Potty Training My Puppy


Ellie’s first day at home. We are sitting in the balcony after dinner waiting for her to relieve herself. She didn’t. She waited to go until we were all back inside the apartment.

I adopted Ellie when she was only two months old and that meant she was peeing and pooping everywhere. I set up pee pads in my balcony for her to use at designated potty breaks and placed my Nature’s Miracle and paper towels close by.

My boyfriend Chris and I decided to adopt a second dog when we did because we knew that we wanted to adopt a puppy, for personal reasons, and because I am currently spending quite a bit of time at home and this would give me the chance to potty train any new additions to our family. That said, I moved all my daily operations to the living room where I cordoned off Ellie, myself and poor Argos by association. This way, any accidents could easily be cleaned up and I could see, hear or smell them right away and be able to take her to the balcony pee pad where I wanted her to go.

It took about a week for her to realize that the pad in the balcony was the place to pee and poo and not the rest of the balcony. I would slide open the door to the balcony and she’d run off, relieve herself and come right back for a treat. This was awesome except for the part where she wouldn’t signal when she had to go, at least not a signal I recognized right away. She would relieve herself if I didn’t catch the cue in time. This kept happening and I kept growing frustrated with myself for not understanding her tell.

Then I saw it, a quick glance at me, a quick glance at the sliding door and then bam! An accident. Of course she had frequent potty breaks but after rambunctious play and big drinks of water, relieving herself just anywhere felt pretty good.

Once I caught her glancing over, I’d run over and let her out. Treats and praise all the way. Once she caught on, her cue became more pronounced. She began sitting by the door, then it evolved to sitting and scratching at the door if I didn’t notice right away. All this was great progress but at least once a day, she’d have an accident.

I live on the third floor of my building and running up and down the stairs with a puppy didn’t seem like a good idea at first. I realized Ellie understood that it was really rewarding to go on the pee pad in the balcony but she was still having accidents and I didn’t understand why. So I got rid of the darn pads! I started by taking her downstairs every one and half hours, then increased to two, then three, etc. etc. And guess what? No more accidents!

If I had understood that pee pads were a drawback, I would have chucked them a long time ago. I imagine potty training looks a little different from dog to dog but this I tell you works:

  • Consistency: A specific setup and restricted area where there is constant supervision

  • Rewards (and only rewards, absolutely no punishments of any sort)

  • Cleaning supplies

It took us about one month to go accident free. It might have been faster but obviously both Ellie and I had to learn and understand each others movements. There were days when I seriously doubted the method I had adopted, days when I would clean up one puddle right after another. Whatever you do, don’t give up.