Potty Training - Part 1
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of the new puppy owner like worrying about getting through the often perilous “waters” of house training!
I’m asked all the time, “How long will it take before my new puppy is housetrained” and the answer is that it mainly depends on a few simple but critical steps to ensure that your puppy gets the best start possible.
Read the following carefully: Don’t skim over, don’t speed read, really ponder the tips from someone who’s helped scores of new puppy owners achieve house training success in the least amount of time.
It’s important that everyone who involved with your new puppy’s training is on the same page, that they handle your puppy the same way and yes, takes the time to read these steps to a properly house-trained puppy.
It’s always better to prevent accidents than to have to back up in puppy training to eliminate bad habits.
Potty Training Mistake #1
You arrive home with your new little bundle all snuggled warmly in your arms and get out of the car, wisely, before heading into the house, you decide that after his two hour ride in the car, baby Oscar probably needs to go potty.
Excited and a bit nervous, you put on his brand new collar with it’s jingly engraved tag. You carry Oscar out to the spot that you’ve already decided is going to be his new potty area and snap on the snazzy new leash. Placing Oscar cautiously down on the wet ground (of course it rained just before you got home) and wait. And wait and wait a bit more.
Oscar looks up at you bewildered, he begins to shiver and as he totters a few steps away from you into the wet grass, the feeling of the collar around his neck and the noisy tag cause him to sit down and scratch, totally making him forget all about going to the bathroom.
The grass is cold and wet, it’s dark and between the jangly collar and the distracting leash pulling on his neck, Oscar decided that he’s had enough of being on the ground and scurries back over to your leg and attempts to climb back up into your arms and a bit of warmth.
You mistakenly decide that he doesn’t really have to ‘go”, he’s asking you to pick him up right? Up into your arms Oscar snuggles and into the warm house where 5 minutes after putting him on the floor, he has his first “accident” in the house.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Puppies are easily distracted, and distracted puppies often fail to go potty. Remember, a young puppy has often had little time to be experienced with the leash and walking nicely will come with time. For now, the leash adds much to the distraction level and it’s your job to make some adjustments at least temporarily to help matters along.
Most young puppies have very little experience with the collar and leash beyond a rudimentary puppy lessons, serious lead training will occur after a puppy has passed the age of 10 to 12 weeks. Thus, asking a puppy to go potty with all that new equipment will mean you’ll have to help your puppy learn to go to the bathroom in spite of the lead and collar.
Have an outdoor portable puppy yard to create a safe area for preliminary potty training and allows you to walk your puppy without the distraction a lead and collar.
There are a few good options available, priced anywhere from $50 to about $75 and up, easily the best investment you’ll make to speed potty training along. Have this in place before your new puppy arrives home, this one piece of equipment will make life with your new puppy easier in a dozen ways, but especially in helping with potty training.
There are several options available and sizes to fit all breeds of puppy. These models are easy to join two of them together and double the size which will come in handy for times when you want Oscar to play and vent some puppy energy. Many people have yards that are hard to puppy proof ie: a pool, fencing that’s two wide to keep puppy inside or gaps that a small puppy can walk under or through. These little play yards can be a lifesaver when you are working with a young puppy and will allow you to put him down in a safe area sans leash and collar to distract him from the job at hand.
Amazon carries a couple of my favorites you can shop here: but your local pet store might have options that will work just as well. Keep in mind, you want something fairly lightweight so you can move it as needed to place it in the shade or to change to an area of fresh grass and keep your lawn from potty damage.
Potty Training Mistake #2
Why baby/puppy gates are your new best friend.
You come in the house with new baby Oscar and after cleaning up the first of what unfortunately might turn into many of his accidents. You watch as your children delightedly carry him into the family room and everyone settles in for a bit of getting to know the little stranger. Oscar is a bit overwhelmed but charmed by all the attention and all goes well for an hour or so until it’s time to head off to soccer practice and your daughter puts Oscar on the floor while she runs to get her jacket.
Oscar stands bemused on the plush carpet of the family room floor and wanders a bit unattended before dropping his nose to the ground. Within moments, he’s had his second accident on the carpet!
What went wrong & how to fix it?
The surfaces most reminiscent of grass in Oscar’s new abode is of course, the shaggy fibers of your carpet, almost an invitation to a small puppy to “go potty here”.
First Oscar should be kept off any carpet until he’s be house trained and fairly reliable for two weeks. It’s infinitely easier to clean an accident from a hard surface, when accidents occur on carpet, they are not only harder to clean, but they leave a “marker” that tells puppy that here’s the spot to go in the future. NOT what you want to encourage of course.
Using puppy gates judiciously for the times that Oscar is not confined to his crate or indoor playpen, means easy to clean surfaces and a puppy that can’t wander into trouble on his own.
A few nice options:
Have an open-plan area to contend with? There are attractive solutions to just about any room size and configuration.
(Puppy Shopping List Item #2 A good enzymatic cleaner that safely removes odors and prevents stains: Amazing Solutions makes a great cleaner.
If life at your house means Oscar will occasionally be found in a carpeted area, here are some tips to help prevent problems.
- Use a short (4 foot) leash to “tether” Oscar to someone in the carpeted area and make sure he’s had a potty break BEFORE being allowed access to that area. The leash will act to keep him close and easier to supervise.
- If (when) accidents occur, clean quickly with a good enzymatic cleaner that will help prevent Oscar’s returning to the scene of the crime.
Go slow in increasing the amount of access your puppy has to new areas of the house or you’ll confuse him.
Potty Training Mistake #3
You take Oscar out and amazingly, he performs briskly at your “Go potty Oscar!” and you scoop him up with a brisk “Good boy” and hurry to get your keys to head off to work.
Well rewarded puppies are potty trained quicker!
Having a small celebration when Oscar gets things right is a great way to encourage him to repeat his good behaviour. Not only is it important to give Oscar an enthusiastic verbal reward for his progress, but adding a really yummy (and healthy) treat will ensure that he is even more motivated to earn not only your happy praise but also another scrumptious doggie cookie.
Happy Oscar! Happy Puppy Parent!
While in a pinch you can use a few grain-free Cheerios, for a really motivated Oscar use something that he adores, here is a wonderful puppy pleasing option. Nutro Mixed Berry Crunchy Treat have a blend of antioxidant rich berries, no more empty calorie puppy treats!
Remember, make all changes slowly when introducing new foods and even treats to your puppy’s diet. Start with just a small piece and don’t give more than one or two treats per day. You don’t want Oscar filling up on “cookies” and like any youngster, then not wanting his dinner an hour later.
Other Potty Training Mistakes Easily Avoided:
- Keep changes in Oscar’s diet to a minimum. His meals need to be simple and limited to just puppy food and one or two treat options for the first few months to avoid digestive upsets.
- While I like introducing small bites of raw apple, broccoli, carrots or cauliflower to growing puppies, go slow and keep amounts to under a teaspoon at a time until housetraining is behind you.
- Avoid any treat that is basted or richly flavored. Puppy tummies are sensitive and such treats are often full of preservatives and nasty chemicals.
- Learn to watch for “Pre-Potty Behavior” you have just a few seconds from when Oscar drop his nose to sniff the floor before an accident occurs. Be faster than a speeding bullet and use the puppy potty training chapters to sharpen your skills.
- If your timing was right and your puppy stops and stands looking at you bewildered, hurry over and scoop puppy up in your arms changing your voice to a warmer tone “Oscar potty OUTSIDE, goooood boy, let’s go outside”. If you were too late and a puddle (or worse) has occurred, scoop puppy up, (even during the malfraction) and quickly ferry him outside to the designated potty place with more of a mild scolding tone: “BAAAAD boy! Nooooo! Go potty outside! Baaaad puppy!” (think disappointed, not angry).
- Your goal is to give the puppy a clear sense of having broken the rules, and that while you still love her, but you are very unhappy and disappointed. Keep your tones low and growly for correction, warmer and higher tones for praise.
- Try to repeat the same phrases every time, both for praise and when accidents occur. Repetition and helping the puppy learn key words and phrases are the goals. Don’t overwhelm your new puppy with long sentences which will just confuse him for now. Keep praise or correction repetitive to help puppy quickly learn the basic commands.
Your voice is your most valuable tool. When giving praise make it warm & genuine but don’t gush!
For nighttime, a plastic kennel with solid sides (dog’s love the feeling of being in a den. OR if you prefer a wire crate, keep the dimensions SQUARE or nearly so. Not too large. Toy breeds typically 24 x 24” average size, don’t give puppy room to walk to one end and potty, sleeping in the other end. The only time this crate is used during the day is if a puppy is having accidents, then it’s time to reduce daytime crate size to this smaller option until puppy gets back on track.
For daytime, the Richell Pet pen for up to 3 hours at a time. Potty break before/immediately after exiting playpen.
For leaving puppy more than 3 hours at a time, you’ll want to create a small puppy proofed area with an easy to clean floor surface, for example, a laundry room works well. Using a baby gate or your Ex-pen, combination of baby gate. Unfortunately, a puppy left for over 3 hours in a larger space will almost certainly have an accident. Though I’m not a fan of puppy pads, if occasionally you must leave your puppy for longer periods, you will need to put down a pad to direct puppy “here’s the potty spot” when he’s forced to go inside. If happily, you arrive home and puppy hasn’t gone potty, QUICKLY take him outside to eliminate with lots of praise for being such a good baby!
A real life-saver can be the same puppy playpen outdoors to create a puppy safe potty area in the section of your yard that makes the most sense to you. An added benefit to this system is that a puppy has the ability to run and play (and burn off excess puppy energy) in a yard that might not have the proper kind of fencing to allow the proper amount of freedom. You can even put TWO of these together and then you’ve got a wonderful large space that will make your puppy swoon with puppy delight!