A housetrained dog has both the physical ability to “hold it” (bladder control) as well as the mental awareness to do so. Puppies have neither the physical ability to keep themselves from peeing if they really need to, nor do they yet have the mental awareness required to choose to eliminate only outdoors.
That brings us to this week’s housetraining hint: Don’t wait for your puppy to signal that she has to go. She can’t yet tell when she needs to go, much less signal to you that she needs someone with opposable thumbs to please let her out. Your main priority with a very young puppy is to guide her to her designated outdoor potty location before she ever has a chance to eliminate indoors.
“Wait a second,” you may be thinking, “If I am not supposed to wait for a signal, then what will tell me it is time to take her out?” The answer is, your watch will tell you. When you are at home, take her outside every 30 minutes. Otherwise she should be under your direct supervision or confined (for more information, see this complete housetraining plan). For every three days your puppy has eliminated outdoors only, increase the time between potty opportunities by 15 minutes, meaning take her out every 45 minutes when you are at home together. Continue using your watch (set a timer if necessary), to let you know when to take her out, gradually increasing the time between potty opportunities over the coming weeks. Before you know it (when she’s about five months old), she’ll have better bladder control and, just as important, thanks to you and your wristwatch she’ll have had oodles of opportunities to eliminate only outdoors. (Note: Most puppies sleep through the night just fine; their metabolisms slow down and they don’t need to eliminate. See the earlier post on helping your puppy sleep through the night.)
If you have a new dog who is over about 6 months old, he or she likely has the physical ability to hold it. That’s great news, because it means you’ll need to provide far fewer potty opportunities. Start with every couple of hours and adjust depending on your success. Your remaining job is to teach your dog to eliminate only outdoors by providing plenty of reward for doing so. Soon your schedule and your dog’s elimination schedule will match up, such that he or she will need to be taken out about 4 times a day.