Welcome, Freckles!

I have a furry new nephew!

My brother Scott and his wife Autumn just got a new puppy! They were traveling in Europe when they emailed me asking for potty training issues. I answered them thinking that the puppy was with them and they were dealing with hotel suites, but that turned out not to be the case (Freckles was safe back home with another favorite aunty).


Still, knowing that Scott and Autumn love to travel, I envision them taking this little guy with them everywhere. But…having not met the little rascal yet, I currently don’t know whether he’s a candidate for all that change or not. Time (and good puppy-raisin’) will tell.

All that being said, here’s what I told them about potty training…

Envision the Future

Some of this may depend on your ideas for how this pup will fit into your life and how big he/she will be when grown, like, using pee pads in hotel rooms instead of going outside, but if that’s the case (or your dog is small enough to litter-box train) consider where I say “outside” to mean your puppy’s potty spot.

Generally, I think of 8- to 12-week-old puppies as being similar in maturity to a one-year-old human. They can move around, but really they have NO IDEA how to actually control their bodies or how dangerous the world is to them, and they put everything in their mouths, and go potty when they need to without a second thought!

So now I want to offer condolences for the literal and figurative crap you’re going through right now if you have a puppy this age. But I also have hope that it will probably all be a nightmare of your past in just a few short months.

Equipment I recommend

-A well-fitting harness with an ‘O’ ring on the chest as well as a ‘D’ ring on the back (two different options for leash attachment).
-2 leashes:
     6-foot leash that keeps your dog close to you for walking in stores, or near busy streets.
     12-15 foot “training” leash which I love to use for giving my dog space away from me during potty breaks and walks in parks and fields, but I still have control (and my dog is still legally on leash, for places where that matters).
     If your puppy will weigh less than 20 pounds when full grown and has no reactivity issues, I suppose a retractable leash would be okay as a substitute combination of the two leashes above, but I can tie the training leash around my waist to tether a dog to me hands-free, and there is a painful handful of other reasons why I hate retractable leashes, but y’all do y’all.

Potty training tips:

– Routine and actual physical control are important: Keep your puppy in your sights at all times; it’s most effective to tether them to you with a longer leash, and/or in a space where an accident wouldn’t be too detrimental.
Stay on a strict potty routine. If you go to the bathroom it’s probably a great time to take Puppy to the bathroom too. Generally we all thrive on some semblance of routine, even when we travel or we don’t wake up to an alarm, we still stay on a bathroom schedule. Your puppy’s eating routine will dictate their potty routine to a certain extent and if you pay attention, then the only other challenge will be to catch them when they stop playing or sleeping and they start sniffing.
-Even when traveling, try to start your day and keep your dog’s day on a potty schedule. For example, no matter what time you wake up in the morning, go outside immediately. I know at our ages we have to go pretty bad too, so as long as they are not pottying in the crate (you Do have a crate, right?) they can wait for you to go first before you take them out of their bed and to the potty spot (or put the potty spot next to the toilet).
This is one of the few times that I will advocate for picking up your puppy. A lot of accidents happen because people have their puppy follow them to the door and outside, and puppy gets distracted (and again, they’re too young to know any better) and pees in the floor on the way.
Another option that I know can be considered in some rural households is for the owner to go outside at the same time/place as the puppy (effective training method, I’m willing to bet, though I’ve never heard of anyone admitting they tried it).
 – Reward immediately at the potty spot with chest scratches and love.
 – Y’know how a toddler puts their hands to their crotch when they probably need to go potty? Well, your puppy is showing you they need to go potty when they stop playing and start sniffing the ground/floor. When you see that (and it’s pretty important to be diligent about noticing this), take them to an appropriate potty spot immediately.
           Let me emphasize this one:  Take sniffing puppy outside now!!
– If you catch puppy in the middle of elimination, Interrupt with… – well, I use a gasp (my reaction to any almost-accident: I’m a drama queen) and I try to scoop up the puppy and take him outside, but that can be traumatic to some dogs, so be much less dramatic if you have a sensitive dog, please. Really, it’s best to have the puppy tethered to your body and on a strict potty schedule so that there are no (or fewer) chances of mistakes happening. And if you can’t actively supervise your puppy, use the crate or small enclosure where mistakes won’t be damaging.
– Punishment can cause a puppy to sneak off when they go potty and can make it harder to get them to go in our presence. Just have a matter-of-fact, I’m-having-to-change-a-diaper mentality about mistakes. Really, they’re not mistakes on your puppy’s part; very young puppies practically have no idea they need to go until they’re in the act.
– Clean accidents with vinegar water and/or Dawn/Hydrogen Peroxide/Baking soda mixture. Cleaning products containing ammonia are an attractant for pee-ers. Ammonia essentially says to animals, “Yes, here is the spot to urinate!”
– Back to the routine….Go outside with your pup as soon as they finish eating every meal, and give them a chance to go before walking into any building (and as soon as you come out too, obv). Also, if your puppy stops playing and starts sniffing, take them outside!! (I said it again). Also, just like a toddler, you have to remind them to go potty before you go anywhere, and before bedtime.

Some final thoughts….

– Dogs use sniffing and marking to communicate in their world. Allow as much time for it as you can every time you take your dog outside.
– As your pup ages they may need to go more than once outside, especially peeing, because marking is a natural behavior that most dogs absolutely need to be allowed to do; we just have to teach them where/when it’s appropriate. Also, anxiety causes boy-dogs (and sometimes girl-dogs) to need to pee/mark more.

There is actually so much more to it than this!! Start here, see where you have questions/issues, and get back with me!

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