Are you the proud owner of a new puppy? Maybe you decided to start the new year with a new furry friend or maybe you found one under the Christmas tree. However you were introduced, your new pooch has probably wiggled and wagged her way into your heart, and it feels like she’s always been a part of your family. While there are many joys in welcoming a puppy into your home, there are also a few challenges - including potty training. We’ve had success with the training bell method and wanted to share our best tips for helping your new puppy master this skill.
Step 1: Choose the right location for your training bell.
Hang your puppy’s training bell near the door you plan to use for potty breaks. Be sure to hang it low enough for your puppy to reach. As he grows, you can adjust the height of the bell and position it higher if you like.
Step 2: Watch for potty signals.
Although these signs are harder to spot in young puppies, you can watch for signals that they need to go outside. Walking in circles, sniffing the floor, squatting, and pacing could mean that it’s time for a bathroom break. Remember that puppies don’t have strong bladder control, and they’ll need to go outside every twenty minutes or so during the day.
Step 3: Establish a routine, and use verbal cues.
When it’s time for your puppy to go, always take him to the same door and use the same verbal cues throughout your routine. Take his paw and touch the training bell with it, while saying “Go potty” (or whatever potty phrase you choose).
When you go outside, take him to the same spot every time. You can even say, “Go potty,” as he is actively relieving himself so that he begins to associate the act with the word. Wait patiently and quietly for him to finish.The world is full of new sights and smells for a puppy, and it might take a few minutes to find the perfect potty spot.
Step 4: Reward your puppy for successful trips outside.
Keep training treats available near the door for easy access and grab one on your way out. If your puppy has to wait for you to grab a treat from another room, chances are, she’ll have an accident before you get back.
After your pup has finished going to the bathroom, immediately give her verbal praise, letting her know how pleased you are with her behavior. Use a high-pitched, excited tone of voice. Then, be sure to reward her with a treat before you head back inside.
If she goes outside but doesn’t potty, take her back inside without giving her a treat. The behavior you want to reinforce is going potty. Don't reward your puppy with a treat unless she actually goes to the bathroom.
Step 5: Maintain the potty routine.
The best thing you can do for your puppy is to be consistent. Ring the bell, go outside, go potty, praise, treat, and then back inside. Maintain the same routine every time you take him potty.
Soon, he will start letting you know he needs a bathroom break by ringing the bell on his own. Once he learns that ringing the bell means going outside, he will probably ring it frequently. Let him out every time he rings. As he gets older and you become familiar with his potty routine, you’ll be able to distinguish between ringing the bell for potty time or for playing outside.
More Tips for Potty Training
How to Handle Accidents - Potty training is a brand new concept for your puppy, so be patient and expect a few accidents. Never scold or spank your puppy for pottying inside, and never rub his nose in it. This will only make him afraid to go potty in front of you, and he will try to hide his potty (behind couches, in corners, etc.) Positive reinforcement will go much further than scolding or punishing.Through verbal praise and rewards, you’re teaching your puppy to associate good things with going to the bathroom outside.
If you do see him start to go in the house, loudly clap your hands and say “No!” to startle him. This normally stops the flow. Then, quickly take him to ring his bell and go outside. When he goes outside, give him his reward and praise him, just as you typically would. Don’t try to make your puppy feel bad for pottying inside, but instead, focus on praising him for going potty outside.
Eating and Drinking - Try to feed your puppy at the same time and place every day. You’ll want to read and follow the recommendations for her breed, age, and particular puppy food. Most young puppies need to be fed three times per day.
Provide plenty of water but don’t leave it out for binge drinking. After dinner time (usually around 7:30 PM), remove all food and water. Give your puppy several potty breaks before bedtime so that she has many opportunities to empty her bladder.
Pottying at Night: If your puppy wakes up in the middle of the night and needs to potty, quietly take him outside, going through all the usual steps. Then, quietly take him back to his crate and say goodnight. Keep nighttime potty breaks as boring as possible. They may be necessary, especially for younger puppies, but you don’t want to make them exciting.
When training your puppy to learn any new behavior, remember that the first few weeks are the hardest. She is exploring a new world full of interesting things and trying to learn a new way of life as she gets to know your family. With your positive encouragement and consistent training, she will quickly learn the ins and outs of potty training.