Potty training your dog teaches it not to soil the home. It is often the first challenge dog owners face. Depending on your approach, you either have a good time with your dog during this phase or live through a peeing and pooping nightmare.
Housetraining a dog is not rocket science but requires consistency and commitment.
If you bring a new dog—puppy or adult—into your home, let it run loose, and it soils the place, it’s not your dog’s fault; it’s yours.
Any dog needs to learn the rules of the home and where you want it to eliminate. The best practice is establishing a controlled process for your dog, making it nearly impossible to eliminate inside by accident. As your dog learns the rules, it will earn more freedom over time.
Generally, any dog that eliminates in the home needs to be housebroken—there is no such thing as a partially housetrained dog. Even after one accident—assuming it’s not a health issue—you are back to square one of housetraining.
Body signals a dog exhibits when it has to go:
Starting to pant
Starting to sniff the area excessive
Pawing (at us)
Standing up and becoming restless when previously lying down
Getting a slight hump in the back (just before going)
Potty Training Puppies
Puppies have limited bladder control. Just like a newborn child, they can’t hold it for long. Accept that there will be accidents while your puppy learns. When accidents happen, clean them up with non-toxic cleaners to eliminate the smell and disinfect the area. My favorite commercial cleaner is from Seventh Generation (multi-surface spray cleaner). It’s free of harsh chemicals and cleans well without harming you or your pets.
The key to housetraining a puppy is structure. For the first two to three months of its life, keep your puppy on a leash or in a crate at all times except for the limited use of exercise pens. That way, your puppy cannot soil randomly. Housetraining should start the moment your puppy comes home and continue for at least four weeks.
Keep an eye on your puppy while on a leash. The leash should not be more than six feet long, so you can always keep an eye on your puppy. This also helps spot signs when it’s time for a bathroom break. It should go back into its crate when you can’t watch your puppy.
The crate should be big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around and comfortably lie down. It should not be larger. By nature, dogs won’t soil where they eat and sleep, so the crate is the place to feed your puppy and keep it at night. You can move the crate to the bedroom or use multiple crates, but your puppy should be in a crate at night for its first two to three months in your home.
In the beginning, take your puppy outside on a leash to pee and poop every one to two hours. It should be taken straight from the crate outside to a designated elimination spot. Say something like, “go potty.” This will help it learn that this command means to go outside to pee and poop.
Night-time potty break intervals can be four to five hours. But initially, getting up at night is the only way to avoid accidents. Stay with your puppy during the elimination time.
When you take your puppy outside during the day to eliminate in the designated area—and it’s successful, reward it with petting and, possibly, play or food. Your puppy needs to learn that going in the right spot is appreciated. However, there is no point in reprimanding a puppy for an in-home accident. If there is an accident, accept it’s your fault, not your puppies. At night time, potty breaks should be “strictly business.” You clip the leash on, say, “go potty,” and take it outside. Once it finishes, you bring it back into its crate and return to bed.
Potty Training Adult Dogs
House training an adult dog is similar to puppies, but an adult has better bladder control, so the housebreaking process focuses more on establishing rules and a routine.
The principle of control remains the same as with puppies, including using leashes and crates to establish order.
For an adult dog, I recommend the following process:
For the first week, take your dog outside every two hours during the daytime and give it five minutes to eliminate at a designated area. Please keep your dog on a leash the entire time and stay with it. Say “go potty” every time you take it out. After five minutes, take your dog back inside, whether or it eliminated. It goes into a crate when you can’t keep an eye on your dog inside. At night you can sleep through and take your dog out once before you go to bed and then again first thing in the morning.
If the two-hour rhythm works well, switch to a three to four-hour rhythm for another week or so and then switch to a flexible schedule suiting you.
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We can help you, regardless of your dog's challenges or training goals. Being a professional dog trainer means having experience, knowledge, and skill. Further, we developed a highly effective training program to specifically help fearful dogs gain more confidence and become the best possible version of themselves. Building Confidence is our second most popular training program.
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Happy Dog Training is the pet dog training business of Ralf Weber and Sarah Gill. We are certified professional dog trainers in Southern California. We are specialized in advanced obedience training, all forms or behavioral challenges and service dog training. For behavioral training, we are known for our work with aggressive and fearful dogs. Our service dogs, through Total K9 Focus, have a nationwide reputation for their reliability, longevity and performance.
Ralf Weber, MS, TWC CPDT, IACP CDT, CDTA
Certified Professional Dog Trainer Ralf Weber is lead pet dog trainer of Happy Dog Training. Ralf is a long-time dog owner of German Shepherds. During his career, Ralf has worked with over a 1500 dogs of many different breeds. Moreover, Ralf has a thorough understanding of all aspects of canine training. This includes evolutionary psychology, ethology, and, most importantly, learning science. Ralf is specialized in resolving dog behavior challenges—especially fear and aggression. Apart from this, Ralf trains dogs in basic and advanced obedience, service dog tasks, and GRC Dog Sports. Ralf is further certified in a broad range of other canine training areas. Last but not least, Ralf is the author of the behavioral book If Your Dog Could Talk: Understand Your Dog Like Never Before.
Ralf loves helping people have a better relationship with their dogs. He is a certified professional dog trainer in the Training without Conflict™ methodology by Ivan Balabanov (TWC CPDT). Ralf is also a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and also holds their basic and advanced dog trainer certifications (IACP CDT, CDTA). In addition, Ralf is an AKC-approved evaluator for the AKC Puppy Star, CGC, and Advanced CGC programs and is also certified in canine first aid by the Red Cross.
Sarah Gill, Certified Professional Master Trainer
Sarah Gill, is a professional service dog trainer and handler. Sarah entered the world of professional service dog training after a car accident. As a result, she had to use a wheelchair for almost two years, trying to maneuver in a house not designed for it. No one expected Sarah would walk again. This opened her eyes and became a driving force behind pushing herself to defy the odds. When she regained some stability, Sarah attended a dog training school and learned how to train service dogs. Sarah completed her Master Trainer Certification and gained further experience by training new trainers. However, the school wasn’t accommodating to those with physical difficulties and PTSD. Hence, Sarah moved home to Dallas. In 2019, Sarah teamed up with Ralf and moved to California.
Sarah started this journey because she had a trained dog to mitigate her disabilities. But Sarah needed additional tasking for a new diagnosis. The only option she could find was getting a second dog for the new diagnosis. She knew there had to be a different way to address this. Sarah's passion is changing the ways of the service dog training industry.