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Six tips on how to potty train your puppy

Young dogs learn to eliminate outdoors when they’re around six months old. During the training process, reward them, establish a routine of walking hours and never punish or reprimand them if they do it wrong

Dog Puppy
Puppies usually learn quickly to relieve themselves on the street if the owners' approach is right.John W Banagan (Getty Images)

Having a puppy dog at home brings unique experiences, as they are playful and we enjoy the process of watching them grow up. However, it also implies a lot of patience on the part of their human family, who will have to dedicate time to educate them and teach them to go potty outside the house. “The first three months of life are fundamental for puppies to learn to socialize correctly with other animals and with the environment where they eliminate,” explains Miguel Ibáñez, a specialist in psychiatry and animal behavior at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Complutense University of Madrid. Ibáñez recommends giving puppies freedom when they go outside: “Let them go potty naturally in places without intervening to correct them. The animal’s guardians just have to be patient, and nature usually solves the rest effectively.”

Puppies often learn quickly to relieve themselves in the street if the owners’ approach is right. “Considering that urine and feces eliminations at home are a problem to be corrected is a mistake. You simply have to encourage the puppy to do it outside the house,” advises Ibáñez.

The right time to start training a dog is between seven and eight weeks of age. “The puppy’s brain is a sponge, and everything you teach him then will have repercussions for years to come. His mind is almost like a baby’s, so learning will develop gradually and over time,” warns Stefania Pineda, a veterinarian specializing in behavioral medicine and animal welfare, professor in the Department of Animal Production at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the Complutense University of Madrid and in charge of the animal behavior consultancy at the university.

Puppies learn to properly eliminate outdoors when they’re around six months old. “If this is not the case, it is advisable to consult a specialist in animal behavior and always avoid punishments such as shouting, scolding, hitting or rubbing its snout over the place where it did its business,” adds Pineda.

The puppy’s pee corner inside the home

One way to help the puppy learn is to designate a place in the home where he can urinate and defecate when he can’t be taken for a walk. “It can be a place in the corner of a room with newspaper or a soaker, so that the animal identifies it as a place to evacuate and does not go to other places in the house to do so,” explains Pineda. “Although, the ideal is to be able to take him out to the street and reward him when he does well with food or with verbal congratulations and caresses,” recommends the veterinarian. If the dog does his business outside the designated pee corner, the specialist advises: “Do not clean it up in front of him,” as the puppy may interpret it as something worthy of your attention and repeat it, nor should you “scold him, because the dog does not understand the reason” for his owner’s anger.

A puppy during a walk in the woods.
A puppy during a walk in the woods.bettphotos / 500px (Getty Images)

The space reserved for the puppy to relieve him or herself at home during the training process should have a specific smell. “It is convenient to clean it with water and neutral soap and not to completely eliminate the scent of urine from the animal so that [the dog] continues to associate it with the place to urinate and defecate,” continues the veterinarian. Pineda mentions several tips to potty train your puppy:

  • Establish routines for walking and playing. In this way, the animal adapts to the established habits, and it is easy for him to evacuate when it is time to go outside.
  • Take into account the times when the animal is more likely to urinate or defecate: when waking up, after eating and after playing or doing physical exercise.
  • Reward him when he does well with a food he especially likes or with caresses and verbal congratulations.
  • Extend the walk after the puppy has done his business. It is a moment of enjoyment for the dog, and if the walk is over as soon as he has eliminated, he may perceive it as a punishment.
  • Be patient: it is a learning process that takes time until the animal manages to consolidate the habit.
  • Avoid any form of punishment or reprimand, because it stresses the puppy and causes the misbehavior to perpetuate.

Reasons why a dog may not learn to evacuate outside the home

There are several causes. Stefania Pineda mentions the following:

  • Physical problems such as infections, cystitis, or kidney problems.
  • Lack of adequate learning during the first weeks of life due to causes such as their stay in a pet store.
  • Stress or anxiety problems, which will require the intervention of a professional to apply behavioral therapy or, if necessary, medication.
  • Urine marking as a way of communicating with other dogs living in the same house or because there are females in heat.

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