How to Train a Puppy to Potty and Poop Outside
Learning how to train a puppy is easy!
Knowing how to train a puppy is key to success
Let's face it, puppy training can be a daunting process. So, knowing how to train a puppy will definitely save you a lot of time and anxiety and help you build a great relationship with your dog. Trust me, I know. When we got our sweet beagle puppy, Ruby, (a very stubborn breed when it comes to puppy training) we had a few things working against us in terms of potty training her.
- She was 3 1/2 months old and had not had any puppy training or potty training up to that point
- Beagles are a stubborn breed, making puppy potty training even more of a challenge
- We had never potty trained a puppy before
- It was the dead of winter and no one, including Ruby, wanted to go out in the cold!
But, armed with the internet and confidence we read up on what we thought were the best ways on how to train a puppy and housebreak our beagle. We made a plan to get this pottying-in-the-house situation under control.
The puppy training method we read about over and over again was crate training. The premise behind crate training is that the dog thinks their crate is their "den" and they would never want to soil their den. I guess Ruby never felt like her crate was her den, because in the middle of every night she would yelp after pooping in her crate. This routine got old real fast. Crate training our puppy turned out to be a bust! We quickly discovered that if she slept with us in bed then she didn't poop in the middle of the night. Hhmm... In hindsight, I now see this as the beginning of her cute manipulative abilities.
So, how did we housebreak our dog? Simple ... consistency and praise (which also works when you're ready to teach puppy tricks). This is what else you'll need for successful puppy training:
- A ribbon of bells to hang on the door
- A leash
- A really good attitude
- Cleaning supplies for accidents that will happen at first
Puppy Training Tip 1. Hang the ribbon of bells on the door that you will use most often to take your puppy outside. Each time you take your puppy out either ring the bells yourself or take the puppy's paw or nose and have them ring the bells. At the same time say something like, "let's go outside," emphasizing the word outside. After about 6 weeks of doing this consistently, one day Ruby suddenly began to ring the bells all by herself. It was an amazing moment! And now, no matter where we are in the house, she has a way of alerting us that she needs to go outside.
Puppy Training Tip 2. Keep a leash near your door with the bells. Even if you have a fenced yard you must put your puppy on a leash and walk it out in the yard. You have to use a leash because when your puppy does succeed at pottying or pooping outside you need to praise them immediately while they're pottying - this is not possible if they are loose in the yard. Additionally, if they are loose you may never know if they actually took care of business or not. This is a team effort.
Puppy Training Tip 3. Have very small treats in a container near the door with bells for quick and easy access. When your puppy succeeds at pottying or pooping outside you will need to heap on the praise and follow it quickly with a tiny treat. Say a phrase with your chosen word for potty in it. We always were consistent and said something like, "Good girl going potty outside. Ruby is such a good girl going potty outside." Quickly she associated going potty with a tons of praise and a treat. She would even turn her head towards us while pottying (or pooping), waiting in anticipation for her reward for a job well done.
Puppy Training Tip 4. Take your puppy outside at key times. Until your puppy has associated ringing the bells with going outside to go potty, you will pick the time when you're ready to take the puppy outside. Choose key times like, after waking, 10 minutes or so after eating or drinking, after a play session, etc.
Puppy Training Tip 5. When accidents happen (no matter how bad) remain calm. Remember this, accidents will happen. Your puppy is a baby after all. It will take time to physically mature and to learn what is expected of her so punishment is never warranted. When an accident occurs you still need to immediately take the puppy outside, just to continue the association. Follow tips 1-3 but only give praise and treats if they actually potty more outside. Then, when you go inside clean it up if another family member has not already done so. By the way, yelling and punishing a dog for accidents only teaches them to conceal better and fear you; it does not teach them the right way to go outside. Remember, consistency and praise.
Puppy Training Tip 6. Be consistent with tips 1-5. There will be good days and there will be bad days. But one day it clicks and your consistency and praise will have paid off. Now that Ruby has been trained for several months we no longer need to give her treats, but we still praise her, and occasionally when she gets a treat it really means something to her - we can practically see her smile.
Knowing how to train a puppy and being part of the success can be very rewarding. Best of luck as you train your puppy. If you found these tips useful, or if you have any questions, please use the comments below. I will be sure to get back to you.
Update February 2013: Our little beagle Ruby is 2 1/2 years old now and still ringing her bells each time she needs to go outside to potty or poop. She's got the drill down, but every now and then as we head out the door, I give the bells a good shake myself and say, "let's go outside." A little reinforcement is easy enough to do. By the way, sometimes I even still tell her, "good girl going potty outside." Getting praise never gets old for a dog!
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