Time to talk about number 1 and number 2. Recently, I have had a lot of folks asking me to help potty train their new puppies. Instead of doing the financially prudent thing-charging them for a private lesson- I would just share ideas on what to do. I know, I’m a nice guy. But, like any good deed after about the 16th time explaining it for free, I decided to write this blog. And let’s face it- I tend to inundate people with info so there is no telling how much sticks. This will now serve as my official reference guide. First, I will discuss the common problems I hear and some solutions to said problems, and then I will explain the potty training process from beginning to the smelly end.
Issue #1– Accidents in different parts of the house: Lots of people tell me that their pup always seems to ‘go’ in one area of the house such as the spare bedroom or dining room. Lots of dogs will even choose a particular corner in a specific spot in the house. Dogs are amazing creatures and one of the things they can excel in is compartmentalization. They split stuff up really well in their head. They think, “I eat in the kitchen, I play in the living room, I sleep in the bedroom, and I poop in the corner of the hallway.” Solution: Freedom must be earned. I always tell clients that a puppy’s entire world should be limited to two rooms of the house. For most that is the kitchen and the living room. Puppies with the freedom to roam all over the 2,500 sq ft space is much harder to watch and potty train. Barricade the entrances and exits. I use a baby gate with a built in door; $32 bucks at Target. You can go the cheaper route and use cardboard boxes, big suitcases, stacks of books- anything to keep them out of the rest of the house. As they get older and their potty habits improve you can start giving them more access to the house. Reminder: puppies must be watched while in their determined areas of the house at all times for their safety and to spot the signs of potty behavior (i.e. circling, sniffing the ground, hike the leg). If you can’t watch them they need to be in their crate.
Issue #2- Peeing or pooping in the crate: Sometimes your pup has an issue with going in the crate. Solution: Make sure the crate isn’t too big. I really like using wire crates in the home because they are sold with dividers where you can expand the space as your pup grows without having to buy a larger crate. Buy the size crate that your pup will fit in when he/she is fully grown. A crate should only be large enough for a dog to enter without having to crouch, walk in, turn around, and lay down. If they can do laps in their crate it’s too big. I use Midwest Crates. If they are still going even though they don’t have much space, make sure you are giving them the opportunity to go based on how old they are. General rule of thumb is a puppy can hold its bladder as many hours as they are months old (i.e. 3 months old- can hold for 3 hours). Scott’s super simple rule of thumb, always assume your pup has to go. Every time they wake up from a nap, every time they drink water or eat, every time they finish playing, every time they come out of the crate, basically after they do anything. This is one of many reasons owning a puppy is tough. If you don’t believe in crating your dog–that is a totally different discussion. Crates are an amazing training tool when done correctly and keep the puppy safe and gives you peace of mind. I will blog on this topic soon.
Issue #3- I take the dog out, they don’t potty, I bring them in and then they go: Happens to us all, especially with young puppies during the winter months. Neither you nor the dog wants to spend a ton of time outdoors. Solution: Wait a few minutes, then try again. But don’t just leave the pup out in the house during those few minutes. Put them directly in their crate and wait 10-15 minutes (depending on age) and then try again. Both us and dogs aren’t fans of pooping where you sleep, so this encourages them to hold it until you try again.
Issue #4- Excitement Pee: I struggled and struggled with Goose on this one. It seemed every time I hadn’t seen her for 10 minutes and returned to pet on her, she would squat all while wagging her tail. Lots of puppies have this issue- lack of bladder control when the get excited or aroused. Solution: Avoidance. When you first let your puppy out of its crate don’t look at them, don’t speak to them, and definitely don’t pet them. Calmly walk to the door and put on their leash and take them out. Then once the deed is done have a puppy party! Love all over them and let them know who the best dog in the world is. Young dogs (and some older dogs) just don’t have a ton of bladder control. The best advice is know when they have to go and don’t get them riled up or let anyone else rile them up. Often times, friends and family are the biggest obstacles to all of dog training, sorry mom. A few dogs will have what’s called a submissive pee. They usually lose control around new people because they are a little nervous. Avoidance until after potty time is the best solution for this.
Issue #5- They went in the house, now what? Let’s face facts, unless your pup has a super bladder, this is going to happen. Solution: Schedule, schedule, schedule. Dogs thrive on structure and consistency. Potty training is no different. It’s pretty simple really; feed them at the exact same time, they will poop at the exact same time. I could always tell you what was going to happen on every potty break because I was super consistent with their feeding/drinking schedule. Yes, I will limit water at night for puppies to help get through the night without accidents. This is not a bad thing. If you catch them in the act of going in the house- I will make a really loud noise (hand clap, or exclaim gibberish) to try and distract them into stopping and will usually carry them outside quickly. Do not, I repeat, do not get upset with the dog for going in the house. It’s not their fault, it’s yours (sorry, but true!). If you notice it after the fact, don’t get mad, but calmly walk them outside and try to go again in their spot. Last, you own a puppy–time to invest in a carpet cleaner like Resolve.
The Process for Potty Time: Remember our assumption that your pup always has to go potty. When it’s time, which is always, make sure you have a treat with you and calmly walk to the door, put on their leash, yes, even those with a fenced in yard. Then walk them to the same spot in the yard and give them the cue to “Go Potty.” Taking them to the same spot where they already have their scent helps them to not get distracted and lets them know this is the area where I do my business. While in the act of potty-ing I verbally praise the dog for going where they’re supposed to. As soon as they are finished, immediately have a puppy party, let them know how good they are and how proud you are and give them the treat. Then repeat. All. The. Time…
That was a long blog, but if you made it this far you definitely have had some of the same issues I had with some of my dogs. It took me 9 months to fully potty train Goose. That’s right, a professional dog trainer struggled for months on a rudimentary part of training. It goes to show that every dog is different and they all learn at their own pace. Follow these solutions and stay consistent and you will be successful. Don’t follow them and here is the number for Stanley Steamer. 😉
‘Til next time pup lovers.