Potty training your dog is teaching it to not soil the home. It is often the first challenge dog owners face. Depending on your approach, you either have a good time with your dog during this phase or live through a peeing and pooping nightmare.
Potty training a dog is not rocket science but it does require consistency and commitment.
If you bring a new dog—puppy or adult—into your home, let it run loose and it soils the place, it’s not your dog’s fault, it’s yours.
Any dog needs to learn the rules of the home and where you want it to eliminate. The best practice is to establish a controlled process for your dog, making it nearly impossible to eliminate inside by accident. As your dog learns the rules, it will earn more freedom over time.
Generally, any dog that eliminates in the home needs to be housebroken—there is no such thing as a partially housetrained dog. Even after one accident—assuming it’s not a health issue—you are back to square one of housetraining.
Body signals a dog exhibits when it has to go:
- Starting to pant
- Starting to sniff the area excessively
- Pawing (at us)
- Standing up and becoming restless when previously laying down
- Getting a slight hump in the back (just before going)
Potty Training Puppies
Puppies have limited bladder control. Just like a newborn child, they can’t hold it for long. Accept that there will be accidents while your puppy learns. When accidents happen, clean them up with non-toxic cleaners to eliminate the smell and to disinfect the area. My favorite commercial cleaner is from Seventh Generation (multi-surface spray cleaner). It is free of harsh chemicals and cleans well without harming you or your pets. Personally, I clean all messes with a white vinegar solution. I mix 1 part white vinegar, 3 parts water, 1 dropper of organic tea tree essential oil, 2 droppers of organic lemon essential oil in a 16 fl oz spray bottle.
The key in housetraining a puppy is a structured approach. For the first six to eight weeks of its life with you, keep your puppy on a leash or in a crate inside the home at all times except for limited use of exercise pens. That way your puppy has no ability to soil at random. Housetraining should start when your puppy is eight weeks old and continue at least until week twelve.
Keep an eye on your puppy while it is on a leash. The leash should not be longer than six feet so you can see your puppy at all times. This also helps spot signs when it’s time for a bathroom break. When you can’t keep an eye on your puppy it should go back into its crate.
The crate should be big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around and comfortably lay down. It should not be larger. By nature, dogs won't soil where they eat and sleep so the crate is the place to feed your puppy and keep it at night. You can move the crate to the bedroom or use multiple crates but your puppy should be in a crate at night for its first two to three months in your home.
In the beginning, take your puppy outside on a leash to pee and poop every one to two hours. It should be taken from the crate straight outside to a designated spot for elimination. Say something like, “go potty.” This will help it to learn that this command means to go outside to pee and poop.
Nighttime potty break intervals can be four to five hours. But in the beginning, getting up at night is the only way to avoid accidents. Don’t just tie the leash up somewhere. Stay with your puppy during the elimination time.
When you take your puppy outside during the day to eliminate in the designated area—and it’s successful, reward it with affection, food, or toy play. Your puppy needs to learn that going in the right spot is a great thing. However, there is no point in reprimanding a puppy for an in-home accident. If there is an accident, accept it’s your fault, not your puppies. At night time, potty breaks should be “strictly business.” You clip the leash on, say “go potty,” take it outside, it goes, and you bring it back in and straight back into its crate and back to bed.
Potty Training Adult Dogs
House training an adult dog is similar to that with puppies but an adult has better bladder control and so the housebreaking process focuses more on establishing rules and a routine.
The principle of control remains the same as with puppies, including using leashes and crates to establish a routine.
For an adult dog I recommend the following process:
For the first week take your dog outside every two hours during the daytime and give it five minutes to eliminate at a designated area. Keep your dog on a leash the entire time and stay with it. Say “go potty” every time you take it out. After five minutes take your dog back inside, whether it eliminated or not. When you can’t keep an eye on your dog inside, it goes into a crate. At night you can sleep through and just take your dog out once before you go to bed and then again first thing in the morning.
If the two-hour rhythm works well, switch to a three to four-hour rhythm for another week or so and then switch to a flexible schedule suiting you.
You can also listen to our podcast episode on this topic: Housebreaking and Custom Raw Diet (#7)