Potty Training Your Puppy

My ultimate guide to potty training your puppy takes a no-nonsense, practical approach to getting your pup dry as quickly as possible and although house training puppies may sometimes seem a little difficult....the process doesn't have to send you Potty!

House Training Puppies

Talk about butter wouldn't melt...this gorgeous little puppy is adorable isn't he?

Black and brown cocker spaniel puppy with adorable pale blue eyes!

But who would have thought that something so cute (and so tiny) could produce so much waste? 

They're little poop and pee machines at this age!

And that's why potty training your puppy will be your number one priority right now!

Crating your puppy offers so many benefits, and because puppies instinctively try not to soil their den, crating comes in very handy while you're potty training. (This instinct stems from when their mother would lick her puppies dry and 'clean up' to remove any scent that may have attracted predators and although this no longer applies in their domestic world, the mother will still clean up her babies).

So when your little guy's inside his crate he'll try to hold himself for longer than he would normally. However, there are no guarantees and there will always be the occasional 'little accident' but if he's not crated, he'll do his toilet whenever and wherever he can.

At this young age, he doesn't know any different, so it's up to you to teach him your house rules. Establish a simple puppy toilet training routine and stick to it - if you do this it will be much easier for you both.

Potty Training Your Puppy

No-one ever said that house training dogs or puppies was going to be a walk in the park, but if you follow the steps explained below your puppy will be dry in no time at all!

Timing Is Everything!

"How will I know when my puppy wants to pee?"  The simple answer is, you won't!

But with Cocker Spaniel house training, (as with all breeds) timing is everything and because your puppy's toilet needs are fairly predictable, you can build your routine around those needs as follows:

  • Take your puppy outside as soon as he wakes up, no matter how long he's slept for.

  • Around 10 minutes after he's had a drink, take him outside again (to his favorite spot in the garden) and encourage him to do the business.
  • Between 15 - 20 minutes after eating your puppy may need to poop, so keep an eye on him and 15 minutes after his last meal take him outside.

    How much and how often you feed your puppy is especially important when you're potty training your puppy. If he's fed at regular times each day, and not fed between meals, except for occasional small training treats, he'll begin to do his toilet to a regular pattern.

    If you overfeed your Cocker he may need to poop more often, and at unpredictable times, which will make house-training your puppy that little bit more difficult.

    More to the point, overfeeding produces overweight dogs!
Potty trained, golden cocker spaniel puppy, lying quietly on the floor
  • Take him outside after any playing, exercising, or training sessions.

  • And again....take him outside after any stress or excitement, for example, when visitors call, other dogs visit etc.

  • If your puppy gets a fright or shock (a loud unexpected bang, for example), he may need to pee, so once again, take him outside - if it's not already too late!

In addition to the above timings, I also recommend you take him into the garden 45-60 minutes after the last time he did his toilet - just to be on the safe side.

When potty training a puppy I recommend focusing on the above timings, but that you also take your pup into the garden every hour or so after his last pee or poop - just to be on the safe side.

Tell-Tale Signs!

When potty training puppies it's important to watch them closely when they're out of their crate.

Don't give your pup the opportunity to pee or poop somewhere in the house because it may cause a set-back in any progress you've made so far.

Black and tan puppy sitting in meadow

I admit that potty training a puppy isn't always easy, but if you watch closely you'll see that your little darling will give off tell-tale signals when he's ready to do the business!

These little nuggets of behavior to watch out for are:

  • intense sniffing of the floor,
  • circling (turning in small tight circles),
  • squatting,
  • holding the tail high,
  • crying or whimpering,
  • going to the door, and sometimes scratching at it.

The minute you see any of these signs, scoop him up and take him straight outside to his toilet area.

While you're still potty training your puppy try not to leave him alone for any longer than a couple of minutes. You can almost guarantee that if you leave him for any longer than that, he'll have a little 'accident' while you're gone and you'll return to find a little puddle (or parcel!) has suddenly appeared on your best rug!

Don't set your baby up to fail.

As his internal 'plumbing' develops he'll be able to hold himself for longer and you'll be able to increase the time between his daily activities and taking him into the garden.


Puppy Potty Training: Where, When and How?

When potty training a puppy it's best to teach your boy to do his toilet in the same place in your yard or garden each time because it makes for much easier cleaning and pick up.

Choose a section of your garden that you're happy for your Cocker Spaniel to use. It should be far enough from the house so that there aren't any smells, but near enough for him to reach in time.

To begin toilet training your puppy put him on a lead and take him into the garden and lead him to his special area.

Don't leave him alone outside - you must stay with him otherwise he'll begin to play or explore and won't concentrate on the task in hand.

Don't play with him or make a fuss because if you do he'll become more interested in you than in doing the business.

Choose a word or phrase to encourage your puppy to perform, for example, "do toilet", "get busy" or "do wee wee/do pee pee".

This cocker spaniel puppy looks comfy!

Whatever words you choose, bear in mind that you may need to use these words in a public place so choose something you won't be too embarrassed to use!

As your puppy begins to pee, say your chosen words and when he's finished, praise him and give him a treat as a reward.

If he doesn't do anything within 10 minutes, take him back inside but keep a watchful eye on him as he may try to pee indoors - probably on your favorite shoes!

Better still, crate him and take him back outside again in 15 minutes.


When Potty Training A Puppy...Accidents Will Happen!

Despite your (and your puppy's)  best intentions there will be a few little 'accidents' along the way when you're potty training your puppy, but please don't scold him for any mishaps in your home.

It's not your puppy's fault if he soils indoors especially if you weren't watching him closely enough or you weren't there to let him out.

Red and white cocker spaniel sitting at door, waiting to go potty

Many years ago when dog owners weren't as enlightened as they are now it was considered acceptable, almost encouraged, to rub your puppy's nose in his own mess if he soiled indoors!

It was supposed to 'teach him a lesson' but I can assure you, that school of thought never helped with the development of potty training a puppy.

Thankfully, toilet training has moved on since then!

It's now widely recognized that for 'punishment' (read show of disapproval) to be effective, you need to catch your Cocker Spaniel in the act, otherwise he won't understand why you're unhappy with his behavior. He's more likely to become afraid of pooping in front of you!

Your puppy may even become secretive about his toilet and sneak off to do it under the kitchen table or behind the sofa.

Imagine how confusing this is for a young puppy if one minute he's being praised for doing his toilet (outside in the garden) and the next he's being scolded for doing the same thing, but inside the house.

If you catch your puppy in the act, or he's showing signs that indicate he may be about to pee, shout loudly (a loud, firm tone but without emotion) - your puppy will probably be shocked into stopping in mid flow.

Pick him up (you won't have time to put him on his lead) and take him straight into the garden to his 'special place'. When he begins again you can praise him and reward him with a treat.


Potty Training Your Puppy: Clearing Away Little 'Accidents'

Expect little accidents while you're potty training your puppy and unless you caught him in the act, don't make a fuss about it.

This little cocker spaniel puppy is fully toilet trained!

Simply clear it away as soon as possible.

Even though your floor may smell and look clean to you, your puppy will still be able to smell the ammonia in his pee.

Any lingering smell of urine will only attract your puppy and encourage him to pee in the same place again. That's why it's best to use a biological odor eliminator spray or a mixture of biological washing powder and vinegar; both will remove any smell.

Don't use an ammonia-based cleaning product as the smell could encourage your puppy to pee.


Potty Training A Puppy During The Night

Potty training your puppy doesn't stop just because it's night-time!

If you take your pup outside just before you go to bed, you've a better chance of him staying dry overnight. However, don't expect too much from him at this stage, he's still very young and won't have full control over his bladder.

Crating your puppy overnight can help with house training, but you'll need to let him out during the night to relieve himself.

An alternative to getting up at 3:00am in the morning to take your puppy into the garden, is to section off part of the room which houses his crate and lay polythene by the door (or in one corner of the room) with newspaper laid on top.

Place a tissue previously soaked with your puppy's urine in the middle of the newspaper to help encourage your puppy to pee exactly where you want him to!

You could also use puppy training pads - simply place one onto the newspaper in place of the tissue.

There are some owners who believe using newspaper or training pads isn't the way to train puppies as it teaches them to 'go' inside, on the newspaper, as well as in the garden. It's thought that this can confuse them and undermines the puppy house training routine.

I believe it's simply a matter of personal choice - whatever works for you.

I found that by setting up and sticking to a strict timetable during the day and removing his water an hour or two before bedtime, I only needed to lay newspaper at night, and there were many mornings when I found the newspaper dry!

When potty training your puppy it's best to get into the habit of taking him to his designated toilet area as soon as you get up - before he has the chance to pee indoors.


Potty Training Your Puppy - On A Leash

Some puppies won't do their toilet when out on a walk, but will wait until they get back to their own garden simply because this is where they were taught to do it from the very beginning.

Black and white cocker spaniel puppy with unusual zebra-striped legs, fully potty trained

If this happens to you, set your alarm clock and get up very early one morning, and take your Cocker out for a walk when you know he's due to pee. If he's not yet leash trained, you can learn how here.

Stay out as long as necessary, he may not be able to hold himself and may have to poop or pee out of desperation.

If this happens, praise your puppy and reward him with extra treats - he'll soon get the message!

If your puppy fails to do anything during his walk take him straight to his 'toilet zone' when you return home. If you don't, you can almost guarantee that he'll relieve himself as soon as you step over the threshold!

If he still doesn't pee, take him inside, but keep a watchful eye on him. Take him outside every 15 minutes until he performs!

Continue getting up early and taking him out on his leash - he'll eventually crack, I promise you!

No-one said toilet training dogs was going to be a walk in the park!


Potty Training A Puppy: Summary

When potty training your puppy it's important to set up and stick to a regular routine of garden visits, use your chosen phrase as encouragement, and praise and reward your puppy each time he 'performs' in the right place.

Pay close attention to him and watch out for the tell-tale signs that he's about to pee in your home, but don't punish your puppy for any little accidents indoors.

Potty training your puppy shouldn't take too long; he should normally be fully house-trained between 4 and 6 months old, but don't worry if it takes a little longer as no two puppies will develop at the same rate.

Stick to this routine and you'll find your Cocker Spaniel's fully house trained in no time at all!

I hope you've found this article on how to potty train your puppy useful and that it's worked for you.

If you've not yet crate trained your puppy, I highly recommend it and if you'd like to learn more about it and how to crate train your little man, just follow this link.

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