Picture this: you’re sitting around a toasty fire on Christmas morning with the people you love the most. Your cheeks are rosy and you’re especially merry because Santa brought your family a brand-new baby puppy. You’ve named him Sparky and the sleepy snuggles, puppy breath, and tiny tail wags are pure ecstasy. Your heart is as warm as Sparky’s fat, bare puppy belly. You may even combust.
Your warm heart chills slightly when you’re out at midnight in the cold waiting for Sparky to go potty so you can go back to bed. Your heart then hardens to ice when you find that Sparky has chewed the remote to your new 235-inch TV, leaving it inoperable because new TVs don’t even have buttons these days. You set off to find Sparky and give him an earful, but you find him laying in the corner whimpering. You rush him to the vet. He has eaten the batteries from your TV remote and needs emergency surgery, costing you $835,342.
Now that we’ve come this far in this little journey, you can quit picturing. While this outcome is on the extreme end of what could happen (and albeit a little inflated for humor), it is never outside the realm of possibility. We as dog trainers like to give pet parents the worst and best-case scenarios. And this outcome would certainly fall into worst-case category!
Nothing can disrupt your newfound puppy love quite like potty training issues. Struggling with potty and crate training is a common problem among dog owners who quickly fall in love, then are faced with the reality that puppies can be messy and demanding of your time. The solutions are simpler than you think! With a little love, patience, and consistency, your pup will be housebroken in no time.
Just get a crate already!
The first step is to get your dog a crate. Many dog owners are under the misconception that crating a dog is inhumane, mean, or stressful for the dog. We must remember that dogs are den animals and prefer a safe, enclosed space to rest. While some adult dogs eventually mature out of the need for a crate, it is essential to helping your new puppy feel secure in his new surroundings. Do not skip this important step! In addition to giving your pup a secure feeling, the crate will help you teach him how to hold is little baby bladder.
Dogs, like many other species, prefer not to urinate or defecate where they eat and sleep. You can use this to your advantage when teaching Sparky where and at what times to do his business. Many potty training issues we see on a daily basis are the result of puppies having too much freedom in the house. For example, you wouldn’t leave a two-year-old human for an extended period of time without adult supervision, and puppies are the same! They will become confused, destructive, and ultimately make bad choices. The crate is your best management tool to provide your puppy with structure. A predictable, repeatable schedule will help your puppy learn where to potty.
Potty, Play, Rest
“But Melaney, my schedule is crazy and hectic!” Not to worry. Puppies can adapt! Do not overcomplicate things. There are three simple steps to your new routine:
1. Potty – Take your puppy to the desired area where you want him to do his business. You may have to take him there on the leash while he is still getting the hang of things. As soon as he has emptied his bladder, immediately praise him where you are! We want him to learn that going potty in this particular area has earned him all of your love and affection.
2. Play – Now that your puppy has finished with his business, reward him with play. This can be zooming around the back yard or a game of tug/ball inside the house. It’s important to remember that these play sessions will quickly tire out your puppy. An eight-week-old puppy can play for 15-30 minutes tops before he becomes overtired. An overtired puppy will be mouthy and cranky, so don’t overdo it!
3. Rest – Your pup will need a good nap after all that stimulating activity. This is when we show him the crate is a spot to curl up and take a nap, or sooth himself on a safe toy until he falls asleep. Many humans get hung up on this step. It is just too tempting to snuggle your puppy to sleep and relish in all of his cuteness. While a snuggle nap together is appropriate from time to time, you should establish that the crate is for rest. If your puppy is exhausted from play and his bladder is already empty, he should have no trouble settling down for a snooze.
Repeat these three steps all day long. Your puppy will quickly learn the ins and outs of where and when the appropriate times to potty are. The amounts of time for each step will gradually increase as your puppy hits new developmental milestones.
Trust me, skip the blankie.
Another common misconception about crate training is that puppies need a cozy blanket and plenty of space to stretch their legs during their slumber. While it is true that we humans enjoy cozy blankets, puppies do not always have the need for them. After all, God made them their very own built-in blankets. Your puppy is probably not cold because he has fur!
What may happen, however, is that your puppy may not be able to hold his bladder, leading him to potty in the corner of his kennel. That blanket in the kennel with him is perfectly convenient for Sparky to dig up and cover the scent of his urine or feces (because remember, he doesn’t prefer to potty in his kennel) and curl up and go back to sleep. This is also an important reminder to not make your crate too big. Your dog should have just enough room to stand up, lift his head, and turn around. Most crate sizes are based on a weight range of your dog, so consider an estimated adult weight of your dog, and purchase a crate that offers a moveable divider. This will save you from buying multiple crates as your dog grows.
Still unsure of what size crate to buy? Schedule a phone consult with us and we’d be happy to weigh in. —–> https://dogtrainingcamplouisville.com/contact/.
There is also the issue of safety of unnecessary items in your crate with your puppy (see TV remote batteries story from earlier). Any items in the crate with your dog should not present choking hazards. We usually recommend a soft bone or rubber toy to soothe those sore gums while your puppy is teething.
Linked below are a few of our go-to puppy toys!
The Feeding Schedule
The final piece to this puzzle is making sure your dog understands a routine feeding schedule. Predictable routines lead to predictable results! This reason is exactly the reason why grandmas everywhere must have their Raisin Bran in the morning. And also perhaps some 30-something-year-old dog trainers who choose to remain anonymous….
I’m kidding. Kind of.
There are a multitude of reasons why we recommend feeding schedules for all dogs, but for the sake of this article, let’s stick to potty training. Let’s face it: if you eat the same time every day, you’re gonna poop the same time every day. It’s basically science. Let’s make our lives a little easier and get our puppies on a feeding schedule.
Leave the food bowl down for approximately 10-15 minutes for your puppy to eat. Consult with your veterinarian on frequency and amount of food for each feeding if you are unsure. Feeding your dog in the crate will help him learn that feeding time is not also play time, and will help you further establish your potty, play, rest routine. It also helps your dog understand that the crate is not a place to soil.
While the tips in this post are certainly a great starting point, it is important to remember that every dog is unique, and that’s why we love them! If you are running into roadblocks in your journey of potty and crate training, reach out to Dog Training Camp USA. We have many options from puppy camp to private puppy lessons to help you troubleshoot your dog’s own quirks and personality traits.