Potty Training 101

French Bulldogs: Potty Training 101

Come clean, Frenchie lovers – how many of you are tired of cleaning up yet another pee spot on the rug? One of the biggest hurdles every dog owner needs to undertake is potty training his or her new puppy. Frenchies in particular seem to be one of the more frustrating breeds to toilet train, and it’s fairly common for these personable little pups to take their good sweet time with potty learning, often not becoming reliably trained until around 5 or 6 months of age. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, however! While it’s true that potty training can be pretty challenging, with time, patience, and most of all, consistency, it’s definitely not ‘mission impossible’.

First, it’s best to set your canine companion up for success. During the day, keep your pup on a consistent schedule, with meals, playtime, rest times, potty breaks at the same times every day. How often your pup needs to go out actually depends on their age – a good rule to follow is that puppies can ‘hold it’ for (at maximum) the number of hours that correlates to their age. A two month old puppy, for example, needs to go outside to pee at least every 1-2 hours, but Frenchies, of course, can often be the exception. If you think your dog might have to ‘go’, make sure to give them the opportunity!

You also need to take your pup to the same spot outside for each and every bathroom break, preferably though the same door at first –this teaches your pup to associate that place with toilet time, and our tinkle-prone Frenchie pups will also be more inclined to potty in that spot if they smell that they’ve gone there before. Notice how I didn’t mention puppy pads, either? It’s actually best to take your pup to an outside spot from day one, unless you live in an apartment and/or plan to litter train them.

Next, there are two main guidelines to follow when you approach potty training with your small Frenchie friend; these will go a long way towards helping your pup successfully learn proper house habits.

  • Praise Your Pup!

Rewarding your Frenchie for going pee or poop in the right place is exactly like someone telling you ‘That’s right, well done!’ The timing of the reward is really important, though – in order to get your Frenchie to associate the right behavior with the reward, praise your pup just as they finish going, and immediately give them a small, super-tasty tidbit. It’s essential that you take your Frenchie out on a leash for each and every outdoor potty break during the training process (so they can’t become distracted or wander away from the potty area), and always have treats handy to give them that positive feedback right away.

It’s also not a good idea to punish your Frenchie for accidents either. Young puppies especially can’t control their urge to go when it’s time, and unless you literally interrupt them right in the middle of squatting on the floor, they won’t make the connection between their mistake and the correction that you’re giving them – talk about one puzzled pup! Spanking, yelling, or rubbing a puppy’s nose in their mess are all extremely counterproductive as well, and only serve to make your Frenchie fear you and they may actually stop wanting to pee or poop when you’re present, which is far from ideal while training! If you do catch your dog ‘red-pawed’, give a firm ‘Ahh!’ to interrupt the behavior, then pick them up calmly and take them to their regular potty area, praising them for finishing the act in the right place.

  • Be Proactive About Preventing Mistakes!

Since your Frenchie is still in the process of learning proper potty manners, it’s up to you to be extra vigilant and prevent accidents in the house. Many dog owners get upset when their puppy piddles on the floor, not realizing that they either haven’t paid attention to their puppy’s cues (like sniffing, circling or squatting), or haven’t given their little one enough potty opportunities. You can help prevent accidents by bringing your furry friend to their potty area at consistent times each day, and then (this is the important part) directly supervising them or confining them when they’re not outside to prevent those messy ‘oops’ incidents. Giving your puppy the chance to wander around the house and potentially have a potty accident only creates bad habits to start with – so don’t give them the opportunity to do so in the first place!

To carry out this rule, one of most ideal tools for training your little funny face is a crate; dogs and puppies naturally tend to hate messing in the area where they sleep or eat, so even if you don’t plan to kennel your puppy once potty training is over, it can be really helpful to use this instinct to help you in your housetraining journey. The crate should only be just slightly larger than your Frenchie when they’re standing, allowing them to get up and turn around. Your puppy can stay in the crate for short periods of time to prevent accidents when you’re gone or can’t keep both eyes on them, though you should make sure they have the chance to pee both before and right after being in the crate for any length of time, of course.

If you’re not going to be able to take your dog out for potty breaks as often as they may need to go (for example, if you’re working during the day), then an exercise pen or puppy-proofed, gated area of the house is an idea to consider, since they’re not forced to sit in any mess they make. You can use puppy pads in this case, but be aware that permitting your furry friend to use pads or newspaper indoors for a long period of time could be confusing for your pup when you try to get them to potty outside as well – they’ve learned that it’s ok to pee and poop indoors. A better option might be asking a neighbor or dog walker to provide your pup with outdoor potty breaks that follow their regular routine while you’re away.

Potty troubleshooting tips:

  • My Frenchie does nothing outside in their potty area, then comes inside and immediately messes on the floor:

Go back to basics. Make sure your routine is predictable and consistent, and keep your dog on leash in their potty area only for 5-10 minutes. If they don’t ‘go’, then bring them back inside, restricting them to their crate for a brief period, then take them back out on leash and try again. Repeat if needed! Don’t allow your dog to have ‘free time’ until they’ve eliminated outside – they’ll soon learn that toilet time comes before fun.

  • Potty training was going perfectly, but now my puppy is having accidents again!

Just like children, some life events (like teething, moving, or change in routine) can cause toilet training regressions in our dogs. Be patient! Try upping the value of your potty food reward, making it extra tasty, increase the number of times you take your dog outside, and make sure that you’re closely watching your pup for signals of an impending accident. If accidents continue, it’s never a bad idea to take your Frenchie to the vet for a checkup.

  • My Frenchie refuses to pee or poop outside in rain/snow/windy weather!

Sometimes our Frenchie friends can be a bit finicky about climate conditions, since their short coats don’t offer much insulation. Keeping a slip-on sweater by the door can help your dog overcome their hesitations! Regularly doing really fun and exciting activities outside with your dog during inclement weather can also help your dog realize that the great outdoors is something to enjoy, rain, shine or snow.