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Crate & Potty Training 101

Updated: Jan 9

It’s an exciting time preparing to bring a new puppy home. Now you get to decide how you want to potty train your pup. There is no single right way to train a puppy and I will describe the two most common methods that I recommend.

For the first night sleeping away from the litter, some people swear by these Snuggle puppies, but others say their pups are terrified when they vibrate (which you can turn off). Your puppy will come home with a blanket or toy smelling like home that you can place in his/her sleeping space. The first night, your puppy may cry/whine a little because they are in a new environment and that’s normal. If it’s been over 3 hours, they may be crying to tell you they need to go potty and you can let them outside.

First of all, it is important to have healthy, realistic expectations for your puppy. Potty training is a journey and mistakes will happen. The goal is for your puppy to have fewer accidents and build trust with you in the process. My puppies are typically potty trained by 4 months, but some still have accidents until 6 months. You will learn your puppy’s cues as you get to know each other better. You’ll want to slowly introduce your puppy to one room at a time in your house, as opposed to giving them a free run of the entire house. They will learn these spaces are their home and not want to pee/poop there. I'd also pull up all the rugs or gate-off areas that you don't want to supervise (like expensive furniture, nice rugs, family heirlooms, etc.).

An 8-week-old puppy can hold their bladder (on a good day) for a maximum of 3 hours at a time. I recommend setting an alarm on your phone to take him/her out on a 2-hour schedule while potty training during the day. Give lots of treats and verbal praise for going to the bathroom outdoors. Make it a big deal, so they want to do it again. If they have an accident in the house you can say “NO” in a serious tone and be sure to clean it up with a detergent for urine (like this) that eliminates the smell so they don’t create their own preferred bathroom spot. You can spray an attractant (like this) wherever you’d like to encourage your pup to go to the bathroom (whether that’s a pee pad, litter box, woodchip area, or in the grass). You can teach them to ring a doorbell to tell you when they need to go outside. Our puppies do know how to use dog doors, like this one.

We feed our puppies the Pawtree whitefish and brown rice kibble three times a day (morning, noon, and night). We allow them to eat as much as they want for 30 minutes and then immediately take them out to go potty. We use the phrase “go potty” to ask them to go to the bathroom. I give my puppies constant access to water and keep them in a playpen (like this). I give them access to a litterbox at night and if I need to leave the house for more than a few hours. During the day, I set an alarm and take pups outside for potty breaks and when they can hold their bladder for longer stretches (like all night), I remove the litter box option. I use pelletized cat litter and a box, like this.

If you prefer to have a faster path to potty training, many people choose to crate-train their puppy. The right size crate allows the dog to stand up and turn 360 degrees without hitting the crate sides. When choosing a crate that will fit your puppy when they are full-grown, I recommend going slightly larger than smaller just to give them more room to move. The small size (24.5”) fits a mini doodle under 25 pounds, the medium size (30”) fits a medium doodle between 30-40 pounds, but if you think your pup may get 45 pounds or lager you can size up to a large 36" crate. I like this crate because it comes with a divider to allow the puppy to have access to more space as he/she grows, so you don’t need to purchase a puppy crate and an adult crate later on. Most pups feel more secure having their crate covered with a blanket. I usually start with short times alone in the crate with lots of treats and peanut butter in bones or kong toys, so they look forward to spending time there. Then you can work your way up to longer intervals in the crate and they should enjoy having a space of their own. I usually leave some soothing music or sound machine on for them.

It is best to start housetraining a puppy one room at a time. The idea is to keep their living space small enough to set them up for success. We use crates, pens, and baby gates to limit our puppy’s access to the rest of our home. Once your puppy keeps their current space consistently clean without accidents for at least a week, is ringing bells in that area consistently to go out, then add another room to the current living space. If they were in the kitchen, add the living room, etc.

Each time we add more space, we take our puppy out to go potty and then immediately come inside and have a play session in the new space. Try to spend enough time there your puppy will need to go again upon which we help them find the bells from the new space. So the first few times you include the upstairs as included space, you may need to use a leash to walk your puppy to the bells from upstairs until they learn that, “Yep, I must ring the bells no matter where I am in order to go outside and yes potty must be done outside.”

Dogs do not generalize like we do so each new environment means behaviors must be retaught there. They pick up on the behaviors in the new space more quickly though. We repeat this process until our entire house is included. Once they generalize a few new rooms, it goes faster...we may introduce the entire basement at once but our puppies are usually six months old before we even get to that point. As a time frame, we wait until after one year to completely trust a puppy in our home. Also note, every puppy is unique and we work with each puppy on their level. If they are not ready by one year, we keep helping them by limiting their living space until they are ready.

If you are looking for puppy training help, check out Baxter and Bella's Online Puppy School. You get 20% off with code TEDDYPUPPIES.

The most important part of potty training is definitely building trust with your puppy and learning how to understand their cues and what they need. Good luck on your puppy potty training journey!

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