How to potty train a new puppy

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Potty train your puppy

There are so many wonderful things to look forward to when you bring home a new puppy. All those adorable photos, how cute they look when they’re asleep, their first trip to the vet, their first ride in the car, and the first time they learn how to sit. One of the less glamorous aspects of welcoming a new puppy into your life is the inevitable challenge how to potty train a new puppy.

For this reason, one of our top tips for new puppies is to potty train them as soon as possible. Not only is potty training an excellent way of building a positive relationship with your dog from the start. The earlier your pup masters the art of going to the potty in the correct place, the more you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your new puppy without wondering where the next mess will appear.

Pick a place

The first step when potty training your new puppy is an obvious one – you need to pick a place where you want your puppy to go to the potty. For most people, this will be in the backyard or garden area of your home. In this case, potty training your puppy is about teaching them how to recognize when they need to go, and to then let you know in enough time so that you can let them outside.

If you live in an apartment or otherwise don’t have access to a suitable outdoor area, you’ll need to create an indoor potty area for your puppy to use. You could purchase a specially made indoor potty featuring artificial or real turf or sand. You can also use disposable or reusable puppy training pads. In this case, your puppy doesn’t need to learn to tell you when they need to go. They simply need to learn to take themselves to the designated indoor potty spot rather than somewhere else in your home.

Learn your puppy’s signals

Next, it’s time to learn the signals your puppy will show you when it’s time to go potty. All puppies are different, but some of the most common ways that puppies will signal that they need to go include sniffing the floor, pacing or spinning in circles, smelling their rear end, standing near the door that leads outside or to their potty area, or squatting.

If you see your puppy performing any of these signals, immediately take them to their designated potty spot. Of course, by the time they reach the squatting stage you may already be too late, but gently pick up your squatting puppy and place them in their potty spot, even if they’ve already started. If they managed to finish going potty in the right place, give them plenty of praise.

Simply by observing your puppy over the space of a few days – particularly straight after eating, playing, or waking up, which is when they most likely need to go – you will soon learn the signs they make to show they need to go to the potty.

After you’ve spotted your puppy’s potty signal

After you’ve noticed your pup’s potty signal, take them straight to the designated potty area. If you’re using an indoor area, take them to that place and don’t let them wander off until they’ve gone to the potty. If you’re using an outside area, don’t just let your puppy have the run of the yard. In these crucial initial stages of potty training, pick a particular place in the backyard. For example, a back corner. Always take your puppy straight to that spot. The entire backyard will seem a little big and daunting to your puppy at first. They’ll be much more likely to feel comfortable going outside if they know they always go to the potty in the same spot. Also, after they’ve been to that spot several times, it will start to smell like a familiar potty place for them. This will make it all the more likely that they’ll continue to use that spot in the future.

If you think you’ve picked up on a potty cue and you take your puppy outside but they don’t do anything, wait a minute or two then bring them straight back into the house. Don’t do anything else outside, like play or let them go exploring. Bring them back inside, and wait until they make their potty cue again before bringing them back outside.

The right schedule to potty train a new puppy

The secret to your puppy’s potty-training success is to stick to a schedule. Much like human babies, puppies will fairly regularly need to go to the potty immediately after they wake up after they have something to eat or drink, and after they finish a play session. Set yourself up for success by establishing a routine for your new puppy right from the start. Puppies have small stomachs (and correspondingly small bowels and bladders). So they need to eat at least three times a day. They simply can’t handle enough food in one sitting to last them through an entire day.

Work out in advance what time your puppy’s meals will be. Make sure it’s at a time when you can take them straight to the potty immediately after they’ve finished eating. Don’t plan to feed your puppy as you’re heading out the door for school or work, as you’re only going to end up feeling rushed.

Similarly, don’t play with your puppy and then race out the door. After a big play session, your puppy will likely need to go straight to the potty. With a little forward thinking and planning, you and your puppy will work out the secret to potty training.

Heap on the praise…

Puppies thrive on praise and kind words from their owners. When you catch your puppy going to the potty in the right place, make sure you heap on the praise. Tell them what a good dog they are and give them a little pat or a scratch behind the ears. (Read on for five ways to reward your dog without treats.) Remember that your puppy wants to please you – they’re just not sure exactly how to go about it. That’s where consistency and routine come in.

…But stay calm about accidents

No matter how diligently you train your puppy. No matter how hard your new puppy tries to please you. Accidents are going to happen. When the inevitable occurs and you wake up in the morning or come home from work to see a big mess across your floor (or worse, on your carpet or rug) it’s important to stay calm. Getting angry will only confuse and scare your puppy. They simply won’t have the ability to link your displeasure with something that they did minutes or even hours ago. Stay calm, clean it all up, make sure there is no leftover scent. Otherwise the smell will encourage them to make the same mistake again, and move on. Put all of your emotions into praising your puppy when they do the right thing, rather than getting angry over an accident.

Potty training your new puppy may seem like a daunting task at first. But just remember that, in the wild, dogs naturally learn not to soil the area where they eat and sleep. All it takes is some consistency and the right attitude (along with some patience when dealing with the inevitable accidents) to help you and your puppy breeze through these early potty training days.

If you have children in your life, read on to find out everything you need to know about introducing dogs and children in the best possible way.

potty train a new puppy


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