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.
Let’s look at the key points when potty training a puppy.
Start by using a crate
It may not be the preferred method, since we don’t like to see our new little buddies confined, but using crate time the right way is your first step to potty-training success.
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, don’t be afraid to keep them crate-bound for a few hours a day, and make sure you respond quickly if they start clawing at the cage.
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!
Widen the parameters
Once your pup seems to have a clear understanding of when and where to use the bathroom, you can start cutting down on crate 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. These signs can include anxious pacing, 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.
You should also try to make a clear connection between bathroom time and the door to the yard or the street. Indicate to the pup that the door is the gateway to the potty and they will someday need to tap or scratch at the door to let you know what time it is.
At some point, you’ll need to attend to your own life, so keep your crate ready as an available option if you need to run errands, do some work or just relax on your own. Your dog should not recognize the crate as a punishment zone, but rather a place of safety where they feel comfortable.
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, and reprimand accordingly if they regress. Just don’t overdo it on the negative reinforcement. By dishing out too much punishment to a puppy after an accident, they may end up associating bathroom time with bad behavior, which can lead to bigger problems later.
You want your puppy to feel super comfortable above all, even if that means cleaning up a few messes along the way.
Remember, you are the one constant factor in the hectic mind of a young pup, so keep the rules consistent and they will get with the program, even if it takes some time.
Cesar Milan makes the point that the main role of the mother dog is to create a rigid schedule for her pups, so we need to adopt that role and make sure bathroom breaks happen with regularity. They will pick up on the schedule sooner than later.
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.
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.
This leads us to our final point about food, which will complete the picture.
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 the best available 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 food in the fridge for up to 4 days if needed).
When in doubt, talk to the pros
Potty training is one of the most stressful parts of your dog becoming an adult, and we know the frustrations that come with it. We’ve given you the fundamentals to get going on the right foot and be sure to keep in touch with your vet if any new questions come up.
In the meantime, you want to make things easy on yourself, especially if you’re running a family and a full-time career.
The Ollie philosophy is to take 100 percent of the guesswork out of your dog’s meal planning, so you can focus on the stuff that really matters, like mastering house training!
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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.