How to Potty Train a Puppy: The Joys and Frustrations

How to Potty Train a Puppy

Bringing a puppy home is one of the most endearing moments of puppy parenthood. That face, those puppy breath kisses, melt your heart. But how to house train takes skill.

Out of four puppies, I only ever paper-trained Bounder— and never again.

Expect a few accidents as you learn how to house train—it’s unavoidable until you time your pup’s feeding with the house training process.

Here are the essentials to potty train.

Signs Your Puppy Needs to Go to the Toilet

Dogs are den animals, and for that reason, many dog owners introduce crate training and house train at the same time.

When puppies need to relieve themselves, they send their puppy parents many clues. Look for signals right after eating and drinking, releasing them from a crate, waking up, or after long periods without a potty break.

  • Agitated and pacing, barking and scratching
  • Nose to ground and sniffing
  • Walking in circles and then squatting

One of the easiest steps to incorporate into your training routine is to keep your puppy confined to a small space. Install baby gates to keep the laundry room blocked or other designated areas to prevent accidents on expensive carpets or flooring.

Although paper training isn’t a great solution, having paper pads in the designated space is useful when you potty train puppies.

How to Potty Train a Puppy

potty training your puppy

House training is a matter of patience and creating a routine. It’s also a skill you want young puppies to master quickly.

Daily Take Your Puppy Outside

how to train a puppy to pee outside

Regardless of the weather, take your puppy outside on frequent trips. A puppy doesn’t have fully developed bladder and bowel control until about nine months—that’s where you come in. A pup must relieve itself roughly every two hours until it becomes an adult dog.

Take them outside:

  • When they wake, they’ll sleep frequently
  • After fun activities
  • Create a feeding routine to establish routine bathroom breaks

Some puppies need a little help to stimulate a bowel movement. Rub their bum with a moist cloth or cotton pad to simulate their mother’s tongue.

Make a Bathroom Spot Outside

puppy-potty-training-tips

Establish a safe place in the garden or a public space. Put your dog on a leash and guide them toward the preferred area. It’s helpful to use keywords to associate the action.

Reward them and go for a walk, or end the act with a fun and interactive game.

Use Verbal Cues When Your Puppy Begins To Toilet

Using strong but simple verbal cues are essential learning tools your dog can use to associate the action with words like toilet, poop, peep, or whatever cutesy words—poopsywoopsy— you’ll say many ridiculous words—but be consistent.

Once It Has Finished, Reward Your Puppy

potty training puppy outside

Reward your puppy immediately, as you would with clicker training methods or positive reinforcement. Carry puppy treats as a reward; don’t wait until you’re back inside. In a pinch, affectionate praise works well.

Before Going Indoors, Play With Your Puppy

puppy training

Potty training is about establishing a schedule and learning association cues for your dog. Mastering this skill is challenging, but millions of pet parents successfully train their dogs, and you can learn from these tested tips.

When your puppy finishes, say the phrase you’ll use for toilet training and reward them generously.

Now it’s time for fun, which builds the association that going outside to poop is more fun.

Follow a Regular Feeding Schedule for Your Puppy

how to train a new puppy

Some people find this cruel because they want to spoil their pups with food—no starving pups. But in nature, canines live by a feeding schedule—they eat, they poop.

A puppy has a specific life stage, dietary needs, and a feeding schedule to match. Consult your veterinarian about following your dog’s diet. Overfeeding leads to obesity and diabetes.

Most puppies feed twice or thrice daily. This allows you to time their routine and prevents accidents.

Avoid Giving Water to Your Pups at Night

tips for potty training a puppy

Like you, puppies need to learn. Remove their water dish two and a half hours before bedtime to avoid house training accidents. Puppies are sound sleepers and can go up to seven hours without a bathroom break.

In those instances when your puppy wakes you, take them outside to relieve themselves and praise them, but be firm and don’t encourage play time and return to bed. (Yes, this is much easier said than done.)

As a WAF member and puppy parent, I encourage you to crate train for night because it works.

Measures to Take in Case of Accidents

There are going to be accidents. Therefore, experts recommend keeping your puppy confined to a small space without access to the rest of the house.

Avoid Giving Punishment

potty training an 8 week old puppy

Perhaps you may not like this advice: if your puppy has an accident on the fancy oriental rug, that’s on you.

If you catch your puppy in the act, scoop them up and take them outside to the usual potty area. Stay calm, and praise your pup once they finish their business.

Don’t:

  • Punish your dog for making a mess
  • Rub your puppy’s nose in it (that’s cruel and unnecessary)

Extremely important dos: 

  • Lead your dog to the outside potty spot
  • Praise when they get it right
  • Clean with proper disinfectant, as puppies are highly motivated to return to the same spot
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Prepare for accidents and have cleaning accessories

Wash and Disinfect the Area Properly

All dogs have a powerful olfactory and are motivated to return to the crime scene because the lingering scent tells them this is the bathroom.

Don’t:

  • Leave feces or urine as they’ll absorb into the flooring or soft fabric
  • Don’t allow the puppy to walk over his excrement

Do:

  • Use pet stain enzymatic cleaning products. Baking soda, vinegar, and Oxi Clean are great, but they’re not safe for all types of flooring.
  • Revisit these training tips

Consult Your Vet

puppy health checkup

Healthy pets may have accidents, but within a few days and weeks, you and your puppy will establish a semi-successful routine. If you have repeating accidents despite doing everything right, visit your vet clinic.

Some dogs may have experienced trauma that created a behavioral issue you can work out with a professional. But exploring the physical side before jumping to conclusions is always wise.

Methods to Potty Train a Puppy

Let’s dive into these tried-and-true methods to ensure a smoother transition for both you and your pup.

Crate Training

potty training a puppy with a crate

Canines like dens and crates mimic that sense of security. Speaking from experience, my dogs loved their crates to escape from their pesky siblings.

Some people mistakenly believe crates are cruel; I beg to differ if they’re used appropriately. We’re not talking about how puppy mills choose to use crates.

Confining a dog to a small space helps prevent accidents, as dogs don’t want to soil their bed. This is a learning mindset for pet owners. What’s cruel is allowing your dog to poop in your home and then overreacting with punishment.

A crate is as comfortable as you make it by adding soft bedding, their favorite toys and rewarding them when they enter the crate. My first Dobbie loved his crate and dragging his blanky out and fluffing it.

Crates work because:

  • Provide a sense of security
  • Keep your dog safe when you’re not available
  • Conditions your dog to travel in a crate for holidays or vet visits

Puppy Pads and Paper Training

best way to house train a puppy

As mentioned, there is a better house training process, but puppy pads help with accidents and work best in a controlled area.

Here’s how my Bounder adapted to paper training. It was winter, and I spread the paper over a large section. He got the hang of going to the paper and put his front paws on the paper, but his rear end always missed the paper. His predecessors learned to do their thing outside in the yard while on a leash quickly.

Must have:

  • Newspaper or absorbent pads
  • Cleaning supplies and paper towels or disposable wipes
  • Quick reaction to clean the mess

Housetraining/Indoor Potty Training

how to house train a dog

Friends of mine live in a condominium and found training their little Zoe on paper pads and artificial turf on their balcony worked well. 

Artificial turf trays are a great option when you can’t get a puppy to the outdoor toilet. Store them on the balcony or a storage room that the dog can learn to associate as a designated spot.

Be mindful to clean and disinfect frequently.

Problems of Indoor Training

Your puppy is what you teach it. Invest the time and use the helpful tips and experiences people share. As with all training methods, some have success with shock collars to master obedience or break a cycle of excessive whining; you’ll need to experiment and establish your routine.

Puppies Keep On Urinating in the Whole House

how to house train puppy

This happens frequently with toy breeds and owners that allow their dogs free reign. Indoor potty trays are helpful and work on the same principle as cat litter trays

Treating accident spots with a good cleaning solution like baking soda to absorb the odor is essential.

Patience and consistency get results.

Choosing a Potty Spot Where They Previously Had an Accident

puppy potty training tips

If you’re set on indoor training, turn the accident spot to your advantage and place the potty tray on that spot. Once your pooch masters the routine, you can move the poop tray to a balcony or other location.

A Messy Home

A home filled with clutter makes it difficult to spot accidental urine or feces. It’s also unsafe as dogs may ingest dangerous items.

If your dog has repeated accidents, clean your home with enzyme cleaners and steam-clean carpets or remove them.

Puppies Adding Soil To Crate

how to crate potty train a puppy

Dogs from puppy mills or similar environments may soil their crate, but it’s unusual behavior.

Dogs might eliminate when left too long without sufficient bathroom breaks, and accidents can happen with puppies. Dogs can also soil their crate when something in their diet causes stomach upset.

What is the Typical Duration of Puppy Potty Training?

House training is a learned skill based on a routine you create around meals, sleep, and play schedules.

Some puppies take to the routine quickly; even older rescue dogs might need a refresher. Be kind and patient.

Puppies take a whole year to develop their bladder, but with consistency, you can establish a pretty good routine in under a week. However, don’t be discouraged if your puppy takes a little longer; revisit the key tips and where you could improve.

ways to potty train a puppy

Always Supervise your Puppy

Confining your puppy to smaller spaces is a good start, but stay close. You can also leash your pup and keep them within sight in other areas of the home. You’ll literally need eyes in the back of your head.

 If you look for them, dogs will give you clues, like barking or scratching the door to get your attention, sniffing and circling with their nose to the ground.

Whisk them outside immediately and fasten the leash before you head out. Once they successfully relieve themselves, praise them affectionately.

Confine, When You Can’t Supervise

A crate or small area like the laundry or mudroom is ideal to confine your dog when you cannot be there. There is no shame in leaving your dog at home for short periods, and there are several methods you can use to help your dog overcome separation anxiety.

Crates and kennels are a perfect solution, like affordable and collapsable crates that transition from training tools to travel gear.

Indoor kennels are also wonderful, and adult dogs (but not toy breeds) enjoy outdoor running kennels, but they can encourage incessant barking

Always Make Alternative Plans When You’re Away

house training puppies

Getting a puppy and training takes time. If your job requires you to be away for over four or five hours, consider offering your home to a mature dog.

Another alternative is having a friend, extended family, or dog walker visit your home for bathroom breaks. 

Some internet advice recommends designating an indoor area, but it can create a long-term problem and ruin your flooring.

FAQs

When you get frustrated, kiss your puppy and focus on the joy. 

1. How To Stop a Puppy From Pooping/Peeing in the House?

Consistency and developing a routine are essential. Also, curb meals and water intake until your puppy gets the hang of it.

2. How Long Does It Take To Potty Train Your Puppy?

Every dog is different, but it’s really up to the effort and planning you put into it. Some pups get the basics quickly; others take months.

3. What Is the Right Age To Potty Train My Puppy?

Once a puppy is weaned, start training as early as seven to eight weeks or when you bring the puppy home.

Final Thought

Having raised beautiful dogs that now roam at the Rainbow Bridge, I envy new puppy owners. Accidents are part of dog ownership— and years on, you won’t remember the frustration of potty training a puppy—it’s the love and affection that’ll get you in the heart.

Monika Martyn
Monika Martyn is a nomadic minimalist and published author. Her pet portfolio includes experience with over forty cats and dogs, and she becomes their surrogate and a valued pack member. One of her proudest accomplishments is typing while petting a fur baby on her lap. She also excels at dog-speak and cat-talk and is working on mastering fish lingo. Aside from her animal advocacy, she is passionate about the environment, plastic pollution, and living with less (not including chocolate and coffee). She practices yoga and meditation faithfully. She’s experienced living abroad and believes that together people can evoke change for the better. Or at least be kind to one another despite our differences. She has an uncanny knack for remembering people’s names. She’s proud of her two Pushcart Nominations, her debut novel, and her marriage. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. Monika believes that education is the biggest gift to humanity at any age.

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