Everyone loves a new puppy. Slightly less cute, however, are the stains on the carpet and surprises on the floor. House-training may feel like it’s taking forever, but the good news is that every month they can hold it a little longer and by 4-6 months old, they should be fully going outside. But until then, here’s how to help your puppy (and your house) get through the experience.
Create a puppy zone.
Think tiled floors, zero carpeting, and not too much space to get in trouble, like a bathroom. This is your puppy’s safe place to hang out when unsupervised. Don’t have a closed-off space like that? Section one off with a puppy gate. They’re great for keeping puppies in while still letting you go about your business.
Take them out like clockwork.
Every 30 min to an hour, your puppy’s “gotta pee” alarm is going off. That means you need to be just as punctual at taking them outside. In addition to this hourly check-in, other key times to take them out are after they eat, after they’ve been asleep (including naps), and any time before you leave them alone. Need to be gone for a while? Better send in back-up. Have a friend or neighbor take your puppy out at regular intervals while you’re away.
Help them know it’s time to go.
Right now, you’re trying to teach your puppy’s brain (and bladder) what to associate with going. The more you create a solid routine around the ritual, the quicker they’ll learn. Aside from always taking them out at the same time, make sure you always lead them to the same spot so they can smell their scent (a clear trigger for go-time). You can also try using a word or phrase to prompt them. No matter what word you pick—potty, tinkle time, atta boy, ta-da, shazam—use it every time you take your puppy out.
Have that treat ready (and make it good).
Puppies’ memories are as short as their little bodies. Unless you reward them immediately, they won’t realize that they’re being praised for going outside and not just for being generally adorable. Present the treat the second the deed is done, and for maximum impact, make sure it’s extra tasty.
No yelling. Just cleaning.
Yelling when they have an accident is never cool. In fact, it could cause them to start hiding from you when they need to go. Same goes for shaming your puppy for an accident that you find later. At that point, they won’t even associate the mess with why you’re angry. So what should you do? If you catch your puppy in the act, simply say “no” calmly or clap once loudly. The slight noise will scare them into stopping so you can scoop them up to go outside. And be sure to keep natural enzymatic cleaners on hand. They’ll erase any trace of the smell so your puppy won’t come back to mark the spot again (but without any nasty chemicals that can hurt them).