When you bring your new puppy home, he's full of more than just licks and tail wags. Depending upon his health, his diet and his maturity, your dog may be able to go for a few hours without having an accident. Potty-training a dog isn't hard, but it does take patience and consistency. Developing a strict routine for your new dog will help him learn the correct bathroom behavior and get you through the training period with as little pain as possible.
Until a dog reaches physical maturity, he may have a hard time controlling his bladder for more than 1or 2 hours at a time. Fortunately, this is where you come in. As your dog's owner, you are in charge of developing an eating, sleeping and bathroom routine that will help your dog learn to wait to use the bathroom until he is outside.
There are two times when a dog is most likely to use the bathroom, after waking and after eating. Knowing this, you can help prevent accidents by taking your dog outside as soon as he wakes and immediately after he finishes eating. If you wait a couple of minutes, it may be too late. With very young puppies (under 10 weeks of age), scoop them up and carry them outside. Just the act of walking may prompt an accident.
Dogs learn to identify the best place to use the bathroom by smell. If you have an older dog, set your new puppy down in the grass where your older dog goes and the smell will prompt the little one to follow suit. Use the same location every time you take your new dog outside. At the same time, don't forget to thoroughly clean all floors and carpets where an accident occurs to reduce the likelihood of another potty accident.
One of the most successful potty-training aids is the dog crate. By nature, a dog tries not to soil its bed and when sequestered in a crate; he will wait as long as he physically can before urinating or defecating. Although crate training is highly successful when used correctly, if you leave your dog in the crate more than a few hours at a time to begin with, your dog may not be able to wait. Release a puppy from his crate every hour during the day and at least once every 5 hours at night. An older dog should never stay in a crate longer than 7 hours. Don't use a crate as a baby sitter. Use it only for bedtime or for very short periods during the day.
Because a dog's eating and drinking habits relate to his bathroom habits, don't feed your dog within 3 hours of his bedtime. The caveat here is with water. In hot weather, dogs need extra water. Let your dog have a good drink 1 hour before bedtime and walk him immediately before you put him in his crate.
Never punish a dog for a potty mistake. If you catch him in the act, use a low, controlled tone of voice and say "no" but don't shout. Don't stick your dog's nose in the mistake; you're sending him mixed messages if you do and he may react with even more mistakes. Instead, scoop up or wipe up the accident and carry it out to the yard. Put it down and show it to your dog. If you holler or smack your dog for a potty mistake, you run the risk of making him anxious and more likely to have future mistakes.
When your dog finally gets it right, lavish praise and rewards on him. Dogs naturally want to please their owners, and once they understand what makes you happy, they'll try even harder next time to use the bathroom in the designated spot.