How to potty train a puppy in 5 easy steps

It’s no secret that puppies can be stubborn. After all, they’re young and have a lot to learn, so sometimes, they just don’t want to use the bathroom outside. Relieving themselves indoors likely seems much more convenient for them. 

However, teaching your dog to use the bathroom outside is an essential part of training your puppy. So, take the time to learn exactly how to potty train a puppy. It will require a lot of patience, consistency, and commitment, but it will be worth it in the end.

Tips on How to Potty Train a Puppy

For some dogs, training will come easily, but for others, it can take a lot of practice. Therefore, you need to be prepared for all the challenges you might face while potty training your puppy.

When to Start Potty Training a Puppy.

It’s recommended that you start potty training your puppy when they’re between 12 and 16 weeks old. Puppies that are younger than 12 weeks can have a difficult time controlling their bladder and bowel movements. That’s why it’s best to wait until they’re old enough to have control over it so they can learn easier.

If your dog is older than 16 weeks when you bring them home, but they’re not house trained yet, then the process might take longer than usual. Even so, you should go through the same steps that you would with a younger puppy and continue to be patient with them.

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

While it’s possible to train your puppy in as little as a week, it will likely take closer to 4 to 6 months for them to fully get the hang of it. In some cases, it could even take up to a year, so it’s important to take the training seriously from the start. Most dog parents want potty training taken care of as soon as possible, but if you try to rush it, you will only become more frustrated when it doesn’t go as planned.

Training can also take longer depending on your puppy’s size and history. Smaller breeds typically have smaller bladders, so their bathroom schedule should reflect that. If you wait too long in between bathroom breaks, it’s more likely that they’ll have an accident than a large breed. Also, if your puppy already practiced some training at their previous home, they’ll likely learn faster. However, if they developed some bad behaviors before you brought them home, they could be more difficult to train.

Steps for Puppy House Training

Once you’re ready to start house training your puppy, there are a few steps you should take. Take your time when working on each step to make sure your dog is comfortable before moving on to the next one.

Step 1: Have a Set Schedule

Dogs are great at learning routines. They can quickly pick up on when their dinner time is and when they get to go for walks, so potty breaks are no different. When you start training your dog to go to the bathroom outside, you should choose specific times to take them out.

For puppies 2 to 3 months old, they can only hold their bladder for about 2 hours. So, they should be taken out that often to avoid accidents. As your puppy gets older, they will slowly be able to hold it for 3 or 4 hours, so then you can adjust their bathroom break schedule accordingly.

When you’re getting started with training, the more often you take them out, the better. Sticking to a regular schedule can help your puppy get in the routine of using the bathroom outside.

Step 2: Teach Your Dog the Potty Cue

When you want your dog to go to the bathroom, always use a consistent command. When you take them outside to do their business, use a command like “go potty” to signify that you want them to do their business. Then, if they obey the command, make sure you reward them.

It’s also a good idea to teach your dog to let you know when they have to relieve themselves. Many dog parents teach their pups to sit by the door or ring a bell. To do this, make sure they do that action before they go out every time. Each time you take them to use the bathroom, have them sit in front of the door or ring a bell for them. That way, they can associate that action with going to the bathroom.

Step 3: Take Them to a Designated Bathroom Spot

Using a consistent bathroom area can also help your dog understand where they’re supposed to pee. Take them out in a specific part of the yard and use the potty command while you’re there. If your puppy does not go to the bathroom after 15 minutes, bring them back inside and repeat the process a little bit later. Eventually, they should understand where their designated bathroom space is.

Step 4: Reward Them for Doing Their Business

Every time your puppy successfully goes to the bathroom outside, especially after you used the command, make sure you reward them. Training treats are the best motivation for any dog, so start off by giving them a small treat every time they do it right. Then, after they get the hang of it, you should slowly wean them off treats and only use verbal praise instead. That way, your puppy will still know they’re doing a good job without gaining any extra weight.

Step 5: Repeat!

Repetition is the key to any training. The more you practice training with your dog and the more you use the command, the sooner they will understand. When repeating the training, make sure to always be consistent with your schedule and command words to ensure that you don’t confuse your pup. The process will take a lot of patience, but over time, your puppy will eventually catch on. If you want to know more about the benefits of tactical dog harnesses while walking your dog, feel free to read our article on that.

Benefits of Using a Crate

Using a crate can also be beneficial when it comes to potty training. Dogs don’t want to soil the area where they sleep, so it can be a good idea to keep your puppy in a crate whenever you leave the house. When you’re home, you should keep an eye on your puppy so they don’t have an accident, but you can’t be there every second of every day. So, using a crate will encourage your pup to let you know when they really have to go.

Your dog’s crate should have enough space for them to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down. However, any more space than that could cause them to only sleep in a corner of the crate, which means they wouldn’t be bothered by an accident on the other side of their enclosure.

You should use a slow transition when teaching your dog to use a crate. Before you leave them alone in it, first teach them that it’s a good thing. Put a treat in the crate and praise your dog when they go inside. Then, start leaving them in the crate for short periods of time, such as only a few minutes, and then working your way up from there. Just like any other training, using a crate is unfamiliar for your pup. So, you need to be patient with them.

Using Puppy Pads

When learning how to potty train a puppy, it’s a good idea to use pee pads to prevent accidents. The best way to do this is to set up a space in your home for your puppy. This should be an area of the house that is easy to clean, such as a space with hardwood flooring. Also, make sure you remove anything that could be harmful to your dog, such as cleaning supplies.

Then, set up your puppy’s supplies in this area, including a bed and puppy pads. Cover the floor with puppy pads and change them regularly. However, you should leave a small piece of soiled pad on top of one of the clean pads. That way, your puppy will smell it and know that that’s where they’re supposed to relieve themselves.

If your puppy only pees on the pads closest to their bed, then remove those pads eventually. Over time, you should slowly remove more and more pads until there is only one or two remaining. Once your puppy starts using the pad correctly, you can allow them to roam into other areas of the house.

Then, when you want your puppy to start going outside to go to the bathroom, you should move the pads closer to where you will take them outside. That way, they can learn to associate going to the bathroom with going outside.

Signs That Your Dog Needs to Relieve Themselves

With a young puppy, you shouldn’t wait for them to show signs before you take them out. Instead, you should take them outside about every two hours to avoid accidents.

However, as your dog gets older, they might find a way to tell you when they need to go. It’s important for you to understand those cues and take them out whenever they alert you.

Every dog will have slightly different signs, but here are a few that you might notice:

  • Restlessness
  • Sniffing
  • Circling
  • Hurrying to another room
  • Whining
  • Sitting by the door
  • Barking at the door

For puppies, their cues are usually not intentional. You’ll likely spot them looking for a place to use the bathroom, so you’ll need to act fast. For adult dogs, they will usually have a way to alert you without causing a concern, such as whining or pawing at the door.

What to Do When a Puppy Has an Accident

Most people feel the need to punish their dog when they have an accident. However, that is one of the worst things to do when learning how to potty train a puppy. Yelling at your puppy will only scare them, which could result in more accidents. Don’t get angry at your puppy because relieving themselves is just a normal behavior, and they’re still trying to learn what’s expected of them.

If you catch your puppy in the act, you can startle them or say a command like “outside” when you see it, as long as you aren’t too harsh with them. Then, clean the soiled area thoroughly. If you don’t clean it enough, your puppy might be able to smell the urine, which will make them want to pee there again.

However, if you don’t catch your puppy in the act, you should not scold them for a past accident. Some people will shove a dog’s nose in it and tell them “no”, but this actually hurts more than helps. Your puppy won’t understand the correlation, and it will likely only make them avoid you out of fear when they do need to relieve themselves.

Planning for When You’re Away

If you’re going to be away from home for more than a couple hours at a time, you should plan accordingly. Puppies cannot hold their bladders long, especially while they’re still learning. 

The best thing to do while you’re away is to find a trustworthy friend or neighbor to check on your pup while you’re gone. That way, your puppy can still be taken out as often as usual, so their routine won’t be broken. If it’s not possible to have someone stop by, you should set up pee pads for you dog to use. Remember that they might not use them properly, but you shouldn’t punish them for that.

If you’re away from home on a regular basis, then a puppy is probably not the right choice for you. Puppies need constant attention, especially during the potty training process. So, if you’re considering getting a puppy, you might want to adopt an adult dog instead if you have a busy schedule.

Dos and Don’ts of Puppy House Training

When house training your puppy, you need to be focused and motivated. Always have a schedule and a designated elimination area for the best success. Pay attention to your puppy, and use a crate and pee pads if necessary. The more you pay attention to your puppy’s actions, the better you’ll be able to tell when they need to do their business.

It’s also important that you don’t punish your puppy for accidents. Additionally, don’t talk to them or play with them while they’re supposed to be using the bathroom. Focus only on the bathroom break so that your puppy doesn’t get distracted. Most importantly, don’t stop training too soon. Keep practicing your commands and routine even after your puppy gets the hang of it. If you stop too soon, your dog could quickly fall back into their bad habits again.

Summary

Learning how to potty train a puppy is never easy, but it’s an important part of being a dog parent. Start by deciding on a schedule and a command word and go from there. With enough patience, consistency, and effort, your pup will slowly get the hang of it. It’s important to never give up on training with your dog because the more you practice it, the easier it will get for both of you.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Peter Schoeman