Transitional Period: Days 11-21
Motor and sensory skills start to develop, eyes and ears open, and they start to walk instead of crawl with trepidation. Their teeth are coming in, so they can start on soft meals (sometimes regurgitated by their momma), even though they will still be nursing for a few more weeks. Louder vocalization occurs when they are left in a new environment and since they can hear, they will initially startle at noises. At this age they also start to navigate away from their nest or den to go potty, because they can go potty without mom's help and realize that they don't want to sleep near that. Up until this point, their sweet momma has probably been eating their poop. The puppy is able to adapt to new stimuli and develops the senses through experiencing new stimuli like handling, playing with toys, experiencing new types of floor, bedding and climbing on stuff (not unlike human babies). Play fighting will begin during this time and positive reinforcement training can be used to teach them (by their mom or their humans). An interesting side note, potty training is already starting at this point and what happens here will have a lasting impact:
"From this point on, the puppies should have the possibility to leave the nest site to eliminate. Puppies who have been thwarted from doing so may become almost impossible to house train."
See that? As early as three weeks old, your puppy could be delayed in potty training if their environment is not ideal. Puppies who come from pet stores are notoriously bad at learning to potty appropriately. Due to the nature of the setup, their poop and pee tends to not get cleaned up right away and they become accustomed to it, even in their kennel. This makes potty training especially difficult because you are limited in where the puppy can be placed while you are unable to watch him. Other puppies are raised using potty pads, which can have an effect on house training. This is typically done for puppies who are born during winter in cold climates or toy breeds who could be picked up by a bird of prey when out on a potty excursion. Now, potty pads are not inherently bad and they can be really helpful for tiny breeds and folks who live in high rise apartments and condos. The problem is when a puppy generalizes the padded surface of the pad to any soft surface of the house- the bathmat, the front door mat, the dining room rug, etc.
Since this whole potty thing can be so frustrating, I wanted to pass along some potty training DO's and DO NOT's.
1. DO NOT punish your dog for having an accident. It was an accident, your dog doesn't know any better, or they do not have sufficiently developed muscle control to hold it when playing/excited/very full of pee or poop. This means you should not yell, scold, or rub your dog's nose in the excrement. This is pretty rude of you and will confuse your dog. It can also lead your dog to be afraid of going potty anywhere around you and learning to hide it better when he does go in the house. You will find poop in a shoe in your closet suddenly, and your dog will be afraid of going potty around you, even outside. That makes it pretty hard to adapt appropriate potty habits.
2. DO NOT let your dog watch you clean up the poop or pee on the rug. Admittedly, I'm not sure exactly what goes on in your dog's mind when they see you clean up, but I suspect it's something like "oh, wow! I left that there and now look at how dad is enjoying it! He's sitting on the floor, rubbing that towel on it, he must want to keep my smell forever. I will have to do this again later on, so he has more to play with!" Have another family member take the dog out to finish going potty or just sniff around while you clean, or have the dog crated or gated where he cannot see you cleaning up.
3. DO NOT let your dog outside in the yard and assume they are doing their business out there. That is like sending a 3 year-old into the bathroom and expecting them to go potty. They might, the might not, they might flush bath toys down the toilet. It's really a toss up. If you are having trouble potty training, you need to know if your dog is going outside so you know what to expect when he comes back inside.
4. DO NOT free feed a dog who has poop accidents in the house. Remember that if food goes in at fairly predictable times, it will come back out at predictable times.
5. DO take into account the size of your dog. A Chihuahua and a Great Dane will see a 1200 square foot apartment as very different space, and potty problems may develop as a result. A 7-pound chihuahua may have no problem pooping on one side of the living room and sleeping on the other side. It's enough distance! The Great Dane on the other hand, may not want to poop anywhere inside that home because it is all too close to where he will sleep.
6. DO clean up with an enzymatic cleaner, such as Nature's Miracle or Anti-Icky Poo. This actually gets rid of the proteins left behind. Using Resolve is great for us, since it smells pretty, but to dogs it smells like the poop/pee and that weird fake flowery smell, so they have no problem going there again.
7. DO reward your dog for going potty outside. This can be praise, but a treat given outside, right after a pup goes potty where you want can go a long way in them repeating the behavior.
8. DO label the 'going potty' with a term such as 'go potty', 'make', 'go to the bathroom', etc. It really doesn't matter what term or word you use, as long as you don't mind saying it out loud and sharing it with anyone who will care for your pup.
9. DO keep track of when and where your dog goes potty, this way you know what to expect as a pattern develops.
10. DO remain consistent with taking the dog out at regular intervals and taking them to a designated potty spot. This will set him up to be more likely to go outside when you take him. If you are keeping track of when and where it happens, your consistency will result in a predicable potty schedule.
See how painless that was? The truth is, with some dogs this takes weeks to months. With a pup who has been having accidents for a long time, it will take longer to break the habit of peeing or pooping anywhere. If a dog has been going to the bathroom indoors for 4 years, it will take more than 4 days to change the habit. Consistency and patience are the key here, as well as a good carpet shampooer! Of course, if you are struggling, you should contact a certified dog trainer who can help you and your dog.