When it comes to setting your pup up for success (and keeping your floor dry,) there are three things to keep in mind:
Let’s take is step-by-step
Before anything comes out of your dog, it has to go in. Have your dog on a set feeding and watering schedule. Yes, watering. It’s just as important to control the liquids that go into him as it is to control the solids. A puppy’s bladder can hold between 1-2 ounces of liquid. Even though your dog is growing, their bladder is still tiny. If your dog likes them, ice cubes are a great way to control their water intake and help soothe puppy gums that are sore from teething. Plus they’re fun to crunch on.
Serve your dog fresh food and water at the same time. Give him five minutes to enjoy it and when the five minutes are through, remove the food and water from their reach. For most dogs, five minutes is plenty of time to eat and drink their fill. If your dog is super- finicky and picks at his food, you can leave the bowls down for ten minutes.
Now that your pup’s been fed and watered and the bowls are out of reach, set a timer for 20 minutes. For most dogs, twenty minutes is enough time for their meal to pass through their digestive system, so when the timer goes off, it’s time for a bathroom break. Keep in mind that every dog is different, so even though there may still be time on the clock, your dog’s behavior may tell you that he needs to go potty RIGHT NOW. That’s fine.
Take your dog out on a walk or to his potty area. Even if he goes potty successfully right away, stay in the potty area an additional few minutes. Puppies may not always empty their bladder at one time.
If your dog doesn’t potty within 5-10 minutes, bring them inside and put them in their crate for a 15-20 minutes, then take them back outside for another try. If you like your floors and carpets dry and stain-free, DO NOT let the dog roam free until they’ve successfully used the potty outside!
Be patient with your pup. Just like humans, they learn at different speeds. It may take a few rounds before they associate outside with potty. Until they do, keep alternating between their crate and the potty area outside. If after a few meals, you still have to alternate between crate and outside multiple times before he goes potty, try extending the initial waiting period from twenty minutes to sixty minutes. Again, just like humans, every dog is different. Part of the potty process is getting to know how your dog’s digestive system works.
When you’re potty training your pup, it’s important that you give them lots of opportunities to go in the places they should go, and zero opportunities to go in places they shouldn’t. As we all know, relieving yourself feels good. This means that it’s inherently positively reinforcing itself, and any behavior that is reinforced is more likely to happen again.
So, rather than let your dog have the chance to learn how nice and easy it is to go inside his crate, on the kitchen floor or on the hand-stitched rug your great grandmother brought with her from the old country, you’ll want to prevent it from ever happening in the first place. The best defense is a good offense and the best offense is supervision.
If you can see your dog, you can spot the subtle (and not so subtle) indications that it’s time for a bathroom break. There are a few ways to do this. You can pen the dog into a small space or room with you. If you’re moving around the house, you can tether the dog’s leash to your body.
And of course, you can put the dog in his crate. Keep in mind that every crate is not right for every dog. Your dog’s crate shouldn’t be much larger than your dog. If he has too much room in his crate, he might decide that peeing in the far corner isn’t so bad. Use the divider that came with your crate to gate him/her just enough to curl up and lay down.
And just in case an accident happens, don’t use any cushioning or padding in their crate until you’re confident they won‘t potty in it. We want our pups to be comfortable, but soft blankets and pillows absorb everything. Even after clean up, remnants and odors remain in the fabric, reinforcing the message, “Hey, this is a great potty!”