Let me begin by telling you that having two little canine creatures come live with you is an incredibly exciting and eventful time! I experienced just that in September of 2011, when my two Boxer mix puppiess Missy & Buzz arrived in my life.
I quickly figured out that combining house-and crate training for my pups made a lot of sense. Here’s how I went about it:
Consistency, Discipline, & Patience Are Key
Missy and Buzz had just turned 8 weeks old when I adopted them, and didn’t have full control over their bladders yet. I learned that this process doesn’t fully set in until about 12 weeks of age.
Puppy Potty Formula: A puppy’s age in months will tell you how long they can approximately hold it. A puppy can usually go their age in months + 1 hour before having to eliminate again. A 3 month old puppy should therefore be able to hold it for about 4 hours before having to go pee again.
However, you should NEVER expect any dog regardless of age to be able to hold it for longer than 6 hours! That’s just unhealthy and can contribute to the development of urinary tract infections.
Very young pups will need to go out every other hour, and will need to go for a potty break immediately after:
- waking from a nap
- playtime and anything exciting
- having eaten (within 10 minutes of eating)
Access to water should be limited before bedtime, or you can schedule in a few extra potty breaks.
The pups had their own beds that I used throughout the day, but I had them sleep in their crate for the first 2 months or so. I’d move the crate into my bedroom at night time, and set it up next to my bed.
Setting Your Alarm For Potty Breaks At Night
I remember setting my alarm for every 3 hours throughout the night for the first 2-3 weeks of the pups’ arrival at my home.
I didn’t exactly get tons of sleep during that time, but it was pretty doable. I had to remind myself that the interrupted sleeping schedule was only temporary and would soon pay off once the pups were potty trained 🙂
What helped me tremendously was my PPJ (Puppy Potty Journal). My mom always was and still is a huge believer in writing things down and creating lists, and I adopted the list-making OCD from her.
The way I did it was super simple – I dedicated a little notebook to the pups’ potty schedule and made an entry every time I took them outside to go potty. I’d write down what kind of business they took care of (pee and/or poop), along with the time.
As a matter of fact, I continued incorporating the PPJ into our daily routine for a little over 3 years!
I have really found the PPJ to being a wonderful way of familiarizing myself with Missy & Buzz’s potty schedule, and was able to keep accidents to a minimum. When they DID happen, I was usually the one to blame for them.
Ideally you should really never leave your pup out of sight, not even for 45 seconds while you take care of your own business in the bathroom…but let’s face it, we’re all human, and accidents will happen.
Remember not to blame them, but to blame yourself! They don’t know any better, and it’s up to you to teach them what you expect of them.
Cleaning Up Accidents
Clean up accidents immediately with an enzymatic cleaner that won’t just eliminate the stain, but also all scents.
If a trace of a scent remains on the floor or elsewhere, they will return to that very spot and mark right on top of it, so a thorough clean-up job is absolutely necessary when successfully potty-training your pup.
There are tons of of cleaning supplies formulated specifically for dog accidents, and my favorite stain remover is Spot Shot because it’s environmentally friendly (non-toxic) and safe to use around pets (& children).
While accidents will happen, never scold a puppy when it does, or they will learn not to eliminate in front of you, no matter if inside or out!
Also never rub their nose in any accident (neither # 1 nor # 2). That’s just mean and doesn’t teach the puppy that he did something wrong. It’ll only teach to fear you and that you can’t be trusted, and he won’t want to go potty around you anymore.
Lots of Praise for Doing Their Business
What you DO want to incorporate is lots of praise when they do their business outside, as they will associate doing their business with something good happening (= praise from you, their human).
This is the perfect opportunity to add a very valuable command to the elimination process, and with all training sessions, timing is key! The very moment they squat down to pee, say the word or expression you want them to recognize as a potty clue.
You could say “Go potty”, “Go pee”, “Get busy” or anything really you want them to learn as a cue to go potty.
Speaking of training: In addition to associating a potty command, you can also teach your pup to let you know when they are in need of a potty break.
I incorporated a bell that I hung on the front door and rang it every time I took the pups outside, adding the command “potty time”!
The Crate As A Safe Means Of Confinement
The crate is a wonderful means of safely confining your pup when you just can’t watch her.
Like I mentioned before, combining house-training with crate training makes a lot of sense. Be sure to introduce your pup to the crate in a positive manner.
It’s in a pup’s nature to be curious, so they’ll walk into the crate sooner or later to investigate it. The moment they do, shower them with warm praise!
They will quickly learn that being inside the crate means a lot of positive things will happen: praise from you, treats, potentially food if you chose to feed them in there, or a toy.
What you want to achieve is the creation of an area the pup considers their safe spot, where they can hang out and chew on a toy, or retreat for a nap on some comfortable bedding. Sort of like a den for them 🙂
Never use the crate as a form of punishment though, or that negative connotation will stick to it like flies to poop!
Initially, leave the crate door open while your pup gets used to this new space. Slowly increase the increments of time behind a shut crate door.
You should start with as little as a minute at a time, and then slowly work your way up.
Please remember though that the crate is not meant for hours on end of puppy containment!
Part of successful crate-training is a calm human, especially when placing your pup inside his crate.
Dogs pick up on our energy, and will mirror it. If you are tense and feeling guilty when putting your pup inside the crate for a while, he will reflect your negative demeanor!!
If you are calm however, your pup will not mind being crated.
He should, of course, not have any pent-up energy in order to avoid destructive behavior while inside it.
Walking/Playtime Before Crating = Calm Crating Experience!
Make sure to take him for a walk and /or some playtime prior to crating him, leaving him balanced & tired, ready to snooze in his crate.
Additionally, supply him with a healthy chew toy, which will keep him occupied and help with teething pain.
Offer Chew Toys For Entertainment Inside The Crate
Stuff a hollow KONG toy with something tasty like peanut butter mixed in with some of their food (kibble, home cooked, or raw), freeze it overnight, and then present it to your puppy as entertainment in the crate.
Your pup will be 100 % occupied with figuring out how to get all of the deliciousness out of the Kong!
You could also offer bully sticks as crate entertainment. Missy & Buzz always went bonkers for them!
Play Soothing Music For A Relaxing Crate Experience
Playing some soothing classical music will be the cherry on top of your puppy’s crate adventure, especially if he’s a little on the anxious side. I found and listed a bunch of relaxing doggie music in my article Where to find relaxing music that works for anxious dogs.
Where To Buy Crates
I found our crates raw diet, and my pups are still avid crate users to this day! Now that they’re successfully house-broken and can be trusted alone in my home, their crates stay open most of the time.
Both crates are equipped with a comfortable, reversible crate pad (a warmer winter side and a cooler summer side).
Missy & Buzz both walk into their crates several times throughout the day, either to play a game with me (like hide & seek – more about that in my post about 10 Ways To Entertain Your Dog Inside On Crappy Days), enjoy a treat, or just to hang out while I’m in my office (such as right now while I’m blogging) and even sleep in their crates during the day. At night, they DO enjoy the luxury of sleeping on my bed though 😉
Crate Size Matters
Be sure to either invest in a smaller crate for the pups’ first few months, or to buy a larger crate which can be partitioned.
A crate should be large enough for your pup to comfortably stand in, lie in, and turn around in. If you supply a crate that’s too large for your pup, he may sleep/nap in one end, and potentially eliminate in the other end.
You absolutely want to avoid this! Crate training really goes hand in hand with potty training, as it picks up on the dog’s instinct of not to spoil his sleeping quarters.
Bottom Line: While the initial house training process requires a lot of consistency and discipline, it’s absolutely worth your effort and patience! If you keep up the hard work, you’ll soon be able to reap the rewards of a potty trained little dog!
Enjoy your young pup and that puppy breath – I DO miss that part of puppyhood!
Do you have any potty-training strategies to share with us? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!