Whether you’re bringing home a brand-new puppy or an adult dog who’s lived in a home before, expect messes. Even a full-grown dog who’s fully house trained will need to adjust to their new home and new routine, and sometimes there might be an accident or two. The basics for potty training puppies and adults, whether previously house trained or not, are generally the same. There are some key points to keep in mind during this process that are almost universally applicable:
- Holding It: Every dog has their time limit. Puppies under six months are typically unable to hold it in for more than a few hours. Prepare for this! Hire a dog sitter or walker to come once or twice a day while you’re at work, or enroll your puppy in daycare. (A list of recommendations can be found in the document titled “Local Trainers”.) A healthy adult dog, even among smaller breeds, should have no trouble holding it for 8-10 hours in a crate or overnight. There are, of course, always exceptions.
- Frequent Outings: To avoid accidents, you will want to make sure your pup has plenty of opportunities to go outside. You also want to give them ample time. Walk them for at least 15 minutes to encourage them and give them plenty of time to go potty. When they do go outside, you want to capture this wanted behavior (just like when teaching a dog a new command). By capture, we mean giving lots of praise and treats for doing what we want.
- Reward Only!: It’s vital to successful housetraining that we NEVER scold a dog for going potty inside, even—especially—when we catch them in the act. More often than not, the dog won’t understand that you are scolding them for going inside. They are more likely to think you are scolding them for going at all, and as a result they will want to hide from you to do their business. (This means sneaking off to quiet, isolated corners of the home or behind furniture, and no one wants to play “Find the Smell!”). Instead our focus should be on praising and treating every time the pup goes outside. If your pup is learning for the first time or is struggling with learning outside from in, you can amp up the reward by “jackpotting” even a little outdoor tinkle with a BUNCH of treats and praise (or toys, or whatever your pup thinks is a great reward).
- Prevention & Redirection: If you are still in the process of housetraining, make sure you have eyes on your pup at all times. Keep a lightweight leash attached to their collar always (what we call a “dragging leash” or “drag line”) so that, the second they start to go, you can quickly pick up the end of the leash and walk them outside. Remain neutral until they’re outside, and as soon as they start to finish their business out there you can reward! If you are preoccupied with other tasks, limit their access. Use a crate or exercise pen to keep them from going wherever they please.
If you’re having difficulty with frequent urination or bowel movements, contact your vet to rule out possible medical causes!