Potty Training for Puppies and Adult Dogs

Written by

Chad Singer

Written by

Chad Singer

Chad’s mission is to help as many dog owners truly enhance their relationship with their dogs despite the issues that they may be experiencing.

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Potty Training For Puppies & Older Dogs

Potty training applies for both puppies and older dogs that may be struggling with learning how to control themselves or who have never learned rules and boundaries about going to the bathroom. Puppies will obviously need to learn this, however, in my experience, I have trained many older dogs who struggled with insecurities or anxieties which lead to pottying in the house. This behavior then formed a habit because the cycle of pottying in the house could not be broken by the owners. The principles that we discuss today can be applied across the board to all dogs and result in successful potty training while implementing rules and boundaries.

There are two primary components to potty training that I want you to focus on, these two components are:
Structure and Schedule.

You must implement both components in order to be successful with potty training.

The first component, Structure, has a few subcomponents that I want to break down for you:

  • Management of your dog
  • Supervision of your dog
  • Rituals and Routines for your dog

Check out our great post on Understanding Structure and Why Our Dogs Need It to learn more.

Management is what we do with our dog, day-in and day-out when we are with them and what we allow them to do when we are not with them.

Dog Management

Key aspects that I recommend in relation to management are using a kennel when you are not directly working with your puppy or dog. Using a kennel is critical because it limits what your dog can and cannot do while you are not with them which in turn will help your dog to reason and understand why they must pay attention to you for leadership and guidance.

Think about it, if my dog can do whatever they want to do whenever they want, they won’t understand or reason why they should listen to me because they don’t need me to satisfy themselves and their desires. Additionally, we want to develop the kennel a den or lair for our puppy so by developing the kennel as such we are going to increase the likelihood that the puppy will not want to potty in their kennel.

To help us build this mentality the kennel should be a resting place after exercise, a place where we give chew items such as “bully sticks”, and where we give our puppy mealtime food and water. Additionally, to help manage our puppy during potty training we could use an Ex-pen (exercise pen) while our puppy is not in the kennel and we aren’t directly working with them an exercise pen can create another area for our puppy to remain. Lastly, we can put a leash, tab line, or tether on our puppy so that we can guide them when needed and to keep them in our general vicinity to ensure success with potty training.

Along with management is when we are actually taking our puppy or dog outside to go potty, we should do this on-leash even if we have a fenced-in yard. This enables us to provide the necessary supervision and guidance for our dog while also being ready to reinforce our desired behaviors. Supervision is pretty simple, always supervise your puppy or dog when they are not in their kennel. Even if they are in an exercise pen you will still need to provide a level of supervision so that you don’t allow the formation of any undesirable behaviors especially in the realm of potty training.

If our puppy or dog is able to “wander off” and go potty and we don’t realize it until after the fact then we cannot use that as an opportunity to work towards potty training. If we don’t catch them in the act of going potty when and where they are not supposed to then we can’t do anything about it. No shoving your puppy or dog’s face into the potty, this will not help to potty train it will only serve to build a negative relationship toward you and may incur some learned helplessness.

Rituals and routines with your puppy or dog take them back to their ancestral roots and allow us to tap into your dog’s natural pack instincts.

Dogs, like humans, are creatures of habit. We thrive our routines and schedules and we need to use this to our advantage especially in the realm of potty training.

One ritual and routine that I always apply is anytime your puppy or dog is taken out from their kennel they immediately get taken out to the potty area. Same thing before I put my puppy back into their kennel, I take them out to the potty area first, then take them inside to their kennel. This builds up the reliability from my puppy or dog that they will be given the opportunity to relieve themselves at key points during our day-to-day routine.

Another ritual that we recommend is feeding food and water in the kennel, this gives your puppy or dog a place to eat without being disturbed and can give them relief from stress over vital resources and in turn will help to eliminate any need for resource issues. I do recommend for puppies to feed them during training sessions however we will cover that in a separate article.

Schedule

The second component, Schedule, is key to success with potty training and there are a few topics schedule-wise we need to cover.

Building a reliable schedule is the first step that your puppy or dog can effectively operate on by learning to withhold their potty for the schedule. Once the schedule is “set” and your puppy is reliably on the schedule, you can begin to adjust your schedule to meet your end goal with your puppy or dog’s schedule. This process will not happen fast, don’t rush it otherwise you may find that you will need to take a few steps back in regards to your schedule.

Something important to note is that even at nighttime when you may be used to sleeping all night, you will need to ensure that you set times where you get up to let your puppy or dog out. If you don’t do this and your puppy or dog begins to go potty in the kennel you may struggle more completing potty training.

As we begin to adjust our schedule we need to understand that your puppy should only be expected to hold his or her potty for one hour for every month of age. So technically a two-month-old puppy can be expected to hold their potty for about two hours. Of course, there are always exceptions, some puppies can hold it longer while others may not be able to. This is going to play a big role in how you adjust your potty schedule for your puppy.

If you begin to extend the amount of time between potty breaks and begin to experience some potty issues, then you may need to go back and reduce the amount of time between potty breaks. Create and implement your schedule and how you adjust it in the coming weeks and months by setting your dog up for success.

Potty Schedule For A Puppy

So let’s break down what a typical day potty schedule might look like for a puppy just coming home and beginning potty training as far as the schedule goes (this does not take into account recommended training or exercise):

  • 12 AM: Potty break
  • 3 AM: Potty break
  • 6 AM: Potty break
  • 7 AM: Potty break, feeding, water
  • 7:30 AM: Potty break
  • 10 AM: Potty break
  • 1 PM: Potty break
  • 4 PM: Potty break
  • 6 PM: Potty break, feeding, water
  • 6:30 PM: Potty break
  • 8 PM: Potty break
  • 9 PM: Potty break

Potty Schedule For A Potty Trained Dog

Now let’s look at what a typical day potty schedule might look like for a mature, potty trained dog (this does not take into account recommended training or exercise):

  • 7 AM: Potty break, feeding, water
  • 7:30 AM: Potty break
  • 8:30 AM Potty break
  • 12 PM: Potty break (if able depending on work schedule)
  • 5:30 PM: Potty break
  • 6 PM: Potty break, feeding, water
  • 6:30 PM: Potty break
  • 9 PM: Potty break

Potty Training Troubleshooting

Finally, let’s discuss some troubleshooting approaches you may need to take for a few common scenarios.

Scenario 1:

You find your puppy attempting to potty in the house.

In this case, all you’re going to do is calmly (no yelling, getting frustrated, etc) go over to where your puppy is and grab the leash / tab line / tether line you have on them, take them outside to your potty area and once they go potty say “Good”.

Scenario 2:

You find that your puppy has pottied in your house, however, you did not see them do it.

In this case, you shouldn’t do anything with your puppy other than increase your level of supervision and not allow them out of your sight. Of course, we will need to clean up the mess. It is a myth that your puppy will learn from the scenario if you shove their face into the potty, this will not help you at all! Actually, this can degrade your relationship that you have with your puppy and it can incur learned helplessness which we do not want at all!

Scenario 3:

You discover that your puppy has pottied in the kennel.

Like scenario 2 you shouldn’t do anything with your puppy other than adjust your schedule and possibly adjust the amount of usable space in the kennel. Your puppy needs enough room in the kennel to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably, so you can use a divider to reduce the amount of additional room in the kennel that your puppy may have which can play a huge difference in your puppy not going to the bathroom in the kennel. Naturally, they will not want to potty where they lay (however there are some exceptions that don’t care).

Scenario 4:

You begin to extend the amount of time between your potty breaks in your schedule and your puppy begins to have potty issues in the house or kennel.

In this case, you need to take a few steps back in your schedule adjustment and reduce the amount of time between potty breaks again and slowly work back up to extending the timeframes.

Potty training your puppy or adult dog can be a frustrating time, however, by following the principles discussed in this article and having a plan for your potty training will make it less stressful for both you and your dog.

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