So you got a new puppy who’s almost perfect. There’s just one teeny tiny little thing: Your new four-legged friend goes potty in the house. And you want to solve this problem as quickly as possible.
You may wonder, “How can I potty train my dog in seven days? Is it even possible?”
Howard Barr from West Palm Beach, Florida, took on this very challenge. For seven days, he tried to potty train his 14-week-old mixed breed puppy, Hugh, with the help of Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSA, CDBC, who owns The Sophisticated Dog training company in Los Angeles, California.
“No 14-week-year-old is completely potty trained. It’s like with toddlers,” Bloom explains. “They have smaller bladders and bowels, and don’t have complete control over the muscles involved. Putting that aside, assuming that Howard’s wife and daughters do not undermine what he is doing, there should be no accidents within seven days.”
Bloom provided Barr instructions to follow, and all went smoothly—until someone broke the rules. (And it wasn’t Hugh!) With three daughters and a wife at home, Barr explains that during the seven days, the hardest part was making sure the whole family stuck to the plan. Whenever someone at home didn’t follow Bloom’s instructions, Hugh would end up peeing or pooping in the house.
Still, after seven days, Barr told us that Hugh was almost fully potty trained, although not completely.
“From this Monday to last Tuesday, it is amazingly, hugely different,” Barr says. “Is it completely different? No. Is Hugh completely trained? No. But has he been 100 times better? Yes!”
“I think if we keep up with the plan,” he adds, “Hugh should be completely potty trained in no time.”
So what is this master plan?
“The game plan, in general, is frequent trips outside [on leash], confinement in between careful supervision for brief free time after potty, and taking notes to figure out your dog’s potty patterns,” Bloom explains. “This method will work for both peeing and pooping in the house.”
The plan was pretty manageable to follow, even for the average person, Barr says. However, if you will not be home for hours on end, he recommends hiring a dog walker or asking a trusted friend or family member to help with potty training your dog when you’re not home.
Potty Training Your Puppy in 7 Days
Ready to take on the challenge? Take notes from Barr’s experience.
Day 1: Learning the Rules
These are the instructions Bloom gave to the Barr family:
- Set up a confinement area, such as the Frisco Dog Exercise Pen with Step-Through Door. This area is where Hugh should be most of the time while he’s at home until he is fully potty trained.
- Take Hugh out every 20 to 30 minutes on leash, not including when he’s sleeping. Outside, the family member should wait calmly and patiently, without playing or otherwise distracting the dog, for up to five minutes. If Hugh pees or poops, he should get praise, a treat, and 10 to 15 minutes to play off leash while supervised. If he does not pee or poop, the family member should take him back to his confinement area and try again 15 minutes later.
- Other times to take Hugh out include as soon as he wakes up from a nap, after he eats or drinks and after he plays vigorously. (Ten minutes of play is a good guideline.)
On the first day of training, Barr followed all of Bloom’s instructions. However, there were a couple accidents even after Barr had walked Hugh.
“After taking note of that and speaking with Irith, we decided to start doing double walks,” Barr says. On these “double walks,” Barr gave Hugh extra time outside after he first went potty, waiting for a second pee before bringing him back indoors. “Irith thinks he just doesn’t empty his bladder entirely [the first time], so that is why we started implementing this,” Barr explains.
Day 2: Personalizing the Program
Barr continued to follow all of Bloom’s guidelines, including the double walk guideline.
“Hugh was great during the entire day! No accidents in the kennel,” Barr says. “But, at night, my daughter decided to bring Hugh’s brother [that she’s fostering] in the house and they were running around, which should’ve been against the rules. That’s when Hugh had a few accidents.”
Another time Hugh had an accident in the house was when Barr didn’t take his time letting Hugh out.
“I was impatient. After he peed, he sat out there, and we both wanted to go back inside,” Barr admits. “So, without walking him again, we went back inside, and shortly after, he pooped in the house. The lesson learned from today was patience.”
Day 3: Success!
On day three, Hugh had no accidents. That’s right: Hugh did not pee or poop in the house!
“Today is great,” Barr says. “No accidents today! The pattern Bloom set up for us has been working great as long as we follow it and don’t break the rules.”
Days 4 to 6: Training the Family
As Barr and his family quickly learned, the real challenge of stopping accidents inside the house wasn’t potty-training Hugh. It was training the rest of the family.
“It got chaotic today,” Barr explains on Day 4, just one day after Hugh’s 24-hour accident-free streak.
When family schedules competed with puppy training, Hugh backslid into his wayward ways.
“When people don’t follow the rules, accidents happen, so Hugh had a few accidents today,” Barr explains.
Day 5 was no different.
“I wasn’t on schedule today, and I don’t blame Hugh for the few accidents he had,” Barr reported. “It’s was really hard to manage my time today. My schedule has been crazy, which has made it more challenging. When my schedule is normal, it’s better and I’m in more control.”
On Day 6, the Barr family had tightened up ship – and Hugh followed suit, having no accidents inside. But things fell apart again at the end of the day.
“He pooped in the house because my daughter took him outside without a leash,” Barr explains. “He also played outside with his brother, and when he came back in, he had some accidents.”
Day 7: A Very Good Boy
On the final day, Hugh made it through almost the entire day without an accident.
“He’s been very good today,” Barr says. Hugh did have one accident the night of Day 7, but Barr chalks that up to fear. “I was running the vacuum and he may have been scared,” he reported the day after the challenge ended. Still, he continues, “he slept through the night and so far today is accident-free.”
The week of training had another beneficial effect, too.
“He goes in his pen on his own,” Barr says. “It’s his favorite place.”
After the 7 days were up, Barr reflected on the challenge.
“For the most part, it’s going pretty smooth. There have just been a few bumps on the road. But that is with everything in life,” Barr says. “When you decide to take on the dog, you have to decide to take on the commitment and responsibility. And when they’re young, potty training is a big one.”
Bloom is also impressed with Barr and Hugh’s progress at home.
“Howard was great! He paid attention to my suggestions and made adjustments to increase the odds of success,” Bloom says. “I think Hugh did great as well, but it’s really Howard who deserves the credit.”
Tips for Quickly Potty Training Your Dog
Although each dog’s potty-training needs are unique, Hugh’s schedule is a common one for successfully potty training your dog.
“As a general rule, if you take the dog out to potty every half hour during the daytime, and supervise closely and confine at all other times, you’ll be on the right track,” Bloom says.
If you are potty training an adult dog, time is in your favor.
“For an adult dog, it can take as little as a few days,” Bloom says. “For a puppy, it depends on the age. The younger the puppy, the longer it tends to take. The smaller the puppy—or adult dog, for that matter—the longer it tends to take. This is because younger and smaller dogs have smaller bowels and bladders, so it’s harder for them to hold it for very long.”
Bloom provides some words of wisdom to get you started on your dog’s potty training journey:
- Potty training is time-consuming and can be frustrating, but the more consistent you are about frequent potty outings, the faster the dog will learn.
- Keep a log of both appropriate pottying and accidents, so you can figure out quickly where things are going wrong.
- If an accident happens, remember the dog is not to blame—the humans are the ones who need to set the dog up for success.
- Yelling at a dog for a potty accident can teach the dog to hide before pottying, so don’t yell, hit or otherwise show frustration or anger if you can help it. Simply take the dog out to the right place and make sure to adjust your supervision, confinement and outings as needed in the future.
- A few weeks of work from you—making sure to stick to a schedule of frequent outings and rewards—will get you a lifetime of good housetraining. It’s worth it!
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