You humans sure had a lot of potty training questions last week for my puppy training genius, Fanna Easter! Here’s a list of the top challenges, and her advice for teaching ‘em good manners. Brings back memories of my own puppyhood days…
Q: My puppy won’t stop peeing indoors. She’s five months old now.
F: When potty training a puppy, you are teaching them to potty outside or on a pad. Think about it, who would not want to potty inside? It’s climate-controlled and that lush carpet will soak it right up. Bring her out on leash and reward her (treats and the happy dance) when she potties outside. I would recommend crating her (or confining her in your kitchen with baby gates) when you are not at home. Don’t forget to give her plenty of opportunities to potty before she is left alone. A nice, 30-minute walk in the park will do wonders!
Q: We’re trying to teach our pup how to tell us he has to go potty. Any recommendations?
F: Yes! Teach him a potty cue, such as sit at the back door. Here’s how: whenever you see your puppy sitting by the back door, open it. Soon, he will learn that sitting by the back door means that it will open and he goes potty! He will catch on fast. Keep in mind that when the door opens, you immediately take him out on leash to the most boring part of the yard. Don’t move around. Wait for “it” to happen. When it does, reward him and let him loose in the yard to play. Your pup learns to “get busy pottying” first and then it’s playtime.
If you can’t watch him, confine him in an area, such as a crate, with a wonderful food-stuffed toy. You don’t want the puppy to give you “the cue” and you were not there to catch it. A bell, attached to the door knob, works, too. If it rings (by him targeting it), the door opens and out to potty he goes!
Q: My puppy holds his pee/poop when he’s in his crate when I’m at work, and also when he is asleep on my bed at night. But if I let him loose in the house when I’m home, he pees everywhere. He doesn’t let us know he has to pee. When we put him in his crate after bad behavior, he howls. What can we do?
F: It sounds like your dog needs to teach you a “I need to potty” cue! I would teach him to sit by the door (that is what makes the door open) and bring him outside on his leash to potty. Reward him when “it” happens. His crate should be his “chilling” place with food-stuffed toys or treats scattered under his blanket, and not used for punishment. That way, he learns that good stuff happens in his crate. Keep him in his crate when you can’t watch him. Even if the phone rings, tell the caller to hang on while you toss luscious treats in your dog’s crate and kennel him.
Q: How long does it take to potty train a puppy?
F: Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a set time it should take to potty train a puppy? There isn’t one, as there are many factors that come into play. One of the most important ones are a set schedule, observing your puppy when loose in the house and use of a crate when you are unable to keep an eye on him. Make sure to reinforce when they do good and ignore the accidents; just clean them up with a pet cleaner and a smile. Teaching potty cues such as ‘sit’ at the door can help, too. Whenever your puppy sits at the back door, that means that the back door opens and you go potty. They’ll catch on fast.
Q: How do you potty train a new puppy when your existing dog has “potty” issues?
F: Put your puppy on a leash and bring her out to the most boring part of your backyard. Stay quiet and don’t move. Your pup will look at you like “what is going on?” Wait. After 10 minutes, bring your pup back in and place him in his crate for 20 minutes with a fabulous food-stuffed toy. Then, try again (this works best over the weekend when you are home). Ping pong back and forth. I can tell you, I potty trained my newest puppy, Stella Mae, within two days. At night, she slept in her crate for eight hours. Honestly, by the end of the first day, they catch on and she marched straight to the back door when she had to go!
Q: My puppy does great when it’s just me, but if the kids bug him, he’ll go potty in the house. Any advice?
F: It sounds like your puppy is stressed when the kids are bugging him. I would redirect the kids to give him low-calorie treats instead of bugging him, or place him in a crate with a fabulous food-stuffed toy so he can relax in a quiet place. Instead of punishment, reward the behavior you want.
Q: My potty-trained dog just started peeing, but always in the same spot, the bathroom–nowhere else. How do I get her to stop?
F: There could be a number of contributing factors to her peeing in the house. I would close the door to the bathroom where she is going and see what happens. Make sure that wherever she goes is completely cleaned, not only with a stain remover, but also with an odor remover.
Q: We’re having a hard time finding a “signal” that our puppy will use to indicate when she needs to “go.” Our other dogs use a bell, but she has no interest. Any ideas?
F: All dogs are different, just like people, and it’s okay! If the bell doesn’t work, try teaching a sit at the back door. When you do let her out, make sure to put her on a leash and take her out to the most boring part of the yard. Don’t move around, and wait for “it” to happen. When it does, reward (treats and the happy dance) and then let her lose in the yard for play time.
Q: How do we housebreak dogs that don’t like crates? We have two, and they’ll just tear up the puppy pads.
F: First, limit the space they have access to in the house until they are potty-trained. Work with them to create a “I need to potty” cue, like a sit or a bell ringing at the door. When you do let them out, make sure to put them on a leash and take them to a very boring area in the yard. Don’t move around and wait for “it” to happen. When it does, reward (treats and the happy dance!) and let them loose in the yard. Dogs learn fast to “get busy pottying” so that they can play.
Q: We taught our puppy to bark when he needs to go potty, but now he barks all of the time, and not just to potty. Now what?
F: Try teaching him another cue, such as “sit” at the door. When my puppy is sitting by the back door, that means that the back door opens and she gets to go potty! Puppies catch on fast. You can even add a rug there, and when he sits on the rug, that means that the door opens. Then, bring them out on leash to the most boring part of the yard. Don’t move around and wait for “it” to happen. When it does, reward and let them loose in the yard. When you can’t watch him, confine your puppy to an area, such as a crate, with a wonderful, food-stuffed toy. You don’t want your puppy to give you “the cue” and you aren’t there to see it. As for the barking, redirect him to you or reward when he’s quiet. Ask for a sit at the door, and voila, the door opens!
Q: My dog is mostly potty trained, but he won’t go outside alone. If I trick him, he’ll go outside, but then he barks at the door. How do I get my dog to go outside without an escort? He’s a four-year-old rescue that I’ve had for about six weeks.
F: So cute until it’s bitter cold outside, right? My advice: put on a thicker jacket and stand outside with him until he builds his confidence. It’s easier to wear a thicker jacket outside than cleaning up potty messes. At least that’s what I find more reinforcing for me! Give him some time; he’s still learning your household and what is going on in the backyard. Soon, you’ll be able to just open the door and he’ll go do his business by himself.
Q: My puppy just turned a year old. She is pretty good at potty training, but she pees in her kennel. What can I do?
F: Sometimes dogs will potty on their bedding, it just happens! Try removing her bedding to see if she continues to potty in her crate. Also, an exam from your vet is always a good idea. If she is “holding” it when she is loose in your home, it could be that she likes to potty on her bed.
Q: My puppy is pooping on the floor and then eating it. What can I do to stop it?
F: Oh, poop eating is such a fabulous topic! It happens and some dogs like the taste. It could be a few things, such as undigested food could be enticing her to eat her poop. You can try “poop eating” deterrents at your local Petco, they do work. Also, pick up any poop left in the yard so that your pup isn’t outside enjoying herself by practicing her “poop eating” behavior.
Q: I have a one-and-a-half-year-old-dog who tears up the house and yells at me whenever I leave her alone. I have tried leaving her in her kennel and she chewed through it. What can I do?
F: Ah, maybe your dog is just bored and needs something to do instead of tear up your house. Place her crate in a low distraction area and throw yummy treats in there for her to find. Bring her for a nice long walk, and place her in the crate with a fabulous food-stuffed toy. After a few minutes, you can let her out of the crate, when she is quiet. Daily walks and “good things happen in your crate” will help a ton. If you are still having issues, I recommend popping into your local Petco and chat with a Dog Trainer.
Q: I live in an apartment and am planning on getting a puppy. Is it possible to litter train a dog? We live a ways away from a potty friendly place.
F: Yes, you can litter train a puppy! You can use a litter box with newspaper or even a patch of grass sod in a plastic pan (just water it often with real water!) Follow the same procedure as teaching your puppy to potty outside: bring him/her over to the “place” on leash and wait for “it” to happen. Then reward with a delicious treat and the happy dance.
Q: How do you punish your dog to let him know he’s done something wrong, like pottying in the house?
F: Try this…instead of punishing your dog (which really doesn’t teach them anything new), try rewarding behaviors that you like instead (these will get repeated!) If they are pottying in the house, say “oops!’ to interrupt the action and then bring them outside to potty and reward them when they potty (happy dance and treats!). Same with your dog jumping up on guests; saying “no!” teaches them nothing. Instead, say “sit” and Voila!
Q: My puppy used to use her puppy pads, but now she poos and pees everywhere. If I let her outside, she won’t stay there more than five minutes. Then, when we let her in, she poos and pees. What do we do?
F: I would recommend bringing her outside on leash, to the most boring part of the yard, and wait until “it” happens. If she does not potty outside, per her in her crate with a fabulous food-stuffed toy to keep her busy (and to teach her how to hold a bowel movement). Then try again out in the yard in 30 minutes (it’s great to do this over a weekend) and repeat until she potties outside. After the first few times, she will think “Oh THAT is where I’m supposed to go.” Don’t forget to reward her pottying with treats and the happy dance!
Q: My puppy is great. He is house-trained at our house, but whenever we go to someone else’s house, he almost always has a accident. Why?
F: Try to keep your dog’s schedule as normal and stick to his usual schedule as much as possible. Then, give him something to do when you visit your friends, like bringing a food-stuffed toy. Also, ensure that he has a long walk with lots of opportunities to empty his bladder before visiting. Extra exercise is always a good thing!
Fanna Easter, CPDT-KA, KPA, CTP