Potty Training When You Are Away For A Long Time

I am in the middle of potty training my four month old puppy and things are going relatively well when I am home.  When I go to work, I can’t always get home at lunch to take him out.  What can I do to make sure that I don’t mess up the training when I have to be gone a long time?

We have a good number of clients who get new puppies and then have to leave them while they go to work.  The mistake that most of them make is to either leave them in their crate or give them the run of the house.  The problem is that their little puppy physically can’t hold it for the time they are left alone.

Let’s first talk about what you are doing wrong and then discuss what you should correctly do…

Leaving your puppy in the crate for an extended period of time is wrong.  Dogs naturally don’t want to go to the bathroom in their crate.  They see the crate as their den and they don’t want to leave their scent there because it might “draw in their enemies”.  They also don’t want to go to the bathroom on themselves because of the same reason.  Because of this, they will try to hold it as long as possible.  If you are gone longer that they can hold it, they will reluctantly toilet on themselves and in their crate. 

If you continually force them to toilet in their crate, their drive to try and hold it while they are in there will diminish and eventually disappear.  Since you use the crate as a place where they do not toilet, you have eliminated an important potty training tool.

Letting the puppy out in the entire house or an extended portion of the house while you are gone a long time is also bad.  Since you are away for a period of time that is longer that your dog can hold it, he is naturally going to toilet somewhere.  The key word here is “somewhere”.  Sometimes it is very hard or impossible to find where your puppy has toileted while you were away.  When this happens, your puppy has left the smell of a toilet somewhere in the house.  If it smells like a toilet, it must be a toilet.  This smell will constantly entice your puppy to return to that spot to go to the bathroom. 

Here is what you should do if you are going to be gone from the house and you know your puppy will probably go to the bathroom:
  • Pick a small room with a tile or linoleum floor such as a laundry room or bath room. 
  • Pick up all the items that your puppy might destroy.
  • If there is access to any “inappropriate area” such as behind the washer, block that access.
  • Clean the floor with a mild cleanser such as Lavender Fabuloso.
  • Cordon off the room with a doggie gate that your puppy can’t knock over, climb over, or jump over.
  • Place some toys, his bed, and a small amount of water & food in the room.
  • Place a wee-wee pad in the room. (Entice him to go in that area but not require him.)

Put your puppy in that room when you leave.  You have now confined him to a comfortable area that you can manage once you return.  The important thing here is that you are not diminishing the importance of the crate or possibly creating an “invisible toilet” (as noted above).

When you return home you can remove him from this area.  If he has gone on the wee-wee pad, simply pick that up and throw it away.  If he has gone anywhere else in the enclosed area, simply clean that up with an appropriate cleanser.  Close the door to this room and do not allow him in the room except when you are going out for an extended period and you have appropriately set it up for his use (mentioned earlier).

What we have established here is a “time out” in the potty process.  Your goal is to maintain the importance of the crate and not to have the house smell of urine.  You have created a place that he can go, if necessary.  Since he is not allowed in this area except during long absences by you, this will have a minimal impact on your potty training process.  As always, if you have any questions, please be sure to contact us at TheBest Dog Trainers in South Florida


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