Where Should We Potty?
Right around 3 weeks of age, after the time their little eyes have opened, but before they can hear, puppies will start eliminating on their own. With this new independence comes a natural instinct to have a "clean den"; therefore a puppy will move away from where it's sleeping to relieve itself. For us, this is the beginning of Potty Training.
We want to support their natural instinct by giving the puppies a defined sleep or nest area with a potty area just a step or two away.
Why is the potty area so close? Isn't that sort of gross?
While I personally would not want to roll over next to my toilet, puppy's bladder muscles take time to physically mature. They may mentally understand the concept of "only potty here", but physically they may not be able to make it. We want to support these pups by putting the area we want them to potty in close enough their little bladders and their mental desires can both be successful. As the pups mature physically we move the sleep area farther and farther away from the potty spot putting more and more distance between the two.
Around 5 weeks of age we layer in the concept of eliminating outside. This is done by moving into the outdoors or if we are already out there, then moving onto the grass immediately after a meal. Since most puppies will defecate within 30 minutes of eating, this is an easy lesson. We eat then we potty on the grass.
The marker I use to determine if the pups are understanding the concept I am putting before them is: where are they pooping. If they are pooping in the potty area, I know they mentally understand. From here it is just a matter of supporting and waiting for the bladder to mature / catch up with the brain.
In this image the puppies are 17 days old