Potty Training

From pee pad to grass....as effortlessly as possible!

Potty training can prove a real challenge at times. You think you've made a breakthrough, and then there you are, back to the cupboard reaching for the paper towels and cleaning sprays. Sounds familar?

In this section I'll be sharing tips on how to set up your Puppy Play Area, crate training, and schedules, as well as a couple of insider secrets.

Your Puppy Play Area

Limiting the amount of space your puppy has access to at home, by either closing doors, using a baby gate, or sectioning off part of your living room with a play pen, helps to prevent your puppy from making the wrong choice when it comes to choosing a potty spot while left unsupervised.

An ideal Puppy Play Area is easy to clean and should be mostly free of furniture and non-puppy related objects. A good potential location in your home maybe the kitchen, sectioned off with a baby-gate, or a washroom/laundry room. Your puppy will be happiest in an area of the home where you spend the majority of your time, so basements or downstairs washrooms would normally be my last choice.

If you can't section off an area of your home easily, I'd recommend buying an exercise pen which can be set up in your main room or bedroom when needed. Because these pens can take up space (a limited commodity in our downtown apartments), choose one that is easy to fold up and put away if you need the space back when you're home.

I'll talk more about schedules in a minute, but I generally only use the Puppy Play Area if I'm going to be away from my puppy for more than an hour, so if you're home for the evening you can put the pen away.

So, How Do I Set This Area Up?

Okay. You've picked your space, either an area of the home that can be sectioned off with a baby gate, or you've chosen to buy an exercise pen, next you need a couple of basic items:

  1. Small plastic crate, or dog bed
  2. Water bowl. Something heavy, that can't be knocked over.
  3. A puppy pee pad. If your puppy shreds pads you can use a towel instead, but this will need to be washed regularly.
  4. A pee cleaning spray, such as Nature's Miracle, plus plenty of paper towels.
  5. Your puppy's favourite soft toy, and a couple of chew toys (Kong or Bully Stick).

I normally leave the radio on while I'm out, which help to disguise any background noises such as dogs barking outside, or neighbours walking down your corridor. Also, if you're curious to know what your pup gets up to while you're out you can set up a camera, or connect a video Skype call between your cell and lap top. This is often a good idea if you are worried that your puppy is barking excessively as you leave, though most puppies generally settled down within a few minutes.

Crate Training

An awesome tool for helping with potty training, a containment option during car rides, as well as a safe space for your puppy to sleep.

Throw small tasty treats into the crate one at a time. When your puppy is comfortable going in and out practice closing the door for 2-5 seconds, popping treats in through the grill. Next, leave your puppy in the crate with something delicious to chew on while you move around the home.

Crates shouldn't be used for more than a couple of hours at a time, unless it's bed time. If you need to leave them for longer periods unsupervised, put them in their containment area where you puppy will have the ability to pee on a pad if needed.

Potty Training Schedule

Your puppy needs to pee pretty much as soon as it wakes-up, eats, drinks, plays, napes...if in doubt, take them out, and be ready to reward them for going outside. Keep tasty treats in a ziplock close to hand.

While you're home, set an alarm to go off every 60-90 mins, and promptly take your puppy outside to pee. Pick a quiet area, but avoid dog parks until your puppy has all their vaccines.

You don't need to wake around too much, just pick a space and allow them to explore that area. Sniffing where other dogs have been can help to encourage your puppy to pee outside.

Each time your puppy pee/poops outside, praise and reward with tasty treats. Your puppy only has a limited amount of pee each day, and they will quickly figure out that they can cash it in for cookies if they go outside.

If your puppy refuses to go potty outside, bring them back in, but be aware this is the danger zone. Ideally put your puppy back in their crate for 10-15 minutes, they do not want to pee where they sleep and it will encourage them to hold their bladder. After 15 minutes take your puppy outside and try again.

Once your puppy is empty you are free to play and cuddle with them, but keep an ear out for your hourly alarm...their bladder will be quickly re-filling, and they will need another potty break soon.

An alternative option to crating your puppy between potty breaks is to tether them to you, or to a piece of furniture close to you, using a 6 foot puppy leash and harness. Most puppies will sneak off to pee on a rug, behind the couch, or under a table, tethering prevents this. If your puppy needs to go potty, they will start to whine, circle, or sniff the floor, all signals that you can lookout for to know that they are ready to go outside.

If you need to leave your puppy at home, set up their containment area with a pee pad, just in case they need to go while you are out.

Trouble Shooting

If your puppy has an accident, do not punish them for it. They will not learn that it's wrong to pee inside, but instead that it's unsafe to pee when you're around. Clean up the accident with a Puppy Pee Spray, like Urine off or Nature's Miracle. These sprays breakdown the protein residue in the pee that attracts them to the same place. Apple Cider Vinegar also works.