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Housebreaking Your Puppy—Using Pee Pads and Potty Basics

Potty guidelines for pups, 0 to 6 months.

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0 to 3 weeks

From 0 to 3 weeks the dam looks after all the puppies potty needs. Puppies should be kept in an enclosed safe whelp box. For puppies that are 3 weeks and older the humans need to teach them that there is a designated spot to potty.

3 weeks

At 3 weeks remove the whelping box door and add a potty area. If the whelp box is 2' x 2' make the potty area the same size. Several times a day pick up the sleeping pups and put them on the paper. As soon as they potty put them back in the whelp box.

Change the bedding 3 times a day. Do NOT change the potty paper. Pick up the poops, leave the pee smell. For the pups it is mostly about smell. The sleeping area will smell fresh and pleasing to sleep on and the potty area will smell like their waste attracting them to potty their again.

3 to 4 weeks

From 3 to 4 weeks the puppies should have a bed and small potty area. This is the time you have to keep the bed very clean as they start to have accidents when they move and their private parts get stimulated. This is the age that they are learning to potty on their own without their mother's help. At 3.5 weeks old most pups will have mastered coming out to potty, and going back to bed.

4 to 5 weeks

At 4 to 5 weeks after the puppies have mastered leaving their sleeping area to potty and going back to the sleep area to rest you can start to feed them solid food. Do not begin solid food until they have mastered where to sleep and where to relieve themselves. This is very important. After you start to feed them soaked puppy kibble most dams will stop tending to their potty needs. When the dam does stop you have to check the puppies back end daily for poop which may be stuck to their bums and clean any messes.

5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 weeks

From 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 weeks while still at the breeders home their bed should be moved further and further away from the potty station and a larger playground should be added. Puppies should not play in their waste, but will have no choice if the human doesn't help them and supply a bed and a potty. This is how a good breeder of home raised pups raises their puppies. A stay at home mom-breeder raising a litter is different than just having pups at the home with no one there 24/7 to tend to them. Some breeders raise pups and some breeders just have pups.

There are many names used to describe other breeders such as a commercial breeder, a high volume breeder and a backyard breeder. More times than not, the term "puppy mill" is the name used to describe the breeders that just produce pups, but do not train them. There are many ways pups are bred and raised, and many different opinions on what is the best. Some pups are very hard to house train because for the first 6 to 8 weeks of their life they have only lived in one box. They ate, slept, peed, pooped and played in that same box. They have not learned that there is a designated spot to potty. Some of these breeders use the puppy pens with a rack and when the pup goes to the bathroom the waste falls through and disappears. These puppies are very hard to house train. They learned nothing from the breeder. You have to start from scratch. It is like adopting a 6 year old human child still in diapers who has not been taught to speak and does not know there is such a thing as a toilet.

To set yourself up for success when potty training a puppy the first most important thing is to find out how your puppy was raised. Visit the breeder and make sure it was potty trained to a potty station before it comes to your house. Do not just buy a pup off the internet without doing a lot of homework first. Most breeders that do not train their pups sell them on the computer and do not allow you to come visit before you adopt.

The proper puppy housing at the breeder's home is in a minimum of an 8' x 8' area with a potty station off to the far corner. There should not be puppy pads scattered all over the area. It should be set up like a small house with a bed in a corner, a place to eat, a place to sleep, a place to play and a place to go to the bathroom. Thus making the puppy understand there is a separate place to relieve itself.

Once you bring your new puppy home do NOT use puppy pee pads. Never, never use a pee-pee pad or have a potty station inside your home after the puppy is 8 to 9 weeks of age. You want to expand on what the breeder has already taught the puppy and take it to the next level. You need to teach the pup that it is off limits to relieve itself inside your home. It must only potty outside. If the weather is bad and it is hard to get the puppy out to potty, you may buy the pee pads, but put them right outside the door. Do not put them inside your home or you will be setting yourself up for housebreaking failure.

Your job as a new owner is to provide 100% supervision, use your crate as a potty training tool and teach your pup to walk to the door. Do not use food or you will change the focus from relieving itself to eating. Keep the puppy's mind on the task at hand, which is going to the bathroom. Owners who use food as a potty reward often find themselves with a pup who does not completely empty themselves while outside. The dog is more eager to eat than it is to make the unconformable feeling of needing to go to the bathroom go away.

Do not carry the dog outside or it will never learn how to walk to the door. If you carry the pup, when it has to go it will stand in the middle of the room and wait, unaware of how to signal the owner that it needs to go. This is a step many new owners miss. They set the alarm for every hour or two and pick up the pup and carry him out to potty. This does not teach it a thing. You must teach the pup to walk to the door. You can even teach the dog to ring a bell when it needs to go outside. Lead the dog to a designated potty area. If you would like you can put a pee pad outside. Some people set up a pen just outside the door under the eaves. I do this for early mornings and bad weather. The imortant thing to remember is to keep the potty area outside. Never inside the home.

If you cannot watch your new puppy 100% of the time put it in its crate. Never let it wander without your eyes on it. The more accidents you allow the pup to have inside the home the harder it will be to housetrain.

A well bred, well raised puppy will give you a signal that it needs to relieve itself by walking with its head down, sniffing, often walking in circles. If you see this put on its leash and walk it to the door.

A puppy mill puppy unfortunately will just be playing and stop and potty with no warning. These pups will need more crating in the smallest crate possible, as most will not potty and then sleep in it. Unfortunately some pups raised in these conditions will sleep where they go to the bathroom. With these pups you have to start from scratch. While it will be harder, these pups can still be trained. It will just take more time and effort. Most dogs want a clean bed.

Personally I like to teach my pups to walk to the door at 8 to 9 weeks of age. I have a potty station with pee pads and an x-pen just outside the door. I like to teach them what a pee pad is because we travel. During times we are out, if I am in an apartment or 3rd story home I put a pee pad outside on the balcony. I like to take my dogs on a boat and I teach them to use the pads while we are out on the water. If I am on an airplane I will take pee pads and find the family washroom and put one down. Pee pads can be very convenient, but they should never be used inside your home or you will confuse your dog.

If you live in a high rise and you cannot get outside easily set up a safe potty area on your balcony. If you are disabled and must use pee pads in your home do not use them in your kitchen or living area. Put them in your bathroom, laundry room or other less used part of the home and teach your pup to go there.

So many people will get a new puppy and state they have set up a spot at home just like at the breeders had. This is a big NO NO. Once you bring your puppy home it needs to be past that stage. It is like taking a potty trained toddler and taking away the toilet and put him back in a diaper.

When a puppy goes to his new home expand on what the breeder has already taught it. Teach the pup there is a designated spot to potty and that is NOT inside your house.

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