Potty Training 101
Potty Training Your Dog or Puppy
Proofing your home to prevent accidents
Give the dog a break, literally!
Accidents happen, prepare yourself
Potty products, when to use what
What to remember about potty training
When potty training we need to consider the individual dog with this issue. If you are struggling with potty training, be it with #1 or #2 or both, you need to take the dog to the veterinarian and talk with their doctor about what is going on. There may be tests that need to be done like a urinalysis or fecal exam so rule out any potential health problems causing the accidents. When they potty, look for any signs of discomfort like whining or straining.
Once medical problems have been ruled out we know consider the dog's capability. If you are training a brand new puppy, from eight to sixteen weeks old you can only expect them to hold in a pee for 30 minutes while they are awake, and that's only an average, sometimes they pee again much sooner than that! This means the puppy needs to go outside to potty every 30 minutes unless they are asleep. And to add on to that, right after a meal, when there is a break in play or zoomies, 10 minutes after a big drink of water, immediately after they wake up and anytime they are whining and you don't know why. They can't help it, puppies are babies and do not have enough strength yet to hold it in. The flip side of this often and urgent going is that you are bombarded with fantastic opportunities to reward the right behavior with a very good treat. If you can nail those puppy breaks during this critical time, it is really going to sink in for your puppy.
On the other end of the spectrum to a newborn puppy, we could have an elderly or infirm dog. These dogs should also not be faulted for having an accident when they should "know better". Just as puppies haven't built up their muscles yet, senior dogs' muscles can atrophy and they lose the ability. They may need to go potty more often and need more frequent breaks just like puppies do. If a dog is arthritic, they won't want to move very much and may decide it is worth it to go potty inside but away from their resting place, in that case you want to start rewarding for going potty outside. However, any change in behavior should be reported to their vet. A dog who is peeing where they are laying, should be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible, that could be an emergency.
Healthy adult dogs will need a potty break about every hour that they are awake, as well as taken out right after meals and right after they wake up. If the dog can sleep in a crate when the owner is at work it is possible they could get through that eight hour period but that should be avoided at all costs. Arrange your schedule so you can come home from work during lunch, or pay a friend in coffee to go over and let your adorable dog out to potty. Many people are willing to help if you ask.
Now that you know how often you need to give a dog a potty break you should know how to give a potty break. Potty breaks should be very boring while you are waiting for the dog to potty. Keep treats in your pocket to reward them for going potty or in a container outside. When the dog begins their business, act casual, don't make a big deal about it but as they are finishing up, reach into your pocket (or walk over to the treat container) and pull out a nice reward that you will then give directly to them. You can name the behavior as you do, "go potty", "hurry" and "go time" are a few of the common ones.
Cleaning up messes is a quintessential part of owning pets from fish to horses. We need to be okay with accidents if we are going to bring animals inside our homes. Don't panic if you catch your dog squatting inside, you don't want to spook the dog. Gently take their collar in your hand or calmly call them if they'll go straight outside. Make sure their business is finished out there, then bring the dog in and confine the dog while you clean up the mess.
You need to thoroughly clean the spot where the went potty. Use paper towel to soak up as much pee or wipe up as much poop as it can. Then take an enzymatic pet cleaner, follow the directions on the bottle to clean with it. That's the best cleaner for eliminating the waste odor so the dog won't go back to the spot. Some cleaners come with scents that are unpleasant to the dog, which will also help deter them.
You should also be checking bedding regularly to make sure they aren't having any accidents in crates or on dog beds. Do survey of corners, behind furniture or under tables, which are also common spots dogs will potty without you noticing. If a dog has been punished for going potty before, they will try to hide. This will also make it harder for them to potty when you go outside with them, but it is still important to try and reward them for going potty in the moment. Let them out alone if you need them to potty quickly, however you are going to take advantage of those time when you are absolutely sure they need to go potty, like first thing in the morning or when you get home from work, to go outside with them and reward them on the spot for it. Building that positive association should help them potty around people again.
There are so many different options for dogs now in the way of bathrooms. There are turf potties, pine potties, potty pads, litter boxes and diapers for dogs! Should you even consider an indoor or artificial potty? Your choices all depend on your situation. Consider what you can manage with your individual dog in the way of potty training.
An indoor potty can be a solution for some homes. If you work all day and have a very young, a very small or an old dog, you can lay down potty pads, a litter box for dogs, or another indoor potty setup like a turf corner. People who live in high rises can also benefit from this by creating a potty area on an outdoor balcony where you take the dog out for regular breaks, just as you would if you had a yard, and reward the dog for going potty on the desired spot. Never leave a dog unattended on a balcony.
There are both disposable and washable diapers or male wraps (also called belly bands) for dogs who need them. For males who mark inside, a washable male wrap is a great choice to prevent a mess. You will never be able to find every spot a boy has lifted his leg on so stop it from happening in the first place. The boy dog may also not like the feeling of wetting his wrap and stop leg lifting inside altogether. A diaper may be used for a female who is in heat or incontinent. Don't use a diaper or wrap for regular potty accidents as the build up of moisture can cause a UTI if you don't check it regularly. Instead, adhere to a potty break schedule and keep doing the training.
Attractants and deterrents are scents or pheromones that can be used to either encourage or dissuade going potty in a certain area. Attractants can be handy if you didn't have a dog before getting your new dog and they are having trouble going potty in the yard. You can apply the attractant to the place in the yard where you want them to go and hopefully speed up your potty routine. It can also be applied to indoor potty setups like turf. Deterrent scents can come in pet cleaners and are usually citronella or lemongrass, smells that most dogs find offensive. Apply a deterrent if a dog keeps returning to the same spot despite thorough cleaning. Bonus tip: When a dog returns to a spot to potty in regularly, you can also start feeding them meals there. Dogs don't want to potty where they eat.
If one of the reasons your dog keeps having accidents is because you miss their signals asking to go outside, shape their signals into something you can't miss. You can train your dog to ring a bell when they want to go outside with bells that hang on your door. You set them up on the door knob, and when it's time to take your dog out to potty have the dog touch the bells, either with a target cue, a paw waving cue, or lure their nose to the bells until they make contact. Then let them outside for a potty break. If the dog seems to be overusing their new power, start doing leashed breaks only for the bell. They ring, you leash them up and take them right to the potty spot.
Every dog will potty train on their own timeline, some are quick and some dogs will take longer. Management is your friend, use leashes, crates and gates and keep rewarding your dog for going potty outside. If you are struggling balancing your schedule with your dog's potty needs, consider one of the alternative potty options, or use daycare. Exercising or training a dog before leaving them can also help because if a dog is sleeping all day while you are gone, they won't need to potty. There are different things that can be done that will help you accomplish this goal.
To start a dog off on the right foot, you don't want any accidents happening in the home. This is not always an achievable goal but we can set the environment up so that we are more likely to reach it. Proofing your house for a dog who may have some potty training to learn can entail gating off rooms with carpeting, rolling up rugs and storing them until this process is over. Dogs are more attracted to porous surfaces and don't like to go potty near food or water sources, use this information to set up the space you will leave a dog in when unsupervised. It should be a smaller space like a laundry room or hallway, with no carpeting or rugs. The dog should have a comfortable sleeping area with a soft bed or blankets and a bowl of water nearby. If you are planning to crate train, set up the only dog bed inside an open crate in this space.
Let's talk gates! The easiest way to keep a dog from sneaking off and peeing in the back corner of a room no one uses is to gate off the exits to the main living area. Where ever you are going to spend the majority of the time with your dog, you should contain them in the room. The simplest way to do this is to put up a gate at the beginning of a hallway or at the entrances to the bedrooms. Closing the doors can be a solution in some households, but for families that have a lot of people coming and going, a door will be forgotten about. A gate can provide a visual cue for the person leaving the room to remember to block off access.
Often times for dogs to be set up for success they need a much smaller environment. A crate provides a dog with a comfortable space to lie down, turn around and stretch but not enough room that they feel comfortable going potty in one corner and sleeping in another. For a growing puppy you can buy a large crate that will fit them as an adult but in the meantime use the divider that comes with the crate to shrink it down. Start crate training by leading the dog to the crate when they are tired and ready to sleep. Make the crate as comfortable as it can be for the dog and still be safe. If the dog dissects beds, give them heavy blankets that they are allowed to chew on. Don't give something easy to shred if the dog ingests fabrics, an extra durable bed can be worth the cost for a dog who may swallow a foreign body.