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How to housebreak or potty train your puppy if you live in a flat

Written By Namitha PC*

Micah, the lab-mix baby

If you are an engaged canine parent, then you probably already know this. Much like humans, no two dogs are the same in their behaviour and personality.

Yes, bringing a puppy home is a huge responsibility but it’s equally rewarding if you build this new relationship on a strong and solid foundation.

If you are a first-time pet parent or a pet parent to a new puppy then this article is for you.

Being a dog mom, I can vouch for my fur-baby, Micah, who has been the best teacher and student in helping me pin down my thoughts confidently on house training, especially when it comes to puppy toilet training.

What to expect when your pup arrives home

Understand that your pup is now away from his or her mother and littermates, and you need to substitute for the void that is now there in the pup’s life. There would be interrupted sleep, untimely peeing and pooping, fear of understanding the whole place and boundaries.

It is always essential to understand your expectations out of this new family member and help them understand and learn what is expected out of them.

Parenting is an art; you need to be consistent, patient, and thoroughly enthusiastic to keep your dog positive, happy and obedient.

Micah with her mom

Building a solid foundation

You might not have a show winning champion dog but they sure will grow up to be amazing if parenting is done right, especially in their formative years.

Consistency, patience and positive reinforcement by all family members and/or caretakers are crucial when it comes to toilet training your puppy.

The aim is to bring out the best in your four-legged baby by being positive and not too pushy. Start training your puppy the day it arrives.

Have regular meal intervals from day one and yes, do consult a vet on forming this routine, as per the age and breed of your new fur-baby.

Micah, our 1.8-year-old lab-mix girl, came into our lives on her 42nd day on earth and we were first-time pet parents. We had lots of doubts; we were ignorant about bladder control; we never knew how much poop a pup could produce in their tiny body; nor did we know if we were doing the training session accurately for a whole month.

However, it took Micah just four months to complete her housebreaking session successfully, and we are proud that we have consistently used the crate and outdoor training methods for her.

Rewarding for positive reinforcement

Although articles and YouTube training videos sure help, like I said every dog is different and you need to understand their persona in at least two to three weeks.

But then whatever might be their personality, who does not learn and improve on rewards and encouragement? Micah thrives for treats now, hence she still loves training thoroughly.

Micah with her mom during dog training sessions

Effective Toilet Training Methods

Puppies usually do not give you signals before they poop or pee, because they do not understand a new environment unless directed by their pet parent consistently. Expect accidents at home and prepare yourself for cleaning a lot of poo and pee for a month or two (at least!).

We used crate training for Micah since day one. Most dogs love to have a cosy space of their own - be it a senior dog or a puppy. So, provide a crate space for them inside your house. We used half and half of the crate. A half side was arranged neatly with a bed, a sweater, a blanket with one or two toys, and the other half we had arranged for peeing or accidental pooping. This indeed helped Micah catch up easily.

Please note that crate training mostly works on treats. You need to introduce a crate by slowly placing treats inside and cueing a ‘go check’ or ‘get your treat’ with a high frequency and positive tone so they understand that there is nothing to worry. I used clicker training and the cue word ‘YES’, which I continue to use to this day for Micah, who’s turning two soon. yayyy!!! The sound makes them understand in hours that this space is for the puppy and there is nothing to worry about.

(Use small bits of treats only, puppies can have motion problems if you feed them beyond a limit).

Once they get used to crate you can help the pup locate the spot for peeing on the other half. You can achieve this also by using a cue word ‘pee here’ or ‘this side’. After every food session, encourage your pup to go inside the crate and pee, there have been instances when I have picked up Micah and kept her inside the crate so she can relieve herself immediately since initially, they seldom have bladder control.

If you do not wish to use a crate, you can also create an exclusive corner for them, with their bedding and favourite toys on one side and poo/pee area on the other side with newspapers etc.

Micah during her crate training

The other way is to feed them at regular intervals (as consulted by your vet) and take them outside to do their business. This again takes time because dogs sniff the old spot and then continue to do their business at the same spot. You can either do this by taking a wee bit of sample of their pee and pouring it at the corner where you’d want them to go.

This gives the pup a chance to smell their urine and understand that it is ok to pee outside.

After every time they pass, reward them positively and with a resounding ‘YES’ cue word. I use the cue word ‘hurry up’ and ‘go pee’. Treat rewarding works wonders if you do it consistently. In the initial days and weeks, try to take them out in every two hours or at regular intervals, so they learn the habit of going outside.

Eventually, your pup will start giving you signals – learn to read and acknowledge these signs. Sniffing near the crate or your feet, whining, roaming near the exit door, barking, restlessness to calm down etc are some of the signs you can watch out for!

The time you invest in the initial days of your pup will never go wasted because once they understand the logic and these simple yet important habits, it is going to be an easy ride not just for you but also for your pupper.

Accidents may still happen but cue words like a firm ‘No’, ‘let us go outside now’, ‘outside’, ‘not here’ can help remind your puppy about the rules.

Micah posing

Don’ts to a housebreaking:

  • Never punish your pet baby, or smack for the accidents that happen
  • Never drag your dog to smell their excreta or pinch them to make them understand what they did was wrong
  • Yelling is a strict no to a positive training
  • Never lock them inside the crate for more than 2 minutes unless you are teaching them isolation or they are sleeping inside
  • If you catch your baby red-handed give a disappointed NO cue word and take them to their designated spot the next time
  • Always note that plan your action before a behaviour. In just a few weeks you will understand when your baby is going to give you the “I am going to do it now”behaviour and take them out right there.

If you are getting a pup, plan the initial four to six months of life ahead and try to familiarise your dog with your work schedules slowly but steadily.

Wish all the first pet parents a great life filled with happiness and pure love.

Micah and Namitha

*Namitha is a musician and an aspiring dog trainer, based in Bangalore. She is a crazy mother to a crazy kid, who is also known as @trixtermicah on Instagram. Micah and her mom love travelling, learning tricks and making content out of everything. Join their journey over YouTube.

Share what worked for you and what you could have done differently while potty training your puppy in the comments below. 

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