This is probably the first most challenging aspect of having a puppy. Yet potty training can be so easy to learn — when done properly. It can seem like an endless process with a growing puppy — they always seem to have to go (and they do, typically puppies need to go every 30 to 45 minutes). Puppies grow rapidly and this means the more active they are, the more energy they burn, which causes them to need lots of food or water to replenish energy and that means an increased need to urinate. Puppies do not develop adequate bladder and bowel control until about six months of age (for some breeds it’s even longer) and puppies cannot “hold it” for long periods of time.
To be successful at potty training, there needs to be diligent supervision. Although no matter how diligent you are, expect some accidents, they will happen and it’s normal! Never scold; just go back to your regular schedule and watch your puppy for his signal that he has to go. When he’s sniffing around or starts to squat, quickly scoop him up and get him outside. The easiest way to help him learn is to take him outside within 10 minutes of eating or drinking. When he’s outside to potty, don’t play; in fact, stand off to the side and just let him do his business. (Reinforcing the idea by saying “potty” and taking him out will also work wonders.)
Another easy way to potty train is to use a crate (especially crucial when you’ll be gone for long periods). Choose a crate that’s large enough for your puppy to stand up in and turn around. Never use the crate as punishment, your dog will only be successful at crate training if he feels safe and comfortable in it. It’s his sense of security that will help your puppy to develop proper bladder control. Always take your puppy outside before he goes into his crate and as soon as you return home. A puppy can be left in a crate for about three or four hours without the risk of an accident. Puppies rarely use the crate as a potty and as such, he will learn to hold it (within reason, of course).
Repetition is key! Every time he goes potty, take him out the same door and to the same area of the yard. This will help to reinforce the idea that by going to the door, it’s a signal of potty time. Training pads are never a bad idea either. You can place them near the “potty door” as an extra alert that he needs to go. Praising is also crucial. Any time your puppy goes in the appropriate area, he needs to hear that he’s a good dog or get a treat. This includes even if he started to have an accident. If he was able to stop and finish urinating outside, he needs to hear he was good. Your puppy wants to please you and will be encouraged to repeat the action (and process as a whole) when he knows you’re pleased and that you love him. When he has an accident, never make a big deal about clean-up, just do it and get him (and yourself) back on the horse.
What do you do overnight? No matter what your puppy is doing immediately before you head for bed, take him outside. If he goes, praise him. Then either put him in his crate for the night or let him settle down to sleep (with some puppy pads out). Don’t worry about him overnight as long as he’s asleep; puppies can hold it during sleep. As soon as you wake up, take him out again.
Take heart, as your puppy ages, he will learn to control himself for longer periods of time. It’s imperative to let your puppy learn to control himself on his own time. You cannot rush his training because problems will develop and then everything will become more difficult.
Always remember the keys: consistency, repetition, praise and you and your puppy will do just fine.