Puppies are unable to control their bladder and bowel movements until they are approximately 20-24 weeks of age. There will be accidents but if you keep a good eye on your pup and plan ahead, you can limit those accidents to few and far in between.
Puppies need to be taken outside frequently approximately once per hour. They need to go outside immediately following sleeping, eating, drinking, playing and before retiring for the evening. Take them outside on a leash and potty them in the same location of the yard each time. Dogs have a tendency to return to previous elimination areas if they are taught to go in the same spot each time. Time their elimination with a verbal command such as “potty”, “take a break” or “woosh”. Following elimination, tell them what a good pup they are and physically praise them.
A dog crate is helpful in the potty training process. It also provides the pup a place to comfortably rest when you can’t pay attention to him. To a dog, the crate is like a den. It should be treated as a positive place for the pup to rest and not as a punishment or a place for the pup to be banished to. You can condition your pup to voluntarily go into his crate by placing his dinner meals inside the crate. Leave the crate door open while he eats and take your pup outside immediately after eating. To train your pup to enter the crate upon command, place him in front of the crate, throw a food treat into his crate and release him. When he enters the crate to retrieve the treat, tell him “crate”, “bed” or “kennel”. Allow him to exit the crate and practice this routine several more times in a row.
Dogs like to keep their dens clean and will attempt to avoid eliminating where they sleep. Therefore, the crate should only be large enough for your pup to lie down, stand up and turn around. Otherwise, he may be tempted to relieve himself at the other end of the crate and return to the front of the crate to lie down. Rather than buying several sized crates to fit your pup’s development, purchase a crate recommended for his adult size. Remove the top of the crate and insert a cut out plywood board that stands vertically in the crate. Place it towards the front of the crate allowing your pup just enough room as described above. As your pup grows, move the board towards the back of the crate enlarging his living space.
For the first 2-4 weeks of your pup’s arrival to your home, place his crate in your bedroom. This will comfort him being close to you after having been separated from his litter. It will increase his bond to you and allow you to hear if he needs to be taken outside during the night. If he stirs during the night, take him outside to his potty area. After elimination, return him to his crate. Do not play with him, as it is time for continued sleeping.
After your pup is able to sleep throughout the night, move his crate out of the bedroom and to the room where his crate will reside as an adult. This location should be out of the way of heavy daily traffic but within sight of the family’s activities (a corner of the living room, spare bedroom near the living room, kitchen, den, etc.). Don’t leave food or water in the crate with the pup. It also isn’t a good idea to line the crate with newspapers or towels. These items soak up waste material and therefore, may tempt him to eliminate in the crate. Additionally, he is likely to chew a brand new dog bed. Instead, give him a safe chew toy such as a hard rubber Kong or a chew bone made especially for puppies. This will help him with teething and relieve boredom.
When you come home, don’t make a big fuss about seeing your pup right away. Change your clothes and do what you need to do for yourself (for 3-5 minutes) and then go to your dog. This will teach him to calmly wait for you. Open the crate door if your pup is calm. If he is whinnying, barking, spinning, etc. wait till he settles down. As soon as he does, open the crate door. You want him to learn self imposed calm behavior gets him what he wants rather than frantic behavior. Crating a dog is a humane thing to do. When you are gone from the house, a loose dog is usually sleeping or tearing things apart. Therefore, he might as well sleep in his crate where he is safe from harm and your home is safe from him. A dog trained to view a crate as his den will gladly sleep and rest in it during your absence.
Crate and potty training takes time and patience. If your schedule doesn’t allow for this, contact a professional dog trainer for board and train or in home training.