Method #1: Using a Small Confinement Area

NOTE: This article is part of a series of articles on indoor potty training for your puppy or older dog. Before starting any of the training outlined below, make sure to read the main Indoor Potty Training article to learn the basics for teaching your dog to go potty on pee pads, in a dog litter box or on an artificial grass potty tray.

This is the easiest indoor potty training method for most dogs. You’ll create a confinement area either in a very small room or with an exercise pen (which is a multi-panel gate that can be assembled to create enclosed areas of different shapes and sizes). This confinement area should be large enough only for your dog’s bed, his food and water bowls, and his potty area. There should be no visible floor space. You may be surprised by how small this initial confinement area is, but giving your puppy more space – even though it may seem like a nice thing to do – will only confuse him and slow the training process. By using a small area, we’re encouraging your dog to make the right decision and use the potty area to relieve himself. He doesn’t want to potty in his bed or where he eats, so because it’s the only other space available, the potty area becomes a natural choice.

Of course, you’ll want to clean the potty area regularly and remove any poos promptly. This will prevent your dog from stepping in his pee and poo and tracking it all over his confinement area. Many people believe they have to leave the potty area dirty so the dog will recognize it as his bathroom. There’s some truth in this; a trace of his scent can help draw your dog back to the area to relieve himself. But you don’t need 4 piles of poo to create a trace of his scent. Leaving a pad or paper with a bit of urine on it under the new fresh one or leaving a few bits of soiled litter in the fresh litter in his box is plenty! Lazy cleaners may also find that the dog’s such a clean freak he refuses to use the potty area if it’s dirty, creating a housebreaking problem.

The confinement area is the only place your puppy should be when you’re away from home or unable to supervise him. When he’s out of the confinement area spending time with you, he must be directly supervised at all times so he doesn’t have any accidents. Take him to his potty area any time you think he might need to relieve himself, either because you’re watching the clock and keeping him on a schedule, because he’s just done something that can get the juices flowing (napping, playing, eating, drinking, chewing) or because you see him showing signs that he needs to go, as outlined in Commandment #8.

SAFETY NOTE: Your dog should never wear a collar when left unsupervised in his confinement area, because he could get it caught on any number of things, especially if he attempts to escape. You must be absolutely sure that your confinement area is secure, as an escape attempt could injure or even kill your dog.

If your dog is very young or totally new to potty training and he’s small enough to carry, you might want to carry him to his papers for the first couple of weeks so you can prevent accidents from happening on the way there. Once he’s matured a bit and is getting the idea, you’ll definitely need to let him walk with you to the papers so he can learn the path he’ll need to use to get there on his own later in training. As your dog becomes more familiar with the location of his potty area, let him go there anytime you see him trying to head in that direction. You’ll need to follow him at first, of course, to be sure he doesn’t take a detour or have an accident along the way. Anytime your puppy takes himself to the papers to potty, you should fuss over him like crazy so he knows he did the right thing… treat him like he just won the Nobel Prize!

Once your dog has reliably used his potty area when confined with NO accidents for 1 month, start to gradually increase the size of his confinement area. If you’re using an exercise pen, enlarge it by using additional panels or even getting a second exercise pen to attach to the first, creating an extra-large pen. When your puppy is reliable in the enlarged pen, you can use a closed door or puppy gate to enclose him in the room his potty area is in. If you’re using a small room as your confinement area, gradually broaden your dog’s horizons by adding on a hallway or room using puppy gates or closed doors. You can add a room every month or so, assuming there have been no accidents.

If your puppy starts having accidents once you’ve enlarged the area, you’ve probably advanced too quickly. Simply put him back into the smaller confinement area, then try enlarging it again after a month of good behavior. Continue adding space until your dog is able to have the run of the whole house and take himself to his potty area every time he needs to relieve himself.

Purchase Supplies Related to This Article

Midwest Life Stages Crate

This all-purpose crate is an especially practical choice for young puppies, since it comes with a divider that allows you to expand the crate as your puppy grows so it’s always just the right size.

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel Crate

These sturdy Vari-Kennel plastic crates are ideal for dogs that like a cozy place to hang out. You can use them for travel, too, so they’re perfect for pups who want to join you when you go on vacation!

Wire Crate with Wood Frame

This crate is a perfect option if you want an attractive crate but have a pup that may have accidents or nibble on an all-wood crate. It’s easy to clean and there are wire panels between your pup and the finished wood frame.

Porch Potty

The Porch Potty is a nice-looking potty area for indoor or outdoor use. It’s a nice size for bigger dogs, but I recommend it for smaller dogs, too, if you have the space. Can be used with the included fake grass, or even better, replacement REAL grass… or sod from the home-improvement store!

Real Grass for Porch Potty

This real replacement grass for the Porch Potty is great, especially for dogs that have previously been trained to go outside but now need to learn to use an indoor potty area.

Dog Litter Box

This is a good litter box for tiny dogs or puppies. Can be used with dog litter, newspaper or potty pads. I recommend getting the larger size, even if you have a teeny dog!

Exercise Pen w/ Walk-Through Gate

This exercise pen has a walk-through gate and comes in several heights (if your dog’s a climber, get a tall one!). Can be used in multiple configurations as a pen or room divider, or be connected to a second pen to create a large play area.

Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odor Remover

Nature’s Miracle is everyone’s favorite stain and odor neutralizer. Be sure to use this product to clean up all accidents… regular floor cleaner won’t fully eliminate the odor!

Potty Pads

Wee-Wee Pads are basic potty pads for puppies or smaller dogs. The built-in attractant scent will help your pup figure out what the pads are for!

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