Potty training your puppy – some lucky owners get a dog who is naturally great at controlling his bladder and seems to intuitively understand that pottying only happens outside. For the other 98% of dog owners, here are some ideas.
In potty training we combine management (setting up a situation/environment that naturally limits unwanted behaviors) with actual training (changing/creating a behavior on the long term).
(In Don’t Distract Your Anxious Dog you can read more about the difference between those two, and their applications in other areas of dog ownership)
Dogs are naturally clean animals that tend to not want to relieve themselves in what they consider their living quarters. Here is where it gets a bit tricky: for a little puppy, your house is huge! While he probably understands well that he is not supposed to pee in front of the couch your family hangs out on in the evenings, it is much harder for him to understand why your laundry room may be off-limits. To him, that’s so far away from the family room that he sees it as not even part of the living quarters!
By “taking out” I do not mean just opening your dog and letting him into the yard – actually go out there with him. If we do not see what he is actually doing, we cannot be sure that he urinated – if you stay inside it can also happen that your puppy only “squeezes out a few drops” because he wants to get back in and be with you fast. The best way to ensure he empties his whole bladder is to go with him and wait until he is done. Then you can also give him a treat or play with him as a reward, as well as attach a potty cue so he learn to potty when you tell him to.
You can take him to the same potty spot every time to help him understand better.
For a little, 2 months old puppy I recommend taking him out after waking up, after eating, after playing, and every waking 20min regardless of the activity. If your puppy plays for a long time, he might also need to be taken out during his playtime. Learn his cues: before he goes he will sniff the ground and start turning in a circle, that is when you pick him up and take him outside.
This is a management aspect – the less time your puppy spends by himself in the “less occupied” areas of the house, the less likely he is to have an accident there. Make sure to keep your puppy in the same room that you are in and do not allow him to wander off too much on his own devices.Introduce all areas of the house to him – if he tends to have accidents in a room or corner of the hallway that you do not usually use, you can make a point to take him there for play time or some food games to show him that this is indeed part of your house!
Accidents will happen. Do not scold your puppy – he will not understand you are scolding him for picking the wrong spot. He will think you are unpredictable and become weary of you – we do not want that!
If you find a puddle, just clean it up and try to be more observant next time. If you catch your puppy in the act, just pick him up and let him finish outside.
Have more questions about puppy training?
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Hang in there – the first months can be hard and tiring. It get easier!