It’s one of the most challenging parts of becoming a pet parent: house-training your puppy. The way you approach bathroom training can have lasting effects on your bond with your dog — not to mention the state of your home.
A positive, patient approach does more than help your puppy learn good bathroom habits faster. The experience of potty training can actually strengthen your relationship with your new best friend.
There are many theories about the best way to potty train, but the experts tend to agree on one thing: the best way to prevent accidents is to make it easier for your puppy to eliminate outside than inside. This means offering your pup plenty of opportunities to go outside and ensuring that bathroom breaks are a pleasant experience.
Every puppy is unique, but in general, dogs don’t gain full control over their bladders until around six months of age. Spend your first weeks together observing their habits and any behaviors that signal that it’s time to go.
Build your training schedule around your dog’s natural rhythms, and you’ll help flatten the learning curve.
As your puppy grows up, introduce a tool for communicating the need to go outside. Quick Tip: A bell tied around the doorknob is a great start. When your dog is small, pair the sound of the bell with each trip to the bathroom. Over time, your pup will learn to schedule their own potty breaks by ringing the bell to be let outside.
Habits, including bathroom habits, are built on consistency. Creating a ritual around bathroom trips and sticking to a schedule will help prevent accidents through behavioral conditioning.
As your pup learns to associate a particular time of day, activity, or location with eliminating, the behavior will become more automatic. Help your dog learn to regulate their toileting by:
Crates can be a useful house training tool, thanks in large part to dogs’ natural instincts.
Curious, energetic puppies can get overstimulated by the world around them and crave a quiet space to call their own. Because pups see their crate as a sort of modern “den,” they are naturally less inclined to eliminate there. Crated pups learn to communicate the urge to go to the bathroom by vocalizing or pawing at the door – a helpful clue for new pet parents who are still getting to know their new furbaby.
It’s important to recognize that not all dogs will be a good fit for crate training, and that it can only succeed when your pup has a positive view of this space. Crates should be used responsibly and never as a way of punishing your dog. Improper crating can create stress and actually increase the likelihood of toileting accidents.
No matter how vigilant you are, potty training accidents are inevitable. As frustrating as a soiled rug can be, it’s important to maintain a mindset of positive reinforcement.
Scolding your puppy when you discover a puddle is more likely to scare your puppy than teach him a lesson. Not only can this harm your bond with your dog, but creating fear, confusion, or anxiety around potty training will take you further away from your goals.
Even if you catch your dog in the act, a drama-free approach is best. If possible, take him outside to finish the job. Regardless, clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner to discourage a repeat offense, and move on.
Because accidents will happen, it’s best to see them as learning opportunities. Make a note of the circumstances that contributed to any incidents. Did you wait too long between trips outside? Did you overlook a subtle queue like whining or sniffing?
Be patient with your new family member, and remember that they aim to please. Look for ways to help your pup be successful on their house training journey – your dog (and carpet) will appreciate your effort.