It’s time to instill in your puppy perhaps the most important skill for the cleanliness of your household, and for your sanity: Potty Training. The earlier you start training them, the easier it will be to train and maintain their bathroom etiquette.
Pick a specific spot outside where you will lead your dog to each and every potty time. At first, you should guide them there on a leash. Once there, wait patiently for a small amount of time. You may want to introduce a word a short phrase to them that you use once you’re there, such as ‘Go Potty’. If used consistently, they will associate this word with bathroom time. They might not understand what’s happening at first, but be patient. Give them about 5 minutes, and if they don’t do it, return to the house. If they do, then reward them. Wait until they are completely finished to reward them, but reward them immediately after they finish. If you don’t wait long enough, they may still have more to do when they go inside. You can start with treats, but, as mentioned above, eventually just use praise and physical affection.
Once again, maintain a strong positive reinforcement principle. Your puppy will make mistakes, but do not punish them. Since they don’t get punished when no one is around to see them going in the house, they may assume it’s only bad to do when people are around. If you catch them in the act, stay calm and assertively take them to their bathroom spot outside.
Generally, smaller breeds have to urinate more than large breeds. Puppies will need to urinate more often than adults. Young puppies also have very efficient digestive systems which means they tend to have to use the bathroom only minutes after eating. You should give them potty time no more than a half hour after meals and at least every 2 hours. As they get older, they will be able to hold it longer. Adults tend to need bathroom time 3-5 times a day.
Some dog owners use puppy pads, which are absorbable pads placed in specific areas in the house. Apartment dwellers may find them convenient if they don’t have easy access to an outside yard. There are disadvantages to these, however. Your puppy may mistake carpets or other flat surfaces left on the floor for the pad. This can be messy. It is also hard to retrain them to go outside if they get access to a yard later in life.
If done correctly, crate training can work hand in hand with potty training. When a dog identifies their crate as their personal space for sleeping and napping, they are very unlikely to want to poop or urinate in or near it. A crate is also a great way to prevent your puppy from destroying your house while you are busy elsewhere. It also makes transporting your new friend easy, as they will voluntarily enter their transport crate with no fuss. Eventually, you will be able to put your dog in their crate overnight, but before your puppy is six months old, they cannot hold their bowels or bladders for more than around three hours.
Be careful – a crate can be used incorrectly as
well. Never use a crate as a form of punishment, as your dog will begin to fear and resent it, and possibly refuse to enter it. You should never force your dog to remain in the crate for the majority of the day. Just like if you were forcibly confined to your bedroom with no forms of entertainment or social interaction, your dog can become anxious and depressed.
There are a few crate design options. Some are collapsible metal pens. Perhaps the most classic kind is the plastic Kennel, commonly used to transport animals. There are also soft, fabric enclosures around frames. Cheaper crates cost around $30, with high end crates being hundreds of dollars.
The first step: Prepare the crate.
Place your crate in an area where you and your family spend a lot of time. Open the door and secure it so it can’t close on your puppy and startle them. Some crates have removable doors. Put a blanket, towel, or other soft bedding in the bottom of it.
The Next Step: Introduce your puppy to the crate.
They may naturally want to explore the crate. If not, encourage them to. Call them over in a cheerful tone of voice. Place treats, first around the crate, and then gradually further inside of it until they go all of the way in. If they have a favorite toy, you should start tossing it in the crate as well. As usual, be very patient with your puppy.
The Third Step: Feed your puppy meals within the crate.
Food is perhaps the most immediately effective form of positive reinforcement in general, and it works well in this situation. Begin placing your puppy’s meals in the crate. If they are already readily entering the crate all of the way, put the meal far back in the crate. If not, work it further back as they get more comfortable. Eventually, they will be happily eating their entire meals completely within the crate. At this point, you can start closing the door while they eat, and opening it when they finish. Each time you do this, leave it closed for a little longer after they finish their meal. If they whine DO NOT let them out until they’re done whining. You don’t want to teach them that they can use whining to get their way. After they whine, you might want to decrease the time you have the door closed next time and work back up. As always, be patient. Once they can stay in the crate after eating for about 10 minutes without whining, you are reading to start the next step.
The Fourth Step: Short crating periods outside of meal time.
Now, you can begin confining your puppy for small periods of time in between meals while you’re home. Call your puppy over with the help of a treat. Come up with a short command to tell them to enter the crate. “Crate” or “Kennel” are good. Show them the treat, and then point into the crate with that hand. If they still don’t understand, you can place the treat at the back of the crate, but you will want to only do this if absolutely necessary. Once they enter, praise them and give them the treat. Close the door, and wait quietly near the crate for a five or ten minutes. Then, leave the room for a few minutes, and then come back and sit quietly for a few more, then let them out. Do this multiple times a day, and gradually increase the amount of time you leave them inside and the amount of time you leave the room until they are in the crate for about 30 minutes at a time.
The Fifth Step: Crating when you leave.
Once you have worked up to more than 30 minutes of crate time in the last step, you can start leaving them in the crate for short periods when you leave the house. This may take several days, or even weeks. At this point, you should be able to crate them solely with your command, and without giving them a treat. As before, try to gradually increase the periods of time you are gone. Don’t make your exits and entrances dramatic. Dramatic goodbyes and enthusiastic greetings when you return can contribute to separation anxiety. You should also randomly vary the amount of time that your dog is in the crate before you leave and after you return from a few minutes to a half an hour. Continue crating them occasionally while you’re home so they don’t assume that the crate means they are going to be alone.
The Final Step: Crating at night.
Your puppy is now perfectly comfortable entering the crate for moderate periods of time when you are out of the house. They should now be ready to spend the night in their crate. At first, it is a good idea to keep the crate in or near your bedroom when you and your puppy are sleeping. Perhaps you can even buy a second crate for your bedroom. That way, you are nearby to know when your puppy needs to use the bathroom at night, which will happen while their bladders are still small. You may not realize it, but you are also bonding with your puppy when they sleep nearby. They will feel more like part of the pack, and less likely to associate the crate with social isolation. Once they are comfortable sleeping inside it, you can gradually move the crate further from your bedroom every night if you prefer the crate to be somewhere else.