your pup can. Since their noses are so many times more powerful than ours they might smell a good pee spot even if you've cleaned thoroughly after an accident. Make sure to use a product like Nature's Miracle that contains enzymes that destroy pet urine odors.
It’s also important that you keep an eye on what your pup leaves behind in the backyard, especially during these early days. Anything out of the ordinary should be noted and you may need to switch up the meal protocol if problems persist.
Mind their mealtime
Granted you’ve followed all the most crucial steps of potty training, there is one more vital part of the playbook that too many owners overlook: food.
As we mentioned previously, you should aim to bring your dog outside after every meal, and ensure that they start to associate breakfast and dinner with immediate bathroom breaks. The responsibility is on your shoulders here to stick to a rigid mealtime schedule, and not letting things slip on the weekends when you want to snooze a little longer. The internal clock of a puppy is still getting fine-tuned in these early stages, so try to keep mealtimes locked into the same general time slot each day.
The type of food you pick for your puppy is also critical for regulating his or her digestive systems, helping them develop properly and not leaving any unwanted variables when training. Additionally, the healthier and more nutrient-packed your puppy’s meals, the more likely they will have a quick and easy experience when they do their business.
Since we know the ins and outs of puppy training, we made it a point to remove all worries about the dog diet with Ollie.
Not only do we use carefully selected human-grade ingredients in our food, we make each batch fresh so that you never have to wonder if you’re making the right call.
The fresh food recipes from our kitchen are delicious for even the pickiest pups, and we have tons of different varieties for them to try. No more hesitation at dinner time! Our delivery system also ensures that you stick to a consistent feeding schedule, which plays into the potty training picture.
You have a clear idea of inventory and how much food your dog needs, and you never run out. Just pop open the packaging and serve it up—no fretting over measurements or leaving half-empty packs going bad in the fridge (though you can store that open pack of food in the fridge for up to 4 days if needed).
Don't Punish an Accident
We already talked about the fact that accidents are going to happen. Even if you stick to your schedule and keep the walks frequent. No pet parent in the history of dog ownership has ever gotten through puppyhood without a single accident.
Accidents happen because we get distracted, our pups get too excited, they're stressed because we gave them their first bath or nervous about a new person. Whatever the reason, it's very important not to punish your pup.
Clean up the mess from the accident, take your pup outside and move on.
Yelling, smacking, or worse, rubbing your pup's nose it it will do much more damage in the long run. Rubbing your dog's nose in their pee can make them ashamed to go and they may hide when they have to which can lead to more accidents as well as bladder issues! Definitely not what you want for your best friend!
When in doubt, talk to the pros
While we doubt potty training is going to be the easiest part of raising your pup, we hope we've given you some tips to make it easier.
If you're having frequent setbacks or your pup is having accidents in spite of your sticking to the schedule and giving them frequent walks, give your vet a call. You'll want to rule out any medical reason for the struggle with potty training first.
Once the vet gives you an all clear or helps you get any medical issues under control, the next call you might want to make is to a certified trainer. Choose someone who uses positive reinforcement and fear-free methods and has experience with puppies. These trainers have seen and heard it all (trust us) and can help you and your puppy figure things out together.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.