How to potty train a puppy

By Sophia Yin, DVM April 2009

1968-2014 R.I.P.

Reader Question:My 10 week old puppy seemed to do well the first several days we had him but it’s been a week and he’s still having accidents in the house. What can we do to fix this?

Answer:While young puppies provide many precious moments they, like infants and toddlers, require an extraordinary amount of time, planning, and energy—usually much more than one predicts. One of the most trying tasks associated with having a puppy is potty training. Some people think that potty training is as easy as just keeping the pup on a regular eating, drinking and potty-outing schedule where he is taken out every several hours. Or they think that the pup will be completely house-trained in just a week or two. For some precocial pups (meaning offspring born relatively mature and independent) this might be so. Most pups taken through such a lax, abbreviated potty protocol remain only partially house-trained. They learn that outside is a good place to go but don’t understand that inside is off-bounds. In fact, they may even come inside after an extensive play or exercise period and then relieve themselves on your expensive carpet.

puppy in crate

The crate is the most powerful tool with house training, because if done correctly, it becomes a den, and dogs have a natural instinct not to pee or poop where they sleep. For the crate to become a den, it can’t be too big. In fact, it should be just larger than the dog. The crate can’t be big enough to where the dog can comfortably pee in one corner and sleep in the other. Big crates for large dogs come with a divider that can and should be used to make the crate smaller, expanding the crate as the dog grows.

If the crate is the right size, and your puppy hasn’t gotten into the habit of going to the bathroom in his crate (common in most dogs purchased from a pet store) then the crate becomes your safe place: a place where you can put him and be confident that he won’t pee because he does not want to pee in his den.

The Full Potty Training Protocol for Young Pups

Here’s what’s really required for foolproof potty training—it’s not an easy task. When the pup wakes up, let him out of his pooch-palace, a travel kennel just big enough for him to sleep in but not large enough for a bed plus bathroom. Immediately carry or run him out on leash to the preferred potty spot outside and stand there, stationary and silent until he’s done both #1 and #2. As he’s about to potty you can say the cue word “potty” just once so he comes to associate the word with the action. Then you can reward him as he’s finishing. But, otherwise, you’re silent so you don’t distract him from doing his duty. If he’s done both, then, he can come in and have a meal and play session. If he has not, then he goes back into his pooch palace for 15 minutes after which time you try again. Repeat this process until he’s done both #1 and #2 or he’ll potty inside as soon as you’ve taken a break and strayed from the plan.

Next, once he’s earned a free-time session you can let him loose in a small area if you can keep your eyes glued to him. As soon as you take your eyes off him, he’s sure to have an accident just as sure as your pasta water will boil over as soon as your attention is diverted elsewhere. Watch for signs (like sniffing the ground) that he’s ready to go potty again and run him outside if you’re unsure. Next, 15-20 minutes after he’s eaten or drank water, and every time he wakes up from resting or has been playing and slows down, take him out to go potty and reward him when he does. If he doesn’t potty, put him back in his crate for 15 minutes and then try again. During the rest of the day he should spend bouts sleeping in his crate, and you can regularly go through the same potty process you went through first thing in the morning. You may need to go through the process 4-6 times a day.

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Once he’s relieved himself outside during the day, he can have a play session or be attached to you on leash so you’re more likely to catch the signs he wants to potty. The goal is that every time he goes outside, he sees this as his opportunity to potty and does #1 or #2, and when he’s inside he does not have an opportunity to make a mistake. This is the quickest way for him to develop an outdoor potty habit and to learn that indoors is not a normal potty place.

Usually after a week, you get a pup who goes potty outside on cue but who may still have accidents inside. This rigid routine must be carried out consistently for several months and without accidents for several weeks before it’s set. Even the most diligent owners should expect accidents and avoid getting upset. Just startle the pup if you catch him in the act so that you can hopefully get him to stop and then rush him outside to finish. Beware that if you punish him or cause him to be scared, he may just learn to potty in the house out of your sight. So just chalk accidents up to your mistake and resume following the plan.

If this potty training process sounds like a drag, you’re right. The only thing more inconvenient than following this plan is having to randomly clean up after your dog in the house for the dog’s entire life.

Tips for Potty Training Your Puppy in an Apartment

1. Be patient.

You and your puppy are just getting to know each other, so it’s important to establish a strong bond early on and practice some patience. If you get frustrated or angry, that just complicates the potty-training process.

Patience also will come in handy in dealing with frequent trips outside so that Bella can do her business. Most apartment dwellers don’t have easy access to a yard in case of a potty emergency. Instead, they’ve got to navigate a staircase or an elevator to make it outdoors.

2. Be prepared.

If you live an apartment, you need to be prepared to do some potty training inside your place.

For instance, you might want to set up a potty area in your apartment and lay paper or potty pads there to avoid accidents when you can’t make it outside in time or if outdoor training isn’t an option. Or, you can even buy a doggy litter box. Yep, litter boxes aren’t just for cats.

Whether it’s a potty area or a litter box, make sure it’s in the same spot in your apartment, at least for a while. That way, your puppy learns to do her business in the same place each time, establishing a pattern.

3. Be smart.

If you’re typically away from your apartment for an extended period during the day, invest in a crate for your puppy.

Contrary to what you might think, keeping your puppy in a crate is not a cruel thing. Dogs are creatures of habit and want to create their own “home” within your apartment. Puppies and older dogs tend not to pee or poop in their own crate, as they don’t want to soil their surroundings.

Crate training your dog is far better than coming home to a puppy who has been roaming around your apartment and has made a mess. A crate also can serve as your puppy’s bedroom at night.

It’s worth mentioning that there is one product that goes well beyond a crate. The Potty Training Puppy Apartment provides a “bedroom” for your furry friend to sleep and move around, and a separate “bathroom” for your puppy to relieve herself. Imagine having a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment just for Bella!

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4. Be kind.

When your puppy has a potty accident in your apartment, don’t rub her nose in the mess or scold her, says the American Kennel Club. Simply clean up the pee or poop and move on.

Also, use an enzymatic cleaner to spray the spot where the accident occurred to remove evidence of pee, suggests Preventive Vet. Dogs are likely to return to the “scene of the crime” when they get a whiff of urine.

Instead of punishing your pup for bad behavior, you should celebrate good behavior — in this case, a positive pee or poop experience. The American Kennel Club recommends gestures such as cheering, clapping or offering a treat. What dog doesn’t want a treat?

5. Be aware.

Monitor your puppy’s conduct and establish a potty schedule that aligns with your puppy’s needs. You might need to take her outside several times a day, at regular intervals so she can take care of business. (You also should feed your puppy around the same time each day to stick to a routine, according to Preventive Vet.)

In addition, look for signs that Bella is about to pee or poop where she’s not supposed to, the American Kennel Club says. For instance, if she starts squatting on your living room rug, she’s probably preparing to do No. 2. If you sense that your pup is going to relieve herself in your apartment, get ready to either grab her and race outside or take her to the designated potty area inside.

6. Be courteous.

Before you hurry out of your apartment building once you realize Bella needs a bathroom break — right away! — equip yourself with a container of cleanser and a rag, towel or napkin, Preventive Vet suggests. In case of an accident in a hallway, elevator or stairway, you can mop up the mess and not annoy your neighbors by leaving behind a puddle of pee or a pile of poop.

Dogs are amazing apartment pets. They’re always there for you when you need them most. You may already live in the perfect pet-friendly apartment, but if not, ApartmentSearch can help you find the best place for you and your pup. Whether that means living on the first floor or finding an apartment with a doggie swimming pool, start your search for your best pet-friendly apartment today!

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Consistency

Rottweiler HousebreakingYou must first be consistent when potty training your Rottie. That means, especially if the Rottie is a puppy, you must take them outside often. And by often, I mean every hour or two minimum!

When you take them outside, you want to take them to an area of your yard that you would like to designate as the potty area. With their leash on, place them in the designated potty area and say in a positive and friendly voice, “Go potty, Rottie!” Of course, you must use your Rottweiler’s name, I will just pretend their name is “Rottie” to make it easier to understand.

Continue to encourage them. Especially if your dog is still a puppy, they will probably go shortly after you put them in the potty area. When they finally squat and go potty, you must immediately give them a huge praise. Make a fuss, give them scratches behind the ears, and big pats on the head. And immediately take them back inside. Do not leave them out in the yard to run and play. This is fine to do once potty training is established, but in the training stages it is important to be clear and consistent.

Now, in about an hour or two, you must do this again. Follow the same instructions. Exactly. When they have done their business, as big or small as it may be, immediately praise them and bring them back inside. After doing this a few times, it is ok to give your Rottweiler a treat. But do not do this every time you take them out to go potty, or they will associate only going potty outside if they know that a treat is involved.

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If your Rottweiler does not go potty while they are outside, don’t stress. They may not have to go. If you have been outside for a while and they don’t go, simply take them back inside, but do not praise them, just go back in and continue on with your business as usual.

Take Your Rottweiler Out During the NightPotty Training

No one wants to get out of bed to take the dog outside. Especially if it is raining or snowing. But this is a huge responsibility as a pet owner. If you’re Rottweiler is a puppy, this is even more important. Before you go to bed, take your puppy out to go potty. If they go, give them praise. When you go back to bed, set your alarm for another hour or two. When the alarm goes off, take your puppy out again. Even if they are sleeping, wake them up and take them out. If they go, give them praise. If they do not go, just take them back inside and go back to bed.

Now, this is where it get’s frustrating. You will need to set your alarm again for another hour or two. If your puppy went potty when you took them out last, you may be able to get away with setting it for two hours, but if they did not go, it would be a good idea to set it for an hour and try again.

Dealing With Accidents

This is the crappiest part of potty training, no pun intended. All puppies and dogs are going to have occasional accidents. Why is that? Because it is an accident. It’s not an intentional thing. Maybe your Rottweiler got excited while you were in the other room or at work and went potty on the floor. Maybe they just couldn’t hold it. That is why it is important to be consistent in letting your Rottweiler outside often.

Rottweiler Potty TrainingWhen this inevitably happens, you must keep your temper. Do not ever hit the dog for messing on the floor. This only lowers your dog’s self­esteem. Low self­esteem can be a cause of them going potty on the floor, so we want to make sure we build our Rottweiler’s confidence. If you come home and your dog has made a mess, you must clean it up and say, “No, Rottie. Potty outside!” And take them outside to their designated potty area. If they do not go, do not praise them. If they go, then and only then may you praise them.

Potty training is a very difficult and frustrating job that you must start teaching them immediately. If you are consistent about taking them out, and teach them that going potty outside gets you praises, your job can become much easier in the future. Potty training does not happen overnight, same goes for any type of dog training. It may take months to fully train them to go potty outside, but if you take them out often, give them good praises when they go potty outside, take them out several times overnight, and discipline them properly without breaking their confidence, your Rottweiler will be more than happy to continue going potty when and where they are supposed to.

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