Now that you’ve got the puppy home and you’re laying down some ground rules, let’s talk potty training, as this tends to be pretty high on the priority list. Crate training goes hand-in-hand with potty training, and is your best friend with a new puppy! A puppy typically will not soil his sleeping place. He doesn’t need a Taj Mahal crate right now, just enough space to be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably. The crate shouldn’t be big enough that he can urinate in the back half and lounge up front in the foyer. The crate is for sleep and safety.
It’s important that your puppy understands his crate is his safe place, a place where he gets treats and pets! Avoid using the crate as a place for punishment. I started off by feeding Skipper treats in the kennel and shutting the door for brief periods, and then re-opening it, before leaving him in it for the night. He definitely still cried for a few minutes when we shut the door for the night; this was expected. When this happens, wait it out. The crying stops, I promise; usually before your heart completely breaks in half. If the puppy is removed from the crate or given any attention while he is crying, he’ll learn that making noise means breaking out! We play with Skipper to tire him out shortly before bedtime, and this definitely cut down the wait time as he was learning to sleep alone in the crate.
Remember a puppy can only hold his bladder a few hours, however. Plan to keep the crate close so you’ll wake when he does, or consider setting an alarm for 4-6 hours into the night for a potty break. Every puppy is different; some can sleep longer than others without an issue. Now, we don’t want to reward the puppy for crying and make that his ticket out of the crate, but we also can’t have him soiling the crate. Oh no… what to do? Wait for that ever-so-brief 0.25 seconds of quiet and open the door nonchalantly, with no big fuss. We discovered that picking Skipper up, putting the leash on, and escorting him outside before putting him down decreases the risk of a premature pee accident. For the first week or so, Skipper would pee the millisecond his toes hit the ground first thing in the morning, so we had to be dressed in a coat and shoes and ready to run! Remember, when your puppy pees outside, it is the very best thing you’ve ever seen in your whole life! “Good boys!” all around with pets and treats and love!
The rest of the day, you’ll need to be very diligent about taking the little pupper outside regularly. Once an hour is a good starting rule, whenever he’s awake and not in the kennel. Additionally, take him out immediately after any naps, and within 5-10 minutes after a meal. Watch for signs of sniffing/posturing and scoop him up quickly to go out. Minimizing accidents will maximize your success. At this stage, any “accidents” in the house, are technically on us, because he doesn’t know the rules. During puppy training, keep in mind that we’re working on substrates. Meaning, he needs to learn that when his toes touch hardwood, he cannot go; but when his toes touch grass, he can go. For those of you raising a puppy on snow, you may want to clear a particular area to make this concept clearer, since (hopefully) you won’t always have snow on the ground.
When there is an accident, startle the puppy with a clap, scoop him up, and immediately go outside. Hopefully, he’ll still have a little left, and again, when he goes, it’s a party! Make sure to clean up any accidents right when you come in, preferably with an enzymatic cleaner for carpets. Scents left behind in the house can be confusing and derail your efforts. The old adages of putting the puppy’s nose into the accident only confuse them into thinking that pee/poop, in general, is a bad thing; therefore this is not recommended. Potty training doesn’t happen overnight, so be consistent and positive, with time things will improve!
May all the paper towels and patience be with you,