14 Pro Tips to Make Puppy Training In An Apartment or Condo Easier

Expert Tips That Make Puppy Training in An Apartment or Condo Easier

Puppy training in an apartment or condo with limited space poses challenges for new puppy owners. So we’d like to share some do’s, don’ts, and essential tips for puppy owners who live in an apartment or condo.

Expert Secrets for Puppy Training In An Apartment or Condo

1 – Choose The Right Breed

Not all dogs do well in small spaces with limited places to potty, play, or get some exercise. Apartments and condos also typically have stairs or elevators that can be challenging for puppies to navigate, especially in the beginning. And some dog breeds tend to bark more than others, which can become a nuisance for your neighbors, especially when you’re at work or running errands. So, it’s essential to start with some research to learn which dog breeds thrive in small spaces and choose a breed that is likely to do well in the conditions where you live.

2 – Set Safe Boundaries

Many new puppy owners make the mistake of giving their puppies too much freedom to roam unsupervised in their homes. And this can lead to chewed-up possessions and potty accidents throughout the house, which can all be prevented or minimized by setting safe boundaries.

Setting safe boundaries involves using baby gates and closing doors to block off access to rooms your puppy shouldn’t be in just yet.

We teach our students to only give access to one room at a time until the puppy is more trustworthy. A trustworthy puppy doesn’t have accidents or chew on things in the current room or rooms they have been given access to for at least a few weeks to a few months.

Safe boundaries keep curious puppies safe and out of trouble and puppy owners happier with their pups.

3 – Puppy Proof Each Space

Puppy-proofing your apartment or condo means going through each space (inside and out) and picking up and securing every single thing that could get chewed or destroyed. Let’s just say that anything below the height of a kitchen table is fair game for puppies. This includes shoes, work bags, kids’ toys, electronics, cords, and pretty much everything in sight. And don’t forget those fragile keepsakes on end tables and shelves that can topple over if bumped during puppy play.

4 – Use the Crate or a PlayPen When You’re Unable to Supervise

When you’re unable to watch them, puppies should be in their crates or a playpen – for your puppy’s safety and the safety of your home and possessions.

A playpen is excellent if you’re in the house but occupied with something that prevents you from keeping your eyes on your pup. And the crate is an absolute must when you have to leave a puppy alone in the house. A crate is the safest place because it keeps puppies out of things they shouldn’t get into and prevents them from building up anxiety that leads to excessive barking and other destructive behaviors.

We offer helpful crate training tips to help you get started.

5 – Have Two Leashes On Hand

Letting your pup off-leash before they have a 100% reliable recall (come-on-command) response is not advised. So we recommend two kinds of leashes: a short leash for walking and training and a long leash, about 15-25 feet long, for decompression walks and romping in the park.

Short dog leash for puppy training

Short leash walk

A decompression walk is a special kind of walk where a dog can just be a dog and sniff and explore on their own while attached to a long leash. But it is not a free for all, and pulling is definitely not allowed. Instead, we use “check-ins,” where the dog stops and checks in with us before continuing on.

Long leash decompression walk

Long leash decompression walk

In our 30 Days to Puppy Perfection Program, we teach fun and effective games you should play with your puppy to work on the “come” command, recall cue, and other vital skills.

6 – Provide Daily Mental and Physical Exercise

Puppies have lots of energy and need daily exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Pent-up puppy energy leads to barking, biting, jumping, anxiety, and other destructive behaviors that aren’t good for your puppy or you. Daily walks, puppy training, and enrichment games challenge your puppy’s mind and body, build the emotional bond between you and your puppy, and help your puppy be more settled and better behaved.

7 – Help Your Puppy Master the Stairs or Elevator

Most young puppies under 10 weeks can’t manage a large set of stairs just yet. They have a tough time climbing them, and even more scary is the going down because their center of balance is off when they attempt to climb down the stairs.

With stairs, it’s best to begin at the bottom and reward your puppy for getting on and off just the bottom stair to start. Then add more stairs as the training sessions progress. The idea is not to drag your puppy up or down the stairs or try to convince them the stairs are safe verbally. This will not help your puppy overcome the scary stairs at all. Positive association and training win every time.

As for elevators, start by introducing your pup to the opening and closing of the doors and rewarding the puppy for staying (sitting or standing) each time the doors move. You are not entering the elevator just yet.

The next step might be to walk in and reward your pup for going in and then walk back out. Make sure the doors don’t close just yet. Practice approaching the elevator and walking in, each time rewarding for calm behavior when the doors open, entering the elevator, turning and exiting the elevator, and remaining calm while the doors close again.

Eventually, you may want to ride the elevator up or down one level, and reward your puppy while the elevator is moving. Be sure that the treats stop when the elevator stops! Go slow with this introduction and use rewards to keep the experience positive. Pretty soon, your puppy will be riding the elevator like a champ.

8 – Limit Distractions

When training a puppy, we always want to start with limited distractions and gradually increase exposure to distractions as puppy’s skills and attention improve. So you'll likely need to play your training games in the hallway inside your apartment before you take things outside.

Next, you can practice training games in the lobby or hallway of your apartment building before moving outdoors. Outdoors would be like cranking our training dial up drastically as all the sights, sounds, and smells can be very distracting and overwhelming for a young puppy.

9 – Set Up An Appropriate, Private Potty Spot

Pups shouldn’t be heading outside to common areas to go potty until they have all their vaccinations because these places can expose your puppy to diseases from other dogs, wild animals, or feral cats and dogs to which your puppy has no immunity. This can make potty training just a wee bit tricky. So, as a temporary measure, we recommend setting up a real grass patch in a tray and putting it on your balcony, enclosed patio, or inside your apartment or condo by the door, where you’ll eventually take your pup outside to go potty.

You want to get your puppy used to going potty outside as soon as possible because you don’t want to end up with a lifetime of cleaning up accidents in your apartment or condo. But puppy’s safety comes first, and this is a great interim solution until your puppy has been thoroughly vaccinated.

Speak to your vet about their recommended vaccine schedule to determine when your puppy will be able to use common outdoor areas or the park to potty.

10 – Reinforce The Desired Behaviors

Reinforcement builds behavior. This means the more you reinforce desired behaviors, like going potty in the right spot, the more your puppy will understand the behavior you want and repeat it. This is true for potty training, listening, coming when called, barking, jumping, and more!

Learn which type of training treat is best to motivate your dog!

11 – Know Your Puppy’s Limits

Puppies, like human children, have short attention spans. And their developing bodies can’t do everything that an adult dog’s body can. And nowhere is this more evident than in potty training.

Many first-time puppy owners don’t realize that puppies can only hold their bladders up to one hour per month of age. So a 3-month-old puppy must urinate at least once every 3 hours.

And 3 to 5 minutes of training may be all that a puppy can manage in each session.

By understanding and working within your puppy’s limits, being consistent, and always keeping it positive, your training will be more effective and yield lasting results.

12 – Arm Yourself With The Right Potty Training Supplies

Be sure to have a “clean-up bag” or “clean-up fanny pack” to take with you every time you head outside. That way, if an accident happens in the hallway, elevator, or lobby, you’ll be ready to clean it up in a hurry.

The “clean-up bag/fanny pack” should contain a garbage bag, paper towel, and an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle and poop bags. Always bring poop bags with you to clean up and dispose of all poop.

13 – Clean Up Accidents Right Away

I feel odd telling you this because I’m sure you know this tidbit of info, but I can’t tell you how many people I see leaving their dog’s poop for someone else to pick up. I’ve also seen people turn away from watching their dogs go as if to act like they didn’t know it was happening. Not cool, not cool at all. And leaving a mess behind only encourages your dog to go in that spot the next time. So support your dog’s potty training success and hygiene by cleaning up accidents when they happen.

Cozy sleep spot for puppy

14 – Create A Cozy Sleep Spot

I’m sure you're wondering where your puppy should sleep, especially if space is limited. I always recommend using a crate on the main floor or in a centrally located spot with easy access to the door for potty training purposes.

We avoid putting the crate in the bedroom with you because we don’t want pup to become dependent on sleeping only if you are present. Putting the crate in the bedroom can also be disruptive for light sleepers, as puppies tend to toss and turn throughout the night.

Quick Recap

Here's a quick recap of our 14 secrets for easier puppy training in an apartment or condo.

  1. Choose the right breed of puppy for your space and your lifestyle
  2. Set safe boundaries for your curious puppy to explore
  3. Puppy proof each space your puppy can access and reassess as your puppy grows
  4. Use the crate or a playpen when you're unable to supervise your puppy
  5. Have two leashes on hand: a short leash for walking and training; a long leash for decompression walks
  6. Provide daily mental and physical exercise so your puppy stays happy and healthy
  7. Help your puppy master the stairs or elevator by slowly introducing and practicing with lots of praise and rewards
  8. Limit distractions while training so puppy can focus on mastering new skills
  9. Set up an appropriate, private potty spot for puppy to use until fully vaccinated
  10. Reinforce the desired behaviors with praise and training treats
  11. Know your puppy's limits
  12. Arm yourself with the right potty training supplies
  13. Clean up accidents right away
  14. Create a cozy sleep spot where puppy can relax and sleep undisturbed

These are just some of the things we do and recommend that make our lives much easier for years to come while living in a smaller space or on the upper levels of a high-rise apartment.

Michele Lennon with her dream dogs

About the trainer

Michele Lennon

After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.