The anticipation of getting a new puppy, a brand-new furry member of the family, can be an exciting magical time. Most prospective owners are filled with thoughts of cute bundles of fluff curled up sleeping or pouncing playfully on an unsuspecting soft toy. Of course, some challenges are to be expected and there will be the need to stock up on the obligatory puppy pads or old newspaper to deal with inevitable “accidents” in the early days. Nothing will dampen the enthusiasm though, right?
What most people do not envisage though is as a grown adult standing in your pitch-black yard, sometimes in the rain cheerfully chirping “go poop” and clapping like a mad man or woman when your little furry companion finally conquers making their “business” outside.
Ah, but how cruel the world can be at times; it is more common than not that this moment of triumph may be fleeting. Your pup that so masterfully “went potty” outside may just as quickly revert to leaving a little surprise on the kitchen floor much to their owners’ exacerbation.
However, take solace that you are not alone, toilet training a puppy especially when it comes to their bowels can be a tricky old business. Maybe your yet to pick up your pup or maybe you already have your own little canine stink bomb causing all manner of problems for your carpets. Whatever your situation, you have come to the right place to talk all things toilet. Read on to discover some hints and tips about what might just be stopping them from pooping outside.
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When is Best to Potty Train your Puppy?
While many people are super motivated to get cracking with potty training, be mindful that biologically young puppies’ bladders and bowels generally have not developed enough to even start being able to control when they can go toilet until around 12 weeks at the earliest.
If you have collected your puppy before 12 weeks you can still start some good habits by taking the pup outside into the garden regularly to give them the opportunity to go toilet outside. Even though at this stage any time they do go toilet it may be more fluke than training, giving lots of positive encouragement when they do go sets them up to recognize pooping outside is a positive behavior.
Once they hit 12 weeks it is time to increase the rigidity of the toilet schedule and really go nuts on the praise when your dog achieves an outdoor poop. You laugh now but just wait you will be clapping and hollering with the best of them and be so pleased with your pup that even picking up their deposits will not dampen your pride.
How Do I Train my Puppy to Poop Outside?
Be consistent! It is a big commitment to potty train your pup for outdoor pooping. It is not just as simple as taking them outdoors. Diet and feeding schedules will also play a part. In the simplest terms what goes in has to come out. By feeding your dog at regular mealtimes with measured food you will be able to predict that they will likely need to open their bowels in the 30 minutes to an hour following their meals.
Below we will explore the details of different training methods but essentially you have to take your dog out to the garden regularly, positively react when they poop outside and then begin to associate a cue word such as “go poop” which you will say as they go. This sets your dog up for success by helping them learn that outside pooping brings positive rewards and as they begin to recognize the cue word, they will know what is expected of them when you say the word outside.
What Training Methods are There?
There are two general approaches to toilet training namely using puppy pads before progressing to outdoor pooping or using crate/observation training to try and avoid your pup going at all in the house.
The use of puppy pads may be an option if you have limited access to outdoor space or if you are worried about your puppy being outdoors before they are fully vaccinated.
The approach works by confining your puppy to a specific area of the house using things like puppy gates or pens. Ideally on an easy clean tile floor such as in a kitchen or utility room. The dog’s bed should be placed in one corner and puppy pads used to cover the remaining area.
It works on the premise that most dogs are naturally averse to pooping/soiling in their immediate sleep area and will be unlikely to do their business on their bed. In most cases, the dog will begin to reliably defecate a set distance away from the bed. As this occurs you can start to remove the pads closest to the bed area.
The idea is to keep reducing the overall size of the pad-covered area, but always putting pads in the region the puppy has been pooping in most. As the area gets smaller putting a small patch of the soiled pad on top of the remaining clean pad will remind them of the area.
How Do I Support the Transition to Outdoor Pooping?
Once your pup is fully vaccinated you can then start to move to outdoor training. Remember if there are any remnants of the scent of their poop or pee indoors your puppy will be compelled to return to doing their business there even if you have removed the pad. Be sure to clean any indoor accident with an enzyme cleaner to remove all scents.
If your dog does poop inside scoop, it and put it outside where you want them to go and clean the indoor area. If they recall the area where their pad was try placing something in it is a place that the pup cannot get under like a piece of furniture.
You are then going to have to have eyes in the back of your head. An unobserved puppy can quickly have a toilet accident. The key is to spot their signs, sniffing, circling, and then get them outside ASAP!
Routine can help, dogs will generally be ready to open their bowels 30 minutes after eating. Have a regular feeding/toileting schedule. In the early stages of training, you will need to be taking your dog out at least hourly on top of this. Say your cue word as they go and then plenty of praise and positive reward with a tasty treat.
Only when they are successfully going outdoors you can then slowly begin to increase the time between outdoor toilet trips.
Crate Training/Observation Training
As a new dog owner, you may initially struggle with the concept of a crate, likening them to some sort of doggy jail. However, crates can be used positively. The domestic dog’s ancestors would live naturally in a den, a cave, or hollowed-out earth to provide protection from the elements. As such our pet dogs often respond well to having their own small cozy space. Placing a towel or blanket over the top, ensuring it has a soft pillow pad on the base and that it is a quiet part of your home can make your dog feel safe and secure.
Crate training works on a similar principle to puppy pads in that most dogs will avoid going in their sleeping area. By ensuring your crate is a small but not tight fit for your dog is key. Your dog should be able to stand and turn round but should not have enough space that they could defecate in one end then comfortably move up to the other area away from it.
The idea is that by accustoming your puppy in the early days that they come out of their crate for feeding, supervised play (where you can whisk them outside if they show signs of toileting), and to go outdoors means they will have no option but to poop outside as they will not go in their bed or when eating.
If a crate is not going to work for you it can be replaced with general observation-based training however as your dog will be in a bigger area you will need to watch them continually for signs of needing to toilet and to respond quickly to any accidents.
Just as with puppy pad training having a regular schedule or feeding and frequent outdoor toilet breaks throughout the day will increase your dog’s chances for success and save your carpets.
What Could Be Causing My Puppy to Poop Inside?
As already mentioned, a puppy needs to physically develop in order to be able to control their bowels. Are you expecting too much too soon? Taking your 8-to-12-week puppy outside may result in some successful potty trips however they really don’t have the control yet to actively hold it if the urge takes them.
Things can also be complicated if you have taken on your puppy in a rescue-type situation. In some cases, puppies may have needed to spend increased time in a kennel or cage and not had the same opportunity to associate outdoors with toileting.
This can be a harder habit to break especially as dogs are not generally keen on pooping where they sleep but if your rescue pup has had no choice pooping, in general, can be a stressful experience.
Accidentally Reinforcing the Behaviour
Toilet training a puppy is stressful and that accident that occurs in the middle of the lounge just as you answer the door to guests can be mortifying. It is important however to keep your cool.
Hollering and yelling can inadvertently encourage your puppy, remember at that age they are still figuring out the subtle differences in human emotion and vocal tone. Your loud frustration and waving hands can seem exciting and teaches your pup that they have your attention.
Your new puppy will need some core vaccinations in its early life up until around 16 weeks to protect them from some serious and deadly conditions. Those with private yards free from other dogs can take their puppy outdoors for short periods for toilet training.
However, most vets will advise that your puppy is not safe to walk on a sidewalk or interact with other possibly infectious dogs in a dog pack until a fortnight after their final dose of puppy shots.
If you do not have access to a yard or there are unvaccinated dogs in your area you may need to wait a bit longer to start getting your puppy used to an outdoor toilet plan.
Lack of Understanding?
We have all looked into those adorable puppy dog eyes and questioned if there really is anything at all going on in that little canine brain. Maybe it’s after you’ve seen them attempt to squeeze themselves into an impossibly small space, maybe it’s when they hide in fear from their own reflection, or perhaps it’s when after being outside in the cold for over an hour with no sign of poop within 5 minutes of coming home, they will miraculously go potty in the middle of your rug?
Before you accept that your little furry pal is a potty-training dunce remember all dogs are different. Some just naturally pick things up quicker than others. The key for all dogs is repetition and structure.
For many, potty training is not a linear line. You can go weeks without accident and then have a regression. Dogs pick up on so many other things, changes in the household, a bad experience outdoors, change in diet all these can impact toilet habits.
It can be soul-destroying but it is really down to recreating the last set of criteria where your dog was successful. If you need to go back to hourly potty trips you best believe that is all part of being a dog owner.
How Long Will it Take for My Puppy to Poop Outdoors?
There is no hard and fast answer I am afraid. As noted above a lot comes down to how much time and effort the owner is willing to put in. In addition, some breeds are notoriously more stubborn or challenging. Particularly smaller dogs such as miniature breeds who naturally have smaller bowels/bladders and just physically cannot hold as much and may toilet more frequently overall.
Generally speaking, you would expect to see some reliable outdoor toileting within 3 to 4 weeks with consistent practice and a good routine. Accidents will occur and most people would not consider their puppy fully house trained until they have gone 6 months without an accident.
Why Is My Puppy Not Transitioning to Pooping Outside?
This can be an issue with transition from puppy pads in particular, as up until now they have associated pooping with indoor albeit on a pad. The key is to remove the opportunity to go indoors. Clean their scent, block their access to their poop spots indoor, and get them outside plenty.
Yes, you can have a lazy dog and not all puppies are full of energy all the time. Remember in the early days it is key to limit outdoor visits to short times without too much play. If you have them in the yard playing all afternoon you better bet, they will be tired in the evening making going toilet in the house much more appealing.
A dog that is failing to make progress or suddenly regressing in their toileting training should really be reviewed by their vet. Common underlying health issues that can affect toileting include food intolerances/allergies, infections, genetic conditions, and pain.
Your puppy will need good quality puppy food in appropriate quantities. Feeding poor quality food can lead to soft stools and increased frequency making indoor accidents more likely. Similarly feeding your puppy at erratic timing or in differing quantities will make it hard to predict their need to go poop.
You better believe it. I have the prissiest 8-year-old Bernedoodle who is well and truly house trained. However, on the days where the rain is pouring, she will steadfastly hold both her bowel and bladder rather than face the outdoors even for the briefest of moments.
Now she is a big girl so generally can hold her nerve until the rain goes off however your puppy just won’t have that control. So, remember just because they declined to go out doesn’t mean they didn’t need to go, and you will likely find a little “deposit” somewhere in your home.
When to Call in Reinforcements
If your dog is not making progress, it is always best to contact your vet sooner rather than later to rule out any underlying health issues. Many people may choose to bring a trainer on early especially if they are first-time dog owners to guide them in establishing a training program. This can reduce overall time and stress especially if your dog has any behavioral issues such as anxiety or has had a difficult start in life and required to be rehomed.
Remember progress will be slow but if your puppy suddenly massively regresses or is not grasping at all to potty outside after 5-6 weeks it may be time to look at some behavioral support if no underlying ill health has been identified.