Potty Training a Puppy

Housebreaking a puppy is one of the biggest challenges of any new dog owner. With patience and a regular schedule, however, housetraining your puppy doesn’t have to be a chore.

Key Points to Remember When Potty Training Your Puppy

Potty Training a Puppy - on the grass

Keep the following key points in mind when you are housebreaking your dog.

  • A puppy younger than 12 weeks is too young to be able to hold it.
  • The average puppy takes between 4 and 6 months to housetrain.
  • Small dogs have small bladders and successful housetraining requires more frequent bathroom trips.
  • As a general rule of thumb, your dog can hold their bladder for the same number of hours as they are months old up to 8 months old. (A dog should never be forced to hold their bladder longer than this.)
  • Positive reinforcement is the most powerful motivator.
  • Act fast when your puppy gives you a sign that they need to go!
  • If you didn’t see an accident happen, don’t get frustrated with your puppy. They won’t know why you are upset.
  • Don’t punish your puppy for accidents, this connects punishment and fear with your role as caretaker.
  • Clean all accidents thoroughly. Any scent that remains can serve as a signal to repeat the accident in the same spot!

How to Potty Train Your Puppy

Potty Training a Puppy - on a leash

Step 1: Limit Your Puppy’s Roaming Range

Limit the space that your puppy has by confining them in a room, setting up baby gates, and using a crate. This will contain any accidents that do happen while housebreaking.

Step 2: Provide Food and Drink on Schedule

Give your puppy food and drink on a schedule. This makes their bathroom habits more predictable and reduces accidents.

When it is not the time to eat or drink, pick your dog’s bowls off the floor to prevent “grazing”.

Please note, however, you should allow your puppy to drink if they show signs of needing water.

Step 3: Take Your Puppy Out First Thing Every Morning

Every morning as soon as you wake up and take your puppy from their cage, take them out to the bathroom immediately.

Reward every successful potty trip outdoors with praise and/or a treat.

Step 4: Set a Regular Potty Schedule

Depending on the age and size of your puppy, continue a schedule of taking your puppy out every 30 to 60 minutes throughout the day.

This can be tiresome, but it is the most effective way to set a pattern for potty training.

Step 5: Set a Regular Potty Spot

When you take your puppy out to potty, take them to the same place every time. This lets your puppy connect this area with going to the bathroom and creates a “potty scent” when the area is repeatedly used.

Step 6: Take Your Puppy Out After Key Events

In addition to regularly taking your puppy out to potty, you should always take your puppy out after “key events”. These key events include:

  • After playing
  • After napping (you don’t have to wake them to potty unless it’s been a long time!)
  • After eating
  • Before you crate them or leave them
  • Immediately before bed

How to Recognize That Your Puppy Needs “to Go”

Potty Training a Puppy - sniffing

If you notice any of these signs in your puppy, they may be telling you that they need to go to the bathroom!

  • Circling
  • Sniffing the ground or floor
  • Whining
  • Scratching at the door
  • Barking at the door

Tools That Will Help You to Potty Train Your Puppy

Potty Training a Puppy - crate

The following tools will help to make potty training go much more smoothly.

  • An enzymatic based cleaner like Nature’s Miracle to clean up accidents.
  • Rags or bar towels to clean accidents without wasting paper.
  • A crate that is large enough for your puppy to stand and turn around in. This will safely contain your puppy while you are out of the home and at night.
  • Treats for rewarding your puppy for successful potty trips outside.

Successful Potty Training of Your Puppy Relies on Routine!

Potty Training a Puppy - schedule

Successfully housebreaking your puppy requires you to adhere to a strict routine. If you cannot be home to housetrain your puppy, hire someone to take them out to potty while you are at work. If you are unable to do this, reconsider bringing home a new puppy and consider adopting an adult dog instead. Older dogs are able to hold their bladder for up to 8 hours at a time and are often already housebroken when you adopt them!