Starting Off on the Right Paw – 8 Week Old Puppy Potty Training
8 week old puppy potty training – Isn’t that too young to start? No, in fact the very first thing you should begin with when you bring your young puppy home is to start potty training him.
Now don’t stress, because in this article I’m going to share with you how avoiding three critical and common mistakes, and adopting a simple trick helped me to successfully begin potty training my 8 week old puppy.
In all actuality, what most people don’t know is that teaching your pup where to go to the bathroom is one of the easiest problems to fix with your new best friend. It’s true that potty training a puppy or adult dog for that matter requires patience, commitment and lots of consistency, but if you avoid these three potty training mistakes, teaching your puppy becomes a WHOLE lot easier…
But first you must realize the reason WHY so many people fail at potty training in the first place and to do that, let’s start with your pup’s anatomy…
How Often Do Puppies Need to Potty?
Rottweiler Puppies are Potty Machines!
Puppies are potty machines!
What goes in is contingent to what comes out!
When I first got my puppy, I was feeding him about 5 times per day because he was so little and he was extremely possessive and food aggressive so the more he ate, the less angry he was.
But feeding a dog this often, or giving them access to food all of the time means they need to go out more often.
When Puppies Need to Pee
- First thing in the morning when they wake up
- In the middle of the night, depending on age every 2-4 hours
- After naps
- After exercise or playing
- After drinking water
- After eating
- Last thing before bed
Does that sound like basically constantly? Good! Then I must have covered everything!
When Puppies Need to Poop
- First thing in the morning
- Last thing at night
- Right after eating (this is why a specific schedule and not leaving food out helps).
Is that painting a clear enough picture on the level of commitment required?
Good, it should be!
Potty training is no easy matter, and honestly it is not about the puppy, it is about making sure you get your puppy outside often enough and control his environment.
Start Right Away!
Potty Training Mistake #1: Ruining the Den Instinct
Let me let you in on a little secret… the fastest way to potty train a puppy is to FIRST use its “Genetically Hard Wired Instincts” to not soil its den, to your own advantage.
And so we’re clear about what I mean by “Den”.
From the moment a puppy is born its mother is teaching it that the DEN is the place where it eats & sleeps.
And one of the first rules Mama Dog starts to teach her pups is NO peeing or pooping in the family den – That’s Disgusting!
So as long as you didn’t buy your puppy from a puppy mill or unreputable breeder, the puppy you bring home comes preprogrammed with this belief:
Potty Where I Eat & Sleep = Bad
Potty Anywhere Else = Good
Now this is really where the first misconception comes in.
Because you and your dog do NOT share the same definition of INSIDE & OUTSIDE.
Your Dog’s Definition of Inside “His Den” vs. Outside
Un-potty trained dogs often have a VERY small version of “Their Den” like maybe just a few spots in your home, like their bed, or a couch. Each dog is a little different, and some dogs, like the larger working dog breeds, are generally among the easiest when potty training a pup, versus dogs with a little spunk like the Shih Tzu (think: dynamite comes in small packages). But the principal stays the same.
Your dog thinks of his Nesting place, where he does NOT pee, as a MUCH smaller space than you realize.
Because most of us humans think of OUTSIDE our “Den” like this…
Your Version of Inside “Your Den” vs. Outside
Starting to see why you and your dog aren’t coming to an agreement on where he should be eliminating?
Can you see how when your dog maybe soaks the carpet right next to his bed he LITERALLY thinks he’s going where he’s supposed to?
Because from his perspective… he DID leave his nest to go pee.
So your dog THINKS he’s just been good…
…And you’re contemplating your decision to bring home that little ball of fur!
So the question then becomes, how do you teach your dog the difference between what YOU think of as “Your Den” (your entire home) and what your dog thinks it is (that spot next to his bed)?
Luckily there’s a proven process for how to trick your dog into thinking certain rooms of your home are like NESTS… and when you do this right, it triggers your dogs instinct to not pee or poo in those rooms.
Click here for a FREE program on how to trigger this instinct in your dog.
What if you live in a big city or another area that doesn’t have easy access to the outdoors?
Do puppy pads work?
Check out this article to see out if using puppy pads to potty train your puppy is right for you:
Indoor Potty Training
Potty Training Mistake #2: Punishing His Accidents
You have two options when your pup has an accident:
You Can Punish His Accidents
Or you can use the 3rd tip I’ll cover in a minute
Sadly though, most people choose the punishment route, or worse take them to a shelter. If you catch your pup going potty in the house don’t freak out! Simply, and calmly say “no” or “ehh!” and scoop your puppy out and take him outside. If you throw a fit and scare your puppy he associates YOU with something bad, not having an accident or going potty in the house.
From your pup’s point of view… he has to go potty (right?) so he doesn’t understand why you get so upset at something that is so natural for him to do and something he needs to do. By yelling you are teaching him to avoid going potty “in front of you” you are not potty training him!
This is why so many dogs sneak out of the room to urinate or defecate, not because they are ashamed or they know it is wrong to potty inside… it is because they have been taught not to go potty in front of you (which makes this process so much harder!).
According to the ASPCA’s National Rehoming Survey, pet problems are the most common reason that owners rehome their pet, accounting for 47% of rehomed dogs. Pet problems were defined as problematic behaviors the biggest complaint (80%) being housebreaking issues, aggressive behaviors, they grew larger than expected, or health problems the owner couldn’t handle. Almost ALL of these issues can easily be solved through proper training.
So if you’re tempted to punish your pup, let me tell you what will happen.
There your dog sits.
He’s just relieved himself all over your carpet. But he didn’t do it on his bed so he feels like he’s been a good boy.
Then you walk in.
You see the puddle, heard somewhere on the internet that maybe said it’s a good idea to ‘rough him up’ a little bit or maybe scold him for peeing in the house.
“They can take it”, you’ve heard.
“That’s how dogs in the wild communicate.” they say.
Yet because your dog thinks he has left his “Nest” to pee, and doesn’t understand it was because he didn’t go OUTDOORS… punishment WON’T work.
In fact you’ll actually make the problem worse with that rolled up newspaper.
Because what your dog is going to do next time he has to go, is simply do a better job of HIDING his pee from you!
Which means you’ll now be finding soiled stinky carpet splotches in the far reaching corners of your home instead of just in your main living room.
In this article from the AKC it says, “Scolding a puppy for soiling your rug, especially after the fact, isn’t going to do anything except make her think you’re a nut. Likewise, some old methods of punishment, like rubbing a dog’s nose in her poop, is so bizarre that it’s hard to imagine how they came to be and if they ever really worked for anyone. On the other hand, praising a puppy for doing the right thing works best for everything you will do in your life together. Make her think that she is a little canine Einstein every time she performs this simple, natural act. Be effusive in your praise—cheer, clap, throw cookies. Let her know that no other accomplishment, ever—not going to the moon, not splitting the atom, not inventing coffee—has been as important as this pee.”
This opposing approach to punishment is to use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior and TEACH your dog what you want and what your expectations for house training are.
This approach avoids the “bad” or problem behavior all together because you are giving information to your puppy by teaching him what you want and rewarding good behavior and success. B.F. Skinner has shown that positive reinforcement is superior to punishment in altering behavior or maintaining behavior. This is hands down the best way to begin training your new puppy!
There are many benefits to using positive reinforcement training in all aspects of puppy training, but it is especially useful when potty training because you are trying to avoid the problem of having potty accidents by teaching your puppy where to go potty.
Positive reinforcement also builds a strong bond of trust with your puppy. Even outgoing puppies can be scared and nervous when they first enter their new homes. Although this is an exciting time being away from their mom, former home and litter-mates can be terrifying. Now is the time to begin building a bond of love and trust with your new puppy.
Positive reinforcement training has also been shown to be a quicker form of learning, because it gives information on what an owner wants and expects!
So instead of punishing, here’s the trick that helped me discover how to potty train my puppies quickly.
It’s a trick almost everyone skips, yet makes all the difference…
Because it teaches your dog a way to warn you before he has to go, eliminating 90% of your dog’s accidents within a week of him learning this behavior….
Potty Training Mistake #3: Avoiding the Crate
Crates are soooooooooo important. Seriously, there aren’t enough “O’s” on the page to denote how critical I think crates are for the safety of dogs and their owners, and their owner’s things. Crates help puppies learn to hold their urine and feces.
If you have a small dog, get a small crate so that, again, he is learning that having an accident in close proximity is bothersome. If you have a large breed puppy, you can get a big crate and section it off so that he has a smaller space as a puppy; this will help you with potty training your pup. Nothing wants to sit in its own urine and feces, unless that is how it was raised (click here if you have a dirty puppy)
Crates keep your things safe!
Don’t want your puppy stealing dangerous food, getting in the trash or toilet when you are away?
Don’t want your puppy to eat your Michael Kors purse or your computer?
Crate train him!
Eating drywall, sofas, and expensive items are another big reason that dogs end up in shelters. Shredding your things is fun for your dog, he is a different species and he entertains himself in inconvenient ways. Crates keep everything safe and everyone SANE!
It also ironically takes some stress away from your dog. Guarding the house and worrying about every single noise can create fearful and phobic dogs, especially puppies! I used to pet sit in a mansion and I was always a little terrified. The smaller the space, the more confident I am, and the same goes for your dog.
Won’t your puppy whine or cry? OF COURSE he will! But just because a baby cries in his crib, doesn’t mean we spend every waking moment with him. Is it difficult to hear them cry?
But they work through it IF YOU LET THEM.
If you take them out every time they cry or throw a fit, you will be teaching your puppy to throw bigger, hairier fits the next time. Instead, if you train a puppy that he gets out when he is quiet and he will learn that if he’s quiet, being let out of his crate is the reward. I only let my puppies out of their crate when they are quiet, even if it is only a fraction of a second that he is quiet.
I like to make sure that my puppy is exhausted when I scoop his sleepy body up and slide him into his crate. I want my puppy to be too exhausted to care where he is sleeping. Also, and this is a BIG one, I crate them while I am home. If every time you crate your dog is either at bed time or when you leave he begins to associate the crate with long periods of time and you’re leaving.
Why not get him used to being in his crate for 10 minutes so there is no panic.
Potty Training Mistake #4: Not Training The ‘I-Gotta-Go’ Bell
If you’ve ever raised children, you know that there comes this glorious day in a parent’s life.
You go from having your child wet themselves for the first year or two of their life, to the stage where they finally start giving you some warning while out in public.
Where there you are at the shopping mall or something, when they say, “Mommy I gotta go potty”.
And what do you instantly know when you hear those words?
That you have just entered the FINAL COUNTDOWN right?
And that you only have a short window of time left to make it to the bathroom or there’s going to be an inconvenient, if not embarrassing mess.
Well wouldn’t it be cool if you could train your dog the ‘I Gotta Go’ command? So he could give you a little heads up before he lets ‘er rip?
Of course it would.
Because remember, dogs are just like children when it comes to the amount of time you have before they ask to go outside and when the dam breaks.
So if you don’t train your dog HOW to let you know he’s got to go, you are ONLY making your potty training efforts harder on yourself than you have to.
Always remember to hustle when your puppy needs to use the bathroom! Grab the leash and take it right outside to its bathroom area. Heck, you could even let your puppy go without the leash if you are in an enclosed backyard and don’t have enough time. The leash is certainly ideal, though, for when your puppy needs to use the bathroom.
And the “I Gotta Go Bell” is REALLY simple to train.
The way I taught this to my 8 week old puppy was to simply hang a little Christmas jingle bell on the door handle that lead outside. And then what I did is I trained him to ring it ONLY when he had the urge to go potty.
Here’s why this bell is MAGIC:
- I no longer had to “Catch My Dog in the Act” to train him to go outside. Now he tells me!
- Now my dog had a way to communicate his need to go outside. And he could call me from the other side of the house WITHOUT barking.
- When my little dog’s bladder was 15 seconds away from bursting, he didn’t have to run all over the house trying to find me to tell me he had to go and have an accident on the stairs or something. This is because he knew that if he rang it, I’d come a runnin’ to help him do his business properly.
My NOT So Secret, Secrets for Potty Training Success
Get the house ready for housebreaking. When it comes to housebreaking, “being prepared” doesn’t mean covering your floors in newspaper and rolling up rugs. Instead, it’s important to focus on making sure your pup feels comfortable in her new home. An unfamiliar place can be frightening and overwhelming, so making a protected, safe environment for your dog with a crate, playpen and/or baby gate is vital. An enclosed area creates a safe place for the puppy to hang out and feel comfortable, but also an area where you can trust them to be when you can't keep watch.
What’s the secret trick that makes potty training a puppy easy? Consistency! I cannot say it enough. Consistency is everything when it comes to training your dog. It really helps to have a schedule and keep track of everything — not in your head, but on paper, computer or even your phone.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to teaching your pup this new behavior, and organization will be key in the process. You should record frequency, duration of the walk and even the accidents, as it will help identify a pattern. And yes, there is even an app for that!
Keeping a routine is your new best friend. Feeding your pup at the same time each day will help cement their walk schedule. (Keep in mind, they may need to eat two to three times a day.) I suggest walks within a short time of waking up from a nap, and 10-30 minutes after food, water or any major activity. Be very hawkeyed! Monitor food and water consumption, as what goes in, must come out.
Anyone who is familiar with my training philosophy and my writing, knows how I feel about pee pads.
NO, no, no, no, don’t do it, and NO!
I know this is a controversial topic and have heard from several of you who have never had a problem with pee pads and transitioning your pup to the outside. This method of “house training” we used to call “paper training” because people used newspapers to give the pup an appropriate place to potty.
And, before the invention of pee pads, this kind of training was actually more effective! Why? Because most people don’t leave newspapers scattered on the floor all over their house. Think about it; unless you are a hoarder, you probably don’t have a bunch of newspaper on your walls or on your floor. So, once the newspapers disappear the puppy is more likely to acclimate to going outside.
Pee pads aren’t like newspaper.
Pee pads are soft and plush. Pee pads feel like your carpet, your clothes, and your towels. So when the pee pads disappear the pup begins to use soft things he finds on the floor or walls of your house. And, let’s face it… there are a lot of soft things in the floor of our homes!
This is how I’ve potty trained my own 8 week old puppies. They were potty trained because I was extremely watchful of them and their behavior. They were either in their crates for short periods of time, or they were on a leash with me. They DID NOT have access to my house and for the brief moments that they had gotten that privilege they usually snuck off to have an “accident”.
By keeping your puppy in a small area it will become uncomfortable to “potty” in his space, so he will start to whine and pull toward the door when he has to go potty. You must also monitor his actions, if he has a lot to drink, chances are he is going to need to go potty right afterward.
If he runs around like a maniac chasing and flinging his toys he is probably going to have to go potty!
AND, I ALWAYS go outside with him to make sure he is going potty. It doesn’t matter if we are having torrential rain or if it is 50 below zero, I have to go out with him! And, don’t give up and let him potty inside or you will be back to square one with your potty training!
Too many owners put their puppies outside and “expect” them to go potty, but instead the puppy sees a butterfly or a leaf and chases and plays and then comes back into the house and needs to go potty!
Or, he starts to go potty but gets distracted by a noise or something that visually floats past and so he stops mid flow to explore. As an owner you must be present in order to recognize that he probably wasn’t finished with what he was doing and so he might need more coaxing to finish.
If I put my puppy outside alone and didn’t follow him around, and then if I allowed him access to my house would he have accidents? Sure he would! The reason he is doing well is because I am diligent in my mommy duties and I hate cleaning up puppy pee and poop.
Is my puppy running over and ringing the bell with his nose yet? No! That is the next step!
Never Yell, Yelling will Set Your Puppy Back and Scare Him!
You wouldn’t bring a baby home from the hospital and expect not to have any accidents. And, parents with toddlers know that kids also have good days and bad days, how then do we expect our animals to be perfect?
Puppies are like babies, they gain bladder control at different times and some are easier to potty train than others.
You have to go from one step, cleaning up the occasional accident and getting your puppy outside (i.e. cleaning diapers every few hours) to teaching your pup the next step.
It is now time to hook the bells up to my door knob and start the bell ringing behavior so he can let me know when he needs to go outside.
But he is still little, so chances are he will be on a leash and a tie down here in the house with me for many more weeks! And, there is nothing wrong with that!
Eventually when he is no longer having accidents, wanting to chase my cats, biting the other dogs in the face, and chewing on everything I will give him the privilege of having access to the house.
But at my house, access and freedom is a privilege that needs to be earned and obedience and compliance is the key.
I don’t let my puppies develop terrible naughty behaviors because I know that fixing bad behavior is harder than simply avoiding them! More potty training tips, click here.
The Bottom Line:
So there you have it…
By focusing on:
- Potty Training One Room At A Time
- Tricking my dog’s instincts into treating those rooms like its DEN
- Not punishing his accidents
- And giving my dog an ‘I Gotta Go Bell’ to give me some warning
… I was able to begin successfully potty training my 8 week old puppy to not pee in his first room within days…
Where he would hold it for a couple hours if left home alone. (his bladder wasn’t quite mature enough to hold it for more than that at just 8 weeks old).
“Generally speaking, a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is two months old, they can hold it for about two hours. Don't go longer than this between bathroom breaks or they’re guaranteed to have an accident.” (Read more about that here)
Yet if you will avoid the above three pitfalls, and teach your dog how to warn you with a bell before he has to go, you can potty train any dog, whether it’s an 8 week old puppy like mine or an older dog who was never potty trained, much faster than you ever thought possible and your dog will love you and trust you forever. Dog ownership is both exciting and rewarding and it doesn’t have to put your sanity to the test.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.