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Alexandra Bassett
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The Ideal Potty Training Set Up

A DEN (A CRATE OR BED = DEN) WITHIN A CONFINEMENT AREA

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House training requires keeping a puppy in a "no mistake" zone like a crate or bed within a confinement area where a puppy can do no wrong when it is not being supervised.

Puppies do not like to make a mess where they sleep, so the best set up is to keep a crate or bed within a confinement area that has a designated "legal" potty area.

The crate or bed acts as a den where the puppy can rest or sleep, and the confinement area acts like a playpen, giving the puppy a little freedom to safely roam around and make a potty mistake without consequences. 

For easy cleanup, every part of the surface area in the confinement area should be completely covered with potty pads or paper in case the puppy does make a mistake. Confinement areas can be created with exercise pens that surround or attach to the crate. 

PERFECT FOR INDOOR & OUTDOOR POTTY TRAINING

This is the perfect setup for those wanting to indoor OR outdoor potty train their puppy. Those wanting to indoor potty train simply need to take away some of the potty pad tiles one by one as they notice where their puppy has started to go potty (perhaps after one or two weeks). Usually, the puppy will target the same area, so eventually, there can be only one pad acting as a legal indoor toilet.

Those wanting to outdoor potty train simply give the puppy a pass for going potty in their "no mistake" zone and make sure to put their puppy on a schedule that gets their puppy to the right place at the right time.

The Golden Rule of Potty Training 

ONLY LET A PUPPY ROAM FREE AFTER IT HAS POTTIED IN THE DESIGNATED POTTY AREA

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House training requires going on a schedule and supervising a puppy anytime they are roaming free in the house. And in fact, one of the real secrets to potty training is ONLY letting a puppy roam free in the house after it has gone potty in the right spot.

Why? Because when freedom to roam is associated as a reward or positive consequence for having gone to the bathroom in the correct spot, your puppy is more likely to make an effort to potty quickly where and when you want them to.

Limit The Time A Puppy Roams Free

PREVENTION IS WORTH AN OUNCE OF CURE WHEN IT COMES TO POTTY TRAINING

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It's a good idea to stick to a limited "roaming-free" schedule meaning that you will only let your puppy roam free for about 20-45 minutes before putting them back in their "no mistake" zone. This also gives a puppy parent a break to go back doing other things without worrying about what their puppy is up to.

The side benefit of this strategy is that it helps to avoid canine separation anxiety from developing. Your puppy gets used to learning how to entertain themselves by not always being with you, and as a result, they can better tolerate being left alone as they mature. 

Successful Potty Training Requires Supervision

KNOWING WHEN A PUPPY MIGHT HAVE TO GO POTTY IS HALF THE BATTLE

It's important to have an idea of when your puppy may have to go, and to get them to the right spot at the right time, to condition them to want to go in that spot. These are the times that a puppy is most likely going to need to potty: 

  • Within 5-15 minutes of waking up.
  • Within 5-30 minutes after eating a meal (usually will puppy have to pee right after eating, and pooping may happen 15-30 minutes after a meal).
  • After a nap.
  • After any period of stimulation like playtime with people or another dog or meeting a new guest that is visiting
  • If the puppy feels over-excited or anxious for any reason, it may lose its bladder control (like after hearing fireworks for the first time or when meeting a new guest)
  • Before putty puppy to bed at night, it's important to take them for a final bathroom break

NOTE: Young puppies before they have bladder control may have to potty as much as every hour, so keep this in mind! 

What To Do If Your Puppy Does Make A Potty Mistake

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INTERRUPT THEM AND TAKE THEM TO THE CORRECT POTTY SPOT

When a puppy is roaming free in the house, they must always be supervised so that they can be instantly corrected should they decide to go potty in the wrong spot. If this happens, simply pick them up, say "Oops!", and then take them directly to their potty spot to finish their poop or pee.

If they don't finish their potty, but you suspect they still have to go, return them to their no-mistake zone to ensure they don't make a mess in the wrong spot again. Then make a point to take them to their correct potty spot again within 5-10 minutes to finish their potty - this strategy also frees you up to attend to other things and not worry if your puppy makes a mess when you're not attending to them.

NOTE: Never punish a puppy for making a potty mistake. If you punish your puppy for doing something as natural as going to the bathroom, they will only learn that you are unpredictable and that it's not okay to go to the toilet in front of you.

Often, the fallout from punishment is that a puppy learns to get sneakier about when and where they decide to go potty. They also learn they can't always trust you.

If your puppy goes potty in the wrong spot on your watch, you need to examine how to refine your potty training methods and do better supervising them the next time!

Signs Your Puppy Needs The Toilet

THE TWO MAIN DEAD GIVE-AWAYS 

There are two tell-tale signs that a puppy may have to potty:

  • If a puppy dips their nose to the floor and wanders away from where the activity is happening in the house.
  • Circling in one spot. 

Puppies want to be near their family, so if you see them start to wander off--unless they are thirsty and seeking water--it's a definite sign they are looking for a potty spot. They should be taken to their toilet right away when either of these events starts to happen.

Rewards For A Job Well Done

MAKE A HABIT OF LAVISHLY REWARDING YOUR PUPPY WITH PRAISE AND TREATS WHEN THEY GO IN THE RIGHT SPOT!

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This can not be underestimated as one of the biggest factors in helping a puppy understand how great it is when they potty in the right spot.

Puppy parents should plan to offer special treats to a puppy when they go on their pee pad or when they go in the right spot outside.

Giving a puppy a couple of treats or more after they finish their potty can really make an impression on them and help them to connect the dots about where the toilet is.

The No. 1 Outdoor Potty Training Tip

KEEP A PUPPY ON A LEASH

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Lastly, the biggest secret that most people don't know about is keeping their puppy on a leash until they potty before letting them off to roam free in the yard (or even taking them for a walk). 

This requires more patience in the beginning but really pays off quickly as a puppy starts to understand that they win their freedom after they've pottied. 

Simply keep them on a leash when you take them outside until they've done their business, and then let them off for a romp (or start your walk).

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Alexandra Bassett is a professional dog trainer and the owner of Dog Savvy Los Angeles, a dog training and behavior company based in Los Angeles. She has been training dogs professionally for over 3 years and specializes in solving problem dog behavior. She lives in Los Angeles and is available for free consultations.