So you're bringing home a new puppy--yay! Puppies are fun, cuddly and smell amazing, but if you aren't proactive in their house training, your house may not smell so lovely. But don't worry--you've got this! And we're here to help. With these 8 easy tips you'll be well on your way to a developing good habits (for both you and your pup) and before you know it, he'll be pottying like a pro--outside!
1. Use a crate
If left to roam about while unsupervised it will take twice as long to house train your new puppy. A crate is hands down the most effective way to potty train him. If you don't already have one, put down your phone and go get one. Now. You'll be so glad you did. Make sure you get the correct size though--your puppy should have just enough room to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If you put him in a larger crate, he'll make one end the "potty corner" and the other end will be his bed. Keeping him in tight quarters will teach him to not to potty in the crate if at all possible, because dogs don't want to go where they sleep. Also, never provide food and water inside of the crate while house training. You're not going to leave him in there long enough to starve, anyway (more on that later.) Using a crate is natural to a dog and they will soon come to see it as their own “den." Everyone appreciates a safe and comfortable place to sleep, and your pup is no different.
2. Set a Schedule
Puppies do best when they know what to expect. Just like children, puppies thrive with a routine. There are certain times to potty, play and eat. Teaching them early on when it’s time to potty, will help to instill this routine from the beginning. Don’t expect too much from your puppy at first. Remember, like a baby, your puppy cannot hold his bladder for very long. The general rule of thumb is 1 hour for every month of age while they are still under a year old. If you leave him for longer than this, you will most likely come home to a mess. If you work during the day, you'll need to come home periodically for potty breaks (or have a friend, neighbor, or dog-walker come by) until he is old enough to be left alone longer. If you have someone else helping, make sure they know the routine and stick to it.
3. Take Him Outside Often
Be sure to take them out as often as possible. At least every 2 hours until they are completely housebroken. You always want to take them outside immediately after waking up, after every meal and after playtime. It's also helpful to use a specific word or short phrase that he will associate with eliminating such as “potty” or “go pee." Wait to play with him until after he is finished. Never wait for your puppy to "tell" you when he needs to go out, but keep an eye out for signs--pacing, circling, sniffing a lot. Always give him plenty of opportunities to relieve himself so he won't act in desperation.
4. Reward Him Every Time
You will get to know your puppy very quickly and each dog responds to different types of praise. For some it will be a treat and for others it may be an excited verbal phrase or a favorite toy. Reward them immediately when they have eliminated.
It is crucial that you do not skip this step. This is vital to them learning what is expected of them.
5. Feeding Schedules
Keep a strict feeding schedule. This is important because you're also training yourself to remember potty breaks, as well. We recommend feeding puppies 3 times a day while they are growing. This will also provide 3 scheduled potty breaks that he will learn to expect each day. Knowing that a potty break is routinely provided teaches him that he will soon have a chance to relieve himself.
6. No Water at Night
What goes in must come out. About 2 hours before bedtime and after your pup has eaten dinner, take up his water bowl. This will help to ensure a more restful sleep for the both of you.
Remember that puppies are naturally curious. When they are out of their crate and cannot be supervised you will need to tether them to you while you go about your daily tasks. If they are left to roam about they will more than likely explore an area away from you and soil in the house. As your puppy becomes reliably house trained you can start to give him more freedom. But always remember, if he's not by your side or you aren't interacting with him, he should be in his crate.
8. Mistakes happen
If you catch your puppy in the middle of an accident make sure to interrupt him right away with a startling noise. A stern “NO!” or "BAD DOG!" will get his attention enough to know that he has done something wrong. Harsh punishment will do more harm than good--you never want your pup to be afraid of you, so refrain from hitting him or scaring him. At this point you can pick him up and take him outside to his potty spot to finish eliminating. If you find a mess, but didn't catch him in the act, it's too late for a correction. Don't rub his nose in it or scold him. Puppies associate your reaction with their current action, so misplaced punishment will just leave you both upset. Also, make sure to clean any soiled areas with an enzymatic cleaner--like Simple Solution or Nature's Miracle--to break up the pheromones that will keep them coming back to the same area.
With love and persistence your puppy will learn the right place to potty each time and eventually gain your trust and more freedom for himself. If he's not getting it, try not to get frustrated and just keep plugging away. One day it will click. Remember, with potty training, the key to success is consistency. Keeping the same routine day after day will produce the fastest and best results. A puppy is a commitment for 10-15+ years, but with the right preparation and training, that commitment will become your best friend.