People often find housetraining their puppy a difficult process, especially with smaller breed dogs (who have smaller bladders). The key to effective, quick housetraining is to PREVENT MISTAKES. The more often your puppy has accidents in the house, the more it understands that inside is the place to go. The more often your puppy potties outside, the more it understands that outside is the place to go.
At this age, it is your responsibility to get your puppy outside. Not only does your puppy not have a clue that outside is the place to potty, but it is also small enough that its bladder can’t hold much liquid. Even though it is time-intensive, the more you focus on error-less potty training, the faster housetraining will go. It really is worthwhile to take the time necessary to potty train your puppy, than to deal with month after month of accidents.
Below are some common questions people ask about housetraining and crate training.
How often do I take my puppy out?
“When in doubt, get them out!” Take your puppy out to potty frequently. A good rule of thumb is to take your puppy out 15-20 minutes after eating or drinking (a good reason not to leave food down all the time), 10-15 minutes into a hard play session, and every hour on the hour in between. This sounds like a lot, but if you take him out frequently, you’ll minimize mistakes in the house. Think of your puppy’s bladder as a loaded weapon… he is only allowed access to the house after he’s empty!
How do I know my puppy needs to go potty?
Look for her signals – circling and sniffing the ground (looking for a “good spot”) are common. If you take your puppy
out the same door to potty every time, you may also notice her going to the door. Be watchful! If you don’t catch your puppy trying to tell you she needs to potty, she’ll likely have an accident. You may find it helpful to create a chart and keep track of what your puppy does when you take her out – oftentimes there is a pattern.
What do I do when we get outside?
Put your puppy on-leash and walk him to the potty area when you go outside – this keeps him from playing, something you only want AFTER he potties (when it’s cold and raining, you’ll be glad he knows to potty straight away). Having him walk, rather than being carried, also teaches him what door to go to and how to get there. Watch him sniff for a spot, and then start saying your potty cue “Go potty,” or “Hurry up.” As soon as he potties, throw a party! Give him lots of treats, praise him and get really excited. If your neighbors can’t hear you, you’re not being enthusiastic enough!
What if my puppy doesn’t go potty?
Give her three minutes outside on leash before giving up (don’t wait longer, because we want her to associate going outside with going potty straight away). If you know she has a full bladder, take her inside and pop her in her crate (this is NOT a punishment; leave her with a toy or Kong). Wait 10-15 minutes, then try her outside again. Repeat this process until she potties; then she gets access to the house. If you follow this, your puppy CANNOT make a mistake!
Where should I leave my puppy for a short period of time?
Crates or kennels are the perfect place for short-term confinement. In the wild, dogs naturally find small dens to sleep in during the day. If introduced properly, your puppy will love sleeping in his crate. A crate should be just big enough for your puppy to turn around in, but no bigger. If your puppy doesn’t chew on it, you can pad the bottom with a towel. When you leave your puppy, leave him with safe chew toys (stuffed Kongs and marrow bones, or Nylabones are excellent) – don’t leave him with anything he might be able to destroy (squeakies, etc).
How do I introduce the crate?
Start by tossing some yummy treats into the crate and encourage your puppy to find them. As she gets comfortable going in and out of the crate, start closing the door briefly. When the door is closed, feed her some really high-powered treats through the top or door of the crate. Release her before she gets upset, and stop feeding her treats. As she gets comfortable with this, start substituting a stuffed Kong or marrow bone for the treats (something that takes her some time to work on). Remember not to let your puppy out if she cries (wait until she stops) and to kennel your puppy throughout the day, not just when you leave, so kenneling up doesn’t always mean being left alone.
How long can I leave my puppy in the crate?
The general rule of thumb is for one hour per month of age, plus one. So a 3-month-old puppy can go for four hours in his crate. Keep in mind this is a general rule; it will vary from puppy to puppy. Also, your puppy may be able to go for longer overnight, but some puppies will need a potty break in the middle of the night until they grow big enough to be able to hold it.
What do I do if I need to be gone longer than that (for work, etc.)?
This is where the long-term confinement area is used. This can be a puppy-proofed room (laundry rooms, bathrooms and kitchens work well) or an area marked off with an exercise pen. The puppy should have a place to sleep, access to water, and a place to potty. You can leave down newspaper, a litter box (for small breeds) or special “puppy pads” as the potty area. To encourage your puppy to use the potty area, instead of going outside for a potty break, take your puppy over to the potty area and reward her for going there, just as you would outside. Sometimes taking a little of the puppy’s waste and spreading it on the area can also encourage her to use it.
What do I do if my puppy has an accident?
First off, think about what you could have done differently to prevent the accident: Did you forget to take the puppy outside? Did you not see his signals? What happened to your management plan that allowed the puppy to make a mistake? At this age, it’s not his fault that he had an accident – he doesn’t know any better and is small enough that holding his bladder for any length of time is hard!
If your puppy is peeing or pooping in front of you: Make a noise to interrupt your puppy, then scoop him up and take him outside. Use your “Hurry Up” or “Go Potty” cue, and if he finishes outside, praise and reward him as usual. If he doesn’t go potty and you think he is empty, he can have free run of the house, but if you think he still has something left in him, pop him in his crate and try again in a few minutes, as usual.
If your puppy has already finished and you come across the accident after the fact: You’re too late to do anything about it but clean up. Dogs can only connect events that are only a few seconds apart, so rubbing his nose in it or punishing him won’t mean anything to him – he won’t know why he is in trouble. Doing this can in fact make things worse – some puppies will hide while eliminating or will take to eating their own poop to avoid punishment. When you clean up, remove any solid waste, and then blot the area thoroughly to absorb as much liquid as possible. Soak the area with an enzymatic cleaner specifically for pet accidents (like Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solution) – if the area is carpeted, make sure you’ve poured enough on for it to reach the carpet pad and sub-flooring (spraying it on the surface is not enough).
Remember: When in Doubt, Get Them Out!