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When you get a new puppy, potty training is often at the top of the to-do list. If you have a yard or outdoor space, it can be a little easier, but when you live in an apartment or high-rise, the logistics of getting a puppy outside when they have to go right now gets more difficult.

The Potty Training Basics

Before we get to the logistics of potty training your dog in a high-rise, let’s review some of the basics of house training in general.

First, a good rule of thumb is that your puppy can hold their bladder for one hour for every month old they are. For example, if your puppy is 8 weeks old, they probably can’t hold it for longer than 2 hours. When they hit 12 weeks, it’s around 3 hours. Puppies can usually hold their bladder for a little bit longer when they’re sleeping (until they wake up) and will need to go very soon after eating or playing.

It’s also important to supervise your puppy at all times to catch any accidents and keep them out of trouble until they get older. When you’re home, use an x-pen or baby gate to keep your furry friend contained, but at night and when you have to leave the house for work or errands, consider crate training.

Crates are supposed to be spaces that keep your puppy cozy, so they shouldn’t have a lot of extra room, but your pup should be able to stand up and turn around. When used properly, it becomes a safe place they enjoy being, so never use the crate as a punishment. It’s okay to give your puppy breaks or time outs in there, just make it a positive experience and reward them for going in.

Speaking of punishment, never punish your puppy for having an accident. Even if you think they’ve got it down, mistakes happen. When you yell at them or push their nose in it, your puppy will either learn that they can’t eliminate in front of you without getting in trouble (so they’ll try to be sneaky about it) or have no idea why you’re upset and just get scared. Keep it positive, reward them for doing it right (treat/praise/favorite toy), and simply clean up and move on if they have an accident.

If you learn to watch carefully for their signs — sniffing around more than usual, circling, suddenly running over to the corner or another room, etc. — you’ll be able to catch your puppy before an accident happens.

House Training in a High-Rise

Okay, you’ve got your crate or x-pen set up for when you leave, but how do you potty train your puppy when you can’t get them outside quickly? Luckily, there are a few solutions and tricks to make your life — and your puppy’s life — easier.

Use pee pads: Pee pads are great because they are easy to move around, pick up, and take with you if you’re heading to a friend’s house or taking a trip and will be in a hotel. Put the pee pad in one place in the house (near the door is your best bet for when your dog gets older and will go to the door when they need to go out anyway) and if you see your puppy start to eliminate in the house, simply pick them up and move them onto the pee pad. It’s also easy to situate a pee pad in an x-pen if you want to give your puppy a little space when you’re gone.

Put a grass patch on your patio or terrace: There are several companies that will mail you a patch of sod for your dog to do their business on. Some are just patches of grass and others have containers to put the sod in so you can empty any waste that might drain out. Get a dog waste container to put any poop bags in so it doesn’t linger and smell, then just empty the container when it’s full.

Get your puppy on a schedule: Eventually, your dog will be able to hold it long enough to get them down the stairs or elevator and outside. While you may want to keep pee pads or your grass patch around for times when you can’t (or don’t want to) go out, it can help your dog to get on a schedule for when they are supposed to eliminate. When you get a young puppy, try to take them out as often as possible: In the morning when they get up, after breakfast/before you leave for work, at lunchtime, after work, after dinner, before bed, etc. As they get older, you may be able to get away with a schedule such as before and after work and before bed.

While it may initially feel like a daunting task, with a little preparation and consistency, house training your dog in a high-rise isn’t that much different than anywhere else.

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