Updated: May 2
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 and understand when they need to be let out. You’ll want to slowly introduce your puppy to one room at a time in your house, opposed to giving them free run of the entire house. They will learn these spaces are their home and not want to pee/poop there.
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. 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 completely 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, or only the great outdoors). You can teach them to ring a doorbell to tell you when they need to go outside. Our puppies 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) then 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, turn around 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 medium size (30”) for a micro doodle under 25 pounds, the intermediate size (36”) for a mini doodle between 25-45 pounds, and a large (42”) crate for a full-grown dog over 50 pounds. 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 on for them.
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!