The Wyatt Files: A Look Back at Puppy Potty-Training

Oh, the joys of house-training a puppy. To sum up our adventure with trying to potty-train Wyatt the dog, all I can say is this: we had NO IDEA what we were getting into.


We purchased Wyatt the dog from a breeder in rural South Dakota. Upon bringing him home, we quickly learned that while the breeder said that he was “relatively potty-trained,” apparently the key word in that explanation was “relatively.” The pee on my in-laws’ kitchen floor would beg to differ with “relatively.”

Thus began the efforts to house-train Wyatt. We began by sequestering Wyatt in the first floor bathroom of our home when we were gone. We would give him food and water, and we would lay down “potty papers” in the bathroom for him to go on. Why didn’t we put Wyatt the dog in a kennel when we were gone? He was scared of the kennel, and me, being the marshmallow Mama that I was in the early stages of Wyatt’s life, didn’t want him to be scared.

After a few days of that plan, we realized that A) Wyatt always found a way to pee not on the paper, but in the shower, on the floor where there wasn’t paper, etc., and B) that Wyatt was teething. How did we know that Wyatt was teething? He chewed the floorboard molding in our bathroom. In the bathroom of our RENTED apartment. Yup. Paid for that one.

After that plan failed, we began to see the error of our ways. Out when the “potty papers,” and in came the kennel. We were big, bad doggy parents by that point, so we didn’t care if Wyatt was scared. That solved the potty issue while we were at work or out and about in town, but when we were at the apartment and Wyatt was running around and playing, he had no idea how to control his bladder.

So we tried everything. Treats, taking him out every half hour, praise, punishment – you name it, we probably tried it. Before long, Wyatt just ignored our desires to house-train, and would just run upstairs in our apartment (we rented a two-level townhome) to do his business. Soon enough, one of us (either Jord or I) would notice that he was gone, and, carpet cleaner and paper towel in hand, we would run upstairs to see A) where Wyatt had decided to make his presence known, and B) clean it up to the best of our abilities. We became steam-cleaning and vacuuming experts.

After a year in our townhome, Jord accepted a job in another city, which meant that I moved back in with my parents for the six months that we had left before our wedding. Wyatt the dog moved with me, and it was finally when we were living with my parents that Wyatt and I got down to business with potty-training. I took him out ALL THE TIME. I’m serious – whenever he would sniff something, we would go outside. Whenever he would run away from me, I would chase him, and we would go outside. With my parents to help praise Wyatt, he was literally bathed in praise. He got treats, he was petted, he was treated like a King whenever he did his business. By this time, he was also one year old, so he was no longer a tiny 3-lb puppy. He was 5 or 6 pounds by now, and he was learning what was allowed and what wasn’t. He caught on so quickly, and the accidents went from one to two per DAY to one per month (or never!) in about two weeks.

Now that Jord and I are living in a new apartment together as a married couple with Wyatt, we’ve worked hard to ensure that Wyatt still knows that he must do his business outside. We take him out every 2-3 hours now (it’s wonderful – as he’s gotten older, he’s able to control his bladder for quite some time), and he diligently does his business whenever we prompt him to. We’ve made sure to stay consistent (ever since we were living with my parents) to use the phrase “Do Your Business,” coupled with the words “Potty” and “Poop.” We always took him to the same spot in my parents’ yard, and we always take him to the same spot near our complex. We also always ask if he needs to go outside using the same voice inflection and the same question phrasing (“Do You Need to Go Outside?” in an excited voice) every single time.

What I’ve learned about house-training a puppy is that sometimes, it isn’t possible until the dog is ready. And sometimes, you as the doggy parent have to lay down the law. Finally, consistency is the key – consistency in word choice, in the spot in the yard where you take the dog, and in praise. Good luck!

About Sara

Sara works in higher education, but she's most proud of her role as a Mama to two precocious boys, Lionel Conner, age 4, and Quincy August, age 2. In honor of turning 30 in 2016, she pierced her nose to "keep her young." She loves watching guilty-pleasure television, writing about motherhood, decorating her first home, sipping red wine with her husband Jordan, and chasing after her sons.
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