Puppy Pads, Grass Patches...What's the Doggone Difference?
I am constantly getting questions from friends, family, and clients about how to potty train their pup, so I'm writing this blog post to answer any and all questions you may have about potty training!
Most people know that when they get a puppy, the first thing they need to work on is potty training. We go out and get puppy pads, grass patches, even puppy litter boxes. Most puppy owners think that their pup will learn to go to the bathroom outside by just taking them out and letting them do their business, but there is much more to it than simply putting your pup on a leash and taking him for a walk. Let me explain...
Dogs learn to go to the bathroom based on texture. This means that they will pee/poop on whatever surface they become accustomed to peeing on. This is why people who use puppy pads often find their pups peeing on carpets and doormats - puppy pads feel soft like a carpet, therefore your puppy thinks "Hey, this feels like the place where I am supposed to pee." This is also why dogs who are taught to pee on grass from day one often don't need puppy pads. But then what the heck are puppy pads for? Puppy pads are a great training tool, especially if you live in a busy city or a condo/apartment where grass and nice walks might no be super accessible. Teaching your dog to use their puppy pad helps them (and you) sleep through the night when they can just wake up, pee super quick, and go back to sleep without even waking you up. For those of us with carpet in our home however, puppy pads are a harbinger of doom for all carpets ad rugs in the puppy's reach. You might as well just forget about sleeping through the night and get ready to spend 1-4 weeks taking your pup out to pee in the middle the night.
Now potty training isn't all about texture, its also about timing. A puppy can be fully potty trained, but they have a bladder the size of a peanut and don't yet have the bladder control of an adult dog. When you are home, they need to be on a strict schedule for food, water, walks and play. They should have water only after meals and playtime, and access to water should be completely controlled. This way, you know when they've had water and you know when they'll need to go out. Puppies pee like clockwork, they will always need to pee 10-15 minutes after having water, 30-45 minutes after having water, and its best to walk them one more time 1-1.5 hours later for good measure. "But I don't have time to walk my puppy that frequently" you say? Well then keep reading.
This is where crate training comes in handy. Like most living things, dogs do not like to sleep where they pee and poop. If your pup is in a crate and they pee, chances are they will have to sit in it until you get home or wake up to the wonderful sound of a puppy crying at 3am because they are covered in their own pee....beautiful. After having to sit in it, your pup is going to start to realize "I do not like this....I'm going to try to hold it until my human gets home".
Now some of you might be sitting there thinking "this bitch is crazy, I'm not crating my dog and I'm sure as heck not letting them sit in their own urine and feces"....well you, my friend, will be in for a rude awakening when you have gone a month without a full nights sleep. Sure you can potty train without a crate, but it takes a lot longer, and if your pup makes one mistake, you are right back to square one.......crate training doesn't sound so bad now, huh?
Your puppy is cute. Your puppy wants to play. You feel bad keeping him locked up. I've heard every excuse in the book. But do not trust those puppy dog eyes...the second you turn your back, your puppy will pee and now you have to start all over. The biggest mistake I see people making is giving their puppy too much freedom. Your pup should never be left unsupervised, even when you are home, until they are 100% accident free and can hold their pee/poop for long periods of time. False confidence in your pup can lead to him or her having frequent accidents int he house, so its better to be safe than sorry. If you want your puppy to have some controlled exercise, get them a puppy pen so they can roll around and play with toys. Just be careful to make sure they don't have accidents in there as well. Set them up with a grass patch or puppy pad (whichever you decide to use) in the puppy pen that way they can use it when they need and you don't have to worry about walking them.
My last tip is to be careful not to reward your pup for not going potty outside. If every time you walk your pup, you let them inside to play afterwards (even if they didn't go potty), then you are rewarding them for not doing their business. If they do not go to the bathroom outside, go back inside, put them in their crate, and try again later. Do not confuse this with punishment. You are not punishing your pup...they did nothing wrong. You simply are not rewarding him with playtime for not going to the bathroom.
If I have left out anything or you have questions that have gone unanswered, feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further explanation and advice!
P.S. Enjoy this low quality pic of my high quality mutt.