Potty training a puppy - Avoiding the mess!

Potty training a puppy

Potty training a puppy is one of the first hurdles that most new owners face and getting it done right and hopefully as quick as possible is usually on everyone’s agenda. None of us want to be stuck cleaning up tons of potty messes all the time! 

There are a few things to keep in mind while house training your puppy that will make potty training less of a chore and get you to your goals faster. 

Misconceptions in training are very common and potty training is no different. Whether it’s using outdated methods to try to make a pup potty in the right place, turning it into a game with treats, or making the task unnecessarily difficult, there’s a bit of a misunderstanding about the whole thing. To be clear, this is not something that your puppy or dog automatically knows.

Potty training has to be taught to your puppy, it isn’t something they know instinctively. For them your home is plenty big enough to have an area for them to use as a bathroom. Hell, it’s standard for homes to have OUR bathrooms inside! Your dog is not intending to make you frustrated at them, or to make a mess in your home on purpose, it’s just that they don’t know they have to communicate their need to you, or that peeing in the house is off limits. This is something they have to be taught, punishing your dog for breaking a rule that they didn’t know existed or that has never been made clear to them won’t help the issue!

Potty training a puppy is 100% built on habit. If your puppy has spent more time pottying indoors than outside, that is the habit they will have. Our goal is to ensure that our pup is pottying where we want them to be potty trained for and so we have to be watchful and ready to act.

Why does my puppy pee so much?

Puppy metabolism is fast compared to adult dogs, which means that everything moves through them quickly. On top of this, puppies are still developing and growing, they lack the same bladder control ability that adults have, and their systems are TINY! It’s not unusual for a young puppy to have to be pottied more than once an hour during the day, and once or twice at night.

As your puppy grows this will change, it doesn’t take forever to potty train, even though sometimes it might feel like it. 

Know your puppy's habits to help potty train

Potty training is predictable; there’s key things to keep in mind and watch out for when trying to teach your pup and build good habits. It’s safe to assume that unless your young puppy just went, they probably have to go. 

Things I keep in mind:

  • When was the last time they were pottied?
  • Did it seem like they completely emptied?
  • What has the dog been doing and for how long? Napping, eating, playing, etc.
  • What am I planning to do soon with the puppy?

These guidelines help me decide whether I should take a break with the pup. 

Using a crate or pen for accident prevention

Potty training a puppy can be greatly helped by using a crate or pen. Dogs naturally are pretty clean animals when it comes to pottying; they don’t want to be in filth. We can use this to our advantage when we’re trying to teach our dog about potty training. Crates should NOT be used to try to force a dog to hold it for as long as possible. You will quickly find that not only does this not work, but the habits of not liking to potty in their area will disappear as the dog doesn’t have a choice. 

The restriction helps us monitor the dog better. If your puppy is sleeping in a pen or a crate, they can’t go make a mess in some corner of the home, and when you’re in the same room they likely can’t wake up without you knowing. Thus we’re able to whisk the dog to their potty area as needed and pretty immediately, which means that your dog is building the habits you ultimately want when it comes to keeping the whole house free of messes.

What do we do about the weather?

Often times I’m called about dogs who will not potty in anything but sunny and dry conditions. There are dogs who can’t stand mud, rain, snow, wet grass, puddles, being on leash, you name it. Although there are some breeds with slight genetic preferences, this can mostly be traced back to what kind of habit building their potty training included. When potty training a puppy it is important to try to expose them to all the conditions they will experience and be expected to potty in. It’s not healthy for a dog to hold it because there’s some puddles outside, or because they have to potty on leash at the hotel. 

If you’re potty training your puppy, get ready to put on your rain coat, bust out the boots, and proceed as you normally would. This exposure is so important, and the work done now will prevent issues in the future.

Apartments and potty training

Living in a high rise building or off the the ground floor does have its own challenges when we have puppies who are not potty trained. These situations are the only times, in my professional opinion, that potty pads are an asset and not a hinderance. Puppy bladders are only so big and often just can’t hold it from the time they start showing you they need to go, to the time it takes to get them outside to the yard/street.

Because of this, you’ll want to set up a designated area in your home where you regularly encourage you puppy to potty. This can be potty pads, a litter box, and there are even specially made potty stations. What you choose doesn’t matter too much in the long run as it’s the habit building and consistency that is important with house training.