One of the most important things to teach your new puppy is the appropriate place to use the bathroom. Hopefully, your puppy’s breeder or foster home has been working with the puppies on using a litter box or another designated place to potty, as this will help you with the transition.
Puppies naturally don’t like to soil the area where they will be sleeping. If you spend time teaching your puppy that their crate is a safe place to be, and a comfortable place for naps, you can use the crate as a place to teach your puppy how to control their bladder. Crates can be the perfect place to put your puppy if you can’t keep an eye on them directly.
Supervise Your Puppy
The most important aspect to potty training your puppy is to supervise them so they don’t make mistakes. If your puppy is not in their crate, you should keep the puppy in the same room and in your sight! One way to make this even easier is tether the puppy to you on a leash. This ensures the puppy won’t leave your sight and also means the puppy is already on a leash for fast potty breaks.
Baby gates, exercise pen panels, crates, and tethers are your best friend while potty training. At the first sign your puppy might have to potty, quickly and immediately take them outside or to their designated potty area.
Positively Interrupt Accidents
We want to prevent the puppy from having accidents as much as possible, but accidents are a fact of life with young puppies. If you see your puppy having an accident (which you should, if you are supervising correctly) then interrupt them with a cheerful “whoops! Let’s go outside!” while scooping up your puppy and taking them to their potty area.
Interruptions help the puppy learn that we don’t want them to go inside, and give us time to direct the puppy outside instead. A cheerful, positive interrupter is best because it avoids scaring the puppy. If we yell or scold the puppy, they may learn that we don’t want to see them use the bathroom at all, and can start hiding their accidents.
In addition, thoroughly clean all accidents so your dog doesn’t continue to smell the area as a potential potty area. Using most common cleaners simply masks the smell, and dogs have good enough noses to smell multiple odors, so invest in an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle that will break down the components themselves.
Praise for Pottying in the Right Place
Throw a party! When your dog pees or poops outside, cheerfully tell them what an exceptional dog they are for making that choice. This applies even if you had to interrupt an accident inside.
You can also use food rewards for pottying, with a few caveats. Make sure the reward is given outside rather than inside, to reward the pottying rather than reward coming back inside. You should also praise or treat after the dog finishes pottying, rather than at the start of the potty behavior, to make sure they fully empty their bladder.
Seek Veterinary Attention for Problems
If you struggle with potty training, the first stop should be to the vet clinic. Urinary tract infections and other medical problems can make potty training difficult. Before working with a positive reinforcement trainer to develop a plan if you need help, ruling out any medical reasons will help you make the best progress possible.