A written potty schedule keeps track of everything that goes into your puppy and everything that comes out of him. Maintaining a written potty schedule can make housebreaking and indoor potty training a whole lot easier. The schedule will allow you to see patterns in the way your dog's digestive system operates that can make training a whole lot easier. You'll be able to eliminate unproductive potty trips; if you notice he never does anything when you take him out at 3pm, you can stop taking him out at 3pm. You may even discover a pattern showing when your puppy tends to have accidents. Does it always happen in the mornings when you're rushing around getting the kids ready for school? If so, you'll know you need to be more careful about supervision and confinement during that time in the morning. And you'll be able to chart how soon after eating he needs to poo so you'll know when to expect delivery of his next package!
A written potty schedule is also a huge help when there's more than one person helping with the housebreaking program. It helps to prevent mix-ups: If you come home to take your puppy out for a potty trip and he won't go, you can check the schedule to see if another family member took him out so you'll know if he's empty or just holding out on you. Even more important, it'll prevent everyone from thinking someone else took the dog out when nobody has - if you're not sure, just check the schedule!
Keeping a written potty schedule is a little bit of a pain, but it isn't difficult... just keep a tablet and pen next to the door where your dog goes outside (or someplace close to his potty pads or litterbox if you're doing indoor potty training) and remember to write everything down. If you really want to get fancy, you might want to use red pen for accidents, so at a glance, you can check through your puppy's schedule to see if accidents are increasing or decreasing over time.
What should be included on your dog's potty schedule? First, include any trips to his potty spot, even dry runs. Also include any accidents, ideally with additional info like what, when, where, and whether you caught him in the act. Meals should also be noted on the written schedule. Be sure to include anything unusual that happens with your dog, like skipped meals, diarrhea or throwing up, since these things can all cause changes in his potty schedule. Although it isn't necessary, some owners also like to include training sessions, playtime, walks or other activities on the written schedule.
Below is a sample potty schedule to give you an idea of what a page from a puppy's schedule might look like. Your potty trips may not need to be as frequent with an older dog, and if you're doing your job, your dog won't have as many accidents as our sample puppy does!
Sample Potty Schedule
|8:45am||accident||peed on kitchen rug, caught him and he finished outside|
|11:45am||accident||pooped next to nightstand while I was in the shower|
|12pm||lunch (added leftover hamburger to kibble)|
|1pm||outside||x||x||(a little runny)|
|5pm||accident||found pee on kitchen floor (happened sometime between 4:15 and 5pm)|
|9:15pm-6:30am||in crate, accident||x||peed in crate overnight|
So when we look at our imaginary puppy's day, we see a few accidents and a little digestive problem in the afternoon. The first accident is nothing to worry about; the owner caught and corrected the puppy and had been doing the right thing by supervising carefully since the pup hadn't gone potty in over an hour. The second accident was a bad one; the puppy shouldn't have been allowed to roam in the bedroom while his owner was in the shower. Ditto for the accident that the owner discovered at 5pm. Clearly, the supervision wasn't as tight as it needed to be that day; after viewing the written schedule and all that red ink, the owner would easily be able to increase the supervision and prevent those kinds of accidents in the future. And that accident in the crate overnight? Caused by the common owner mistake of leaving the puppy in the crate for waaaay too long overnight. The solution? Go to bed much later, get up much earlier, or get up in the middle of the night to take puppy out for a potty. Oh, and let's not forget the runny poop in the afternoon that followed the meal with a little something extra mixed in - no table scraps while you're housebreaking your puppy, please!
The written potty schedule takes a little bit of extra effort, but most owners end up finding it really helpful - so start keeping a potty journal on the first day of your housebreaking program. If it's too late for that, the written schedule is also a huge help for figuring out what's going on if you start hitting some bumps in the road (or piles on the floor!) once your program has already begun. The pen is mightier than the rolled-up newspaper!