In the last section of this Potty Training Unit, we explored how difficult it is to keep 100% focus on puppy when it has the run of the house without using any of the tools to help with potty training. Now, let's learn about some common mistakes people make that hinder potty training efforts.

  1. The most common mistake new puppy owners make is to not give puppy a specific space in which to be contained. Containment training is a HUGE asset when teaching a young puppy to communicate its needs. It is also a HUGE asset to the owner, as we saw in the previous post. Never just put your puppy down in the middle of the living room with no other boundaries and expect your puppy to learn to go outside on its own. Give it a confined area to play where you can watch it constantly.
  2. Another mistake new puppy owners make is not responding RIGHT NOW when a puppy gives a subtle cue that it needs assistance. Humans are busy living our lives. We might be watching a movie, typing a response, talking to our child, talking with mom on the phone, cooking dinner, folding the last of the laundry, or whatever. However, our peripheral vision and our spidey-senses should be on high alert while puppy is in potty training. The very moment that puppy gives the first signal... whether it is sniffing around the pen, looking up at you directly in your eyes, giving a little squeak or whine, pawing at the door of the pen, etc. you must GET UP and take care of puppy's needs. Do not wait or puppy may begin to believe that you are not aware enough to respond. Once it takes matters into its own hands, you will have a harder time. It is easier to teach it correctly the first time than reteach afterwards.
  3. New puppy owners sometimes leave food and water down perpetually. If you do not have regular moments where you take water and food away, then you have not created routine of when to eat/drink and when to refrain. It is healthy to have to learn patience and good to learn respect for routine. Take food up five minutes after puppy is through eating and do not offer food past 6pm. Provide water all during the day, but take water up 7-8pm and do not give water again until the next morning when it is time to wake up. This helps puppy to go potty on a schedule and also helps puppy's body to regulate itself, slowing down certain bodily functions for the night in order to rest.
  4. Another common mistake is to use different doors and pathways to get outside. In larger homes, there are lots of ways to get outside. A little puppy is not as familiar with all of these paths and may not be able to navigate well or become confused on which doors to use. Try hard to only go out of the same door using the same pathway as directly as possible, that way puppy is clear on how to get outside.
  5. When puppy wakes up from a nap or from sleep, it has to go potty, whether or not puppy gives any clue that it has to go. The same urge happens about five to ten minutes after eating or drinking. Some new puppy owners do not take that into account and instead wait for puppy to signal or even wait for puppy to start going potty before they take puppy outside. Instead, ASSUME puppy has to go potty just after it wakes up and five to ten minutes after eating or drinking. Just pick puppy up or lead puppy outside.
  6. Another very common mistake new puppy owners make is not understanding that puppy's piddle twice, not just once. They sniff, find the right spot, piddle... THEN... they sniff again and piddle AGAIN, especially if it has been a while since the last time outside. Use this knowledge and wait for two stops before bringing puppy in the house again.
  7. A mistake that I often catch myself forgetting is that a puppy who has to poo will go away from you, the human, and sniff in a circle a greater distance than it would have normally gone. When you see this, you might initially think puppy is enjoying a little time exploring and not concentrating on going potty. I sometimes have the urge to get puppy "back on task" by calling it over to me or going to get it. But, wait... puppy then squats. So, take a lesson from me and when puppy suddenly takes off a little ways away, sniffing in a circle, it is finding the perfect spot to release its bowels.
  8. Another very common mistake is to lead puppy outside instead of picking puppy up, especially when getting out of the crate from a night's sleep. When puppy has held its urges for a long while, always pick a young puppy up to take it outside because it really has to go and it can't be trusted to hold it if its a long way.
  9. It is ever so easy to allow yourself to get distracted and not watch your puppy. So easy, in fact, that it is one of the most common mistakes. A mistake that many people do not even know they are doing. Instead, they truly believe they have been watching their puppy the entire time. But, seriously... no one can do this unless your eyes are glued to your puppy, which they are not. There are going to be times when you must rush out of the room or a phone rings suddenly or the kids start fighting or the doorbell rings, or the pot on the stove starts to boil over. In those moments, you cannot always keep on eye out for your puppy. So, take a lesson from one who knows and use the tools that trainers use to help you in those moments when you just have to turn away from your puppy to focus on something else. Do not let your puppy have the run of the house. Watch your puppy like a hawk, but use the tools to help you when you can't.

In the next section of this Potty Training Unit we will explore what to do IF your puppy does potty in the house.