How to Potty Train a Puppy

How to potty train together
How to potty train together

Table of Contents

The potty training, otherwise known as the “housetraining” is very important. It is done to ensure the best quality of life for both your soon-to-be adult dog and you. Proper potty habit and house training in general helps to control the lifestyle of a dog, prevents soiling and helps you to understand its body and more of its habits. If you want to learn how to potty train a puppy, please, spend some time reading this thoughtful article, dedicated to the training itself, helpful hints and problems you may face during the process.

When to Start Potty Training

You should start potty training at the very moment the puppy arrives to its new home. It is important to begin training as early as possible, in order to set the proper potty behavior since the very first day at home as it is your premises and you won’t tolerate improper behavior in your area. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you will be punishing the dog – You must avoid punishment at all times. It means that you are the alpha here and the puppy has to live on your terms. Moreover, the puppy may continue peeing right there where he did it before and thus, your negligence may result in a serious problem.

Dog experts suggest beginning potty training the puppy, when it has reached the age of twelve weeks. At this age it already has enough control of its bladder and bowel and can make tremendous success in training. However, these experts also agree on the fact that, the dog of every age (little and big breeds as well) may be potty trained – even an adult one. Don’t forget that, potty training is a complex process and requires you keeping in mind several factors like: eating schedule, size, elimination rate (how many times it eases per day), behavior and psychic problems, if any exist. So, should you bring a puppy home, begin training immediately.

How To Potty Train a Puppy?

Puppies are not able to understand the boundaries yet, which means, the elimination happens in places where it shouldn’t. If the puppy needs doing it, it does it – this approach works with feeding, playing and sleeping. If you do not train the puppy some proper habits, it becomes too independent from you and you end up having an adult dog with serious issues.

The successful puppy potty training requires the following four big rules: confinement, training, timing and praise.

Now we are going to break down each element and view it individually.


The most crucial moment in potty training is the period of confinement. A cage or a crate is the best confinement for a puppy. In the beginning of training, you should leave the bottom of the crate bare – take out blanket. Most puppies never eliminate where they usually sleep but, it is very important that the cage/crate be without the bottom and be space enough for the puppy to turn and lie down. If the crate is bigger, it may find it useful to eliminate in one corner and sleep at the other end. Another opportunity for confinement is the dog pen. Set an enclosed area with the clean open floor surface that can be cleaned easily and let it be there before opening the whole house to him.

story-of-potty-trained-old-dogUsing a Leash and a Word

Using a leash in another helpful and necessary approach to potty training a puppy. By keeping it close and controlling its movements, you may not only observe its behavior but also lead it to the exact spot where you would like it to eliminate. Using a leash and leading it to the elimination area every time it shows pre-elimination behavior (scratching, circling), sets a skill which turns into habit of eliminating in one area only. Of course, this is not the only means that is working, but is a vital part of the potty training. Another thing that pays off is the elimination word. Your puppy will learn quickly and soon becomes aware of what you want it to do. Use words like “do potty” or “poop” for number two. The words you use and their meaning actually don’t matter as long as you use them on consistent basis and when speaking about elimination only – the puppy learns a set of sounds, your tone and the situation to which this set of sounds and tone are applicable instead of the initial meaning this word bears. After some time you’ll notice common signs on comprehension like barking and tail wiggling.

Training and Praise

Training and praise come side by side. Any praise done in right time serves sort of an anchor, making a mark in puppy’s memory and helping it distinguish a good behavior from unwanted. Remember, that the puppy doesn’t understand what is wrong and what is right – it knows only what you want and don’t want him to do. To ensure its understanding process is doing well, you should praise it every time it makes a step towards good behavior. It means practically following things:

  • Every time it eliminates in the designated area, praise it and give it a treat because it is doing it the way you want it to do.
  • If it is scratching in anticipation of elimination, also praise it and lead to the potty area.
  • Try using more potty-related words (like “do potty”, “let’s go potty”) only when it is the time. Also, remember that, every positive response it shows to your words must be praised verbally. If you want to reward it with a treat do so only after it has done toileting completely.

Praise is another vital part of complex process that the training is and should never be omitted.


Your best chance of success in training comes when you can predict its needs and anticipate them. We speak about timing in terms of its confinement. Speaking in general terms, the time that the puppy may be left in the crate corresponds to his age:

  • 2 months old – 2 hours without a potty break
  • 3 months old – 3 hours without a potty break
  • 4 months old – 4 hours without a potty break

After the time in “captivity”, you should let it out and get it occupied with its usual activity like playing or sniffing. Suddenly it may quit its usual behavior and start digging or circling – it means that, it’s the time to eliminate. Timing in terms of confinement may be helpful for setting proper toileting schedule but, you may have better success when feeding it on certain hours and tracking how much time it needs before the urge needs it to go potty.


extreme-potty-training-conditionsAccidents happen naturally when the potty training is on.

The puppy must never be punished for what it did – it is pointless and will only exacerbate the already existing trouble. If you notice it preparing for elimination, make an abrupt clapping noise instead and say “No” or “Uh uh” to let it know that you are unhappy with the way it behaved. After that put it in a special area where it should be doing potty (whether it be inside or outside) and when it finishes, praise it because it did everything right. The puppy will surely feel the difference between the two situations and the change in your attitude towards it. Thus, you are gradually setting an anchor in its mind for what must be done in case of an “urge need”. You should remember that this approach works when the puppy is caught in the act of pre-elimination behavior or the elimination is on the verge of happening.

The whole training process is based on praising and PREVENTION, but not punishment!

Every time your puppy does what it needs to do properly, you must absolutely let it know that you like it by praising and rewarding.

Best Way to Potty Train a Puppy

One of the most challenging things about potty training is choosing the best approach to start the training with. Every puppy presents a different level of complexity but luckily for you, all puppies share the same instincts that will help you to train it properly. Initially all puppies work as an input-output machine: they eat more, burn more energy and seem to need to ease themselves constantly. Also, they cannot boast having the total control over their bowel and bladder, so they cannot hold it as long as adult dogs do.

For your information, a puppy is never completely potty trained until it is 6 months old. It means that, despite all the progress you both may be making, mistakes and accidents will be happening.

Five Rules for Potty Training

  • Ensure your puppy has frequent success to its potty area, whether it be indoors or outdoors.
  • Every time it eliminates in the right place, it must be rewarded verbally and with a treat.
  • Punishing a puppy for its mistakes and accidents never pays of positively. Never!
  • Regular feeding schedule results in regular toileting regiment.
  • Keep a diary of the exact time you gave it food/water and when it eliminated. It helps to find a pattern and the next time you’ll be ready for short training session on potty habit.

How Often a Puppy Has to Potty?

Most puppies eliminate every hour, but their elimination schedule depends solely on the time of their last drinking/eating. Don’t forget that some puppies have bigger bladders and bowels and own toileting habits and luckily for you, they sleep a lot, which means long gaps between eliminations. When puppy is not sleeping, follow it and watch everything it does. If you cannot watch the puppy longtime, put it back into the pen or crate to prevent any possible accidents and training mistakes.

Regular Feeding Trains Faster

It’s important to feed your puppy regularly according to a schedule. But ensure it doesn’t overeat, or become obese and has no problem with sleeping. Moreover, you will have another schedule as consequence – the one covering its toileting. Every puppy is different: some eliminate immediately after eating while other need up to an hour before it happens. Never freed your puppy as it elimination may happen randomly and you will no longer be reckoned as the provider of food (the pack leader). As for water – let the bowl be full at all times; refresh the bowl two times a day.

The Best Way to Potty Train

“Why so much intro?” you may be asking. And we’ll tell you exactly what all dog specialists tell: there is no simple way to train a puppy by doing just one series of steps. But if you need to find the best way to potty train your puppy, please consider the confinement as one.

The confinement to a small area or a pen in combination with confinement to a crate works the best of all. This confinement method develops the “den instinct” which can be best described as puppy’s understanding that, soiling in own premises is wrong and it has another spot for doing it. Confinement combined with your diligence develops the den instinct. Let’s take a look at how it’s supposed to be done. Choose two confinement areas – the one where the puppy is kept constantly (a pen or a crate) and its toileting area. If you live in a street level apartment or a detached house, you may use special “taxi service” (described later) and outdoors will be puppy’s main toileting area.its-not-me

Items You Need for Potty Training

  • A few bottles of Nature’s Miracle or other enzymatic detergent for removing accident stains and odor.
  • A crate, big enough for accommodating the puppy: it must be able to lie down and stretch in its crate. The wire/cage type is the best as you may see what it is about when being inside.
  • A pen. Put it in central of the room where you spend most of your time.
  • Treats – a reward used for potty training only.

Taxi Service

Nope, it’s not some sort of dog service. Your puppy will decide to potty without any warning given and accidents may happen as it has not developed full control over its bladder/bowel yet. The “Taxi Service” is…simply picking the puppy up into arms and taking it to its potty area and setting it down. When should it be done?

  • Right after your puppy wakes up.
  • After it finishes eating or playing.
  • When it shows you pre-elimination signs.
  • When the puppy whines while being in the crate in the middle of the night or in the pen during the day.

Taxi the puppy for one month until it is 3 months old. Another taxi service version is to attach a leash and take the puppy out when it’s showing pre-elimination behavior.

Before the Bedtime and After Waking Up

Before going to bed, no matter whether the puppy is already asleep or not, take it to the potty area. In the morning, first take the puppy out of the crate/pen and “taxi” it to the potty area. After that feed him its breakfast and let it be in pen.

In Case You Are Not Home

If you have to leave puppy for several hours, confine it to its pen. Leave more space for it and place all necessities inside: bowls with water and food, pee-pads, its crate and make sure the designated potty area is far from its sleeping and feeding spots. You may also cover the whole area with thick layer of old papers or cover the floor inside the pen completely with pee-pads. Eventually, the puppy will ease itself right inside the pen but it’ll learn the type of surface that it eased itself on. Subsequently, it’ll find its own spot in the area where it prefers to eliminate – this area may be diminished slightly so that eventually you will have a few sheets of paper down in that place or one pee-pad only. Should it miss the pee-pad/paper, it means that you have reduced the area to soon: go back to papering a bigger area. You may face several set-backs before the puppy learns the proper potty habit completely.

How Long Does It Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

Needless to say that, all puppies differ from each other in their size, habits and cognitive abilities. Practically, it means that it may take you more time to train the puppy than you think – may be up to several weeks. Usually, puppy fanciers claim that “it took one week to potty train my puppy” and they may be truthful but, the practice tells the opposite: you may need a couple of weeks of constant training to elaborate the proper habit. Another very helpful option is to sign your puppy to a dog training class. PetSmart and PetCo, for instance, can solve the problem in the matter of several days – they are very experienced and have great staff who understands everything about dog training.

Potty Training Puppy in an Apartment

puppy-potty-trickTo be honest and precise – there is no difference between potty training aimed at living in a detached house or in an apartment (more about How to house train a puppy). They are the same and success in this endeavor is based solely on your ability to follow common guidelines and be persistent in training. However, we decided not to omit this section and present you the answer to the question from the opposite view. Here is the list of mistakes that may influence your success in potty training (whether it be apartment or a multistory manor):

  • Over-feeding. You will simply have no time to prepare for proper training as the puppy won’t wait for your commands to do…whatever you want it to do at the moment.
  • Feeding an unsuitable diet or giving different types of human food. It is not good for its well-being, in general and may provoke indigestion.
  • Not feeding at regular times. What will happen if you eat without a schedule or evident feeling of hunger? You develop indigestion, some disorder or even ulcer. The same thing happens even to the dogs.
  • Feeding at the wrong time. Yeah, you give it a big snack right before going to sleep and the puppy eases itself overnight and you both have a sleepless night. The biggest snack must be given right before the lunch time or as the lunch itself.
  • Punishing the puppy for the indoor potty accident is the complete dead-end. Never, we mean NEVER do it!
  • Excessive salt intake. Any salty food makes everybody drink more than needed.
  • You expect the puppy to tell you that it needs to ease itself. Try something more realistic like developing a schedule of feeding and the eating regiment (in terms of food volumes).
  • You leave the back door open for the puppy. What is it supposed to think of? Well, anything including the back yard viewed as the playground only. And what about the cold weather or the closed back door?
  • You leave puppy on its own for long time constantly. It makes it develop own toileting habits. And remember that learning the same trick the proper way and learning a trick properly for the first time are opposite things.
  • You may associate praise with its wrong toileting habit by accident. For instance, once you see him or her ease in some place other than the designated area and you say “Atta girl/atta boy!” and it’s done – the puppy remembers that it’s good to ease anywhere indoors.
  •  Too much access to rugs or carpet which are grass-like soft.
  •  You allow your puppy to roam whenever it wants. Such thing as the puppy pen can limit the movements and ensure that it learns the spot properly.