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Here’s Everything To Know About Potty Training Your Puppy *

a golden retriever laying on a white surface with several rolls of toilet paper

*GUEST POST

Potty training your dog is the very first form of training you will set up for your puppy. Generally, puppies tend to poop and pee a lot when they are just a few weeks old, so when you bring one home, getting him or her accustomed to the potty rules of the house should be priority number one.

Of course, there are many tactics like crate training and encouraging reinforcements that can help in potty training your dog effectively. Try and test every method till you figure out which one your puppy responds to best.

Small brown and white dog sleeping on a white surface

Why Should You Potty Train Your Dog? 

Potty training is, in brief, the technique required to stop your puppy from peeing and pooping in the house. To a young dog, it is also their first introduction to learning about your expectations as their caretaker. House training is an important aspect of a dog’s growth cycle because it enables him or her to respond to physiological signals in a more streamlined and conscious fashion.

House training your puppy centers around making your puppy independent. Not only does your puppy learn about where and how they should manage their ‘business’, but thanks to potty training, your puppy is more aware of their bodily functions. 

It is in every dog’s natural instinct to go outside when nature calls, but if you live with your puppy in an apartment, indoor potty training is the best way to let your puppy know where he should go when the time comes.  

A brown, black and white puppy standing on a white surface, barking

When Should I Start Potty Training My Dog?

When adopting a puppy, you usually get them home when they are about 45 days old. At this stage of their development, pups are still too tiny and fragile to potty train. Ideally, you should start potty training your puppy when he or she is at least 12 to 16 weeks old. 

By this age, pups have a better understanding of their bowel movements and are able to respond to their body signals better. 

By the 16-week mark, puppies’ brains have developed to around 80% of their full size. This means that they have both emotionally bonded with you and have developed enough cognitive abilities to understand whether you like or dislike their behavior.

Tips to Potty Train Your Pet

Potty training your dog requires commitment and a can-do attitude – it takes days to progress and will demand your undivided attention. To potty train your dog indoors, you need proper equipment like a harness or collar, an extendable poop-scoop, sanitizing agents, cleaning supplies, litter boxes, potty pads, and plenty of treats for persuasion and encouragement. 

Here are some tips on potty training your pet for a rewarding turn-out.

a small golden-brown puppy sleeping surrounded by white bedding

Create a Fixed Schedule  

Puppies and dogs may not know what time it is but they fall into patterns and routines easily. Known to be an extremely adaptive species, puppies need consistency and stability in their lives, especially when it comes to potty training. 

Puppies tend to poop and pee immediately after a meal, after a nap, and after active playtime, and before bedtime. Schedule his or her potty breaks accordingly. Taking your dog or puppy out at regular intervals of time will help regularize their body clock and digestive system. 

This way, your dog will signal you when they are ready to go and it will also be simpler for you because you have a time chart to refer to. 

Remember to keep a keen eye

Puppies and dogs may not know what time it is but they fall into patterns and routines easily. Known to be an extremely adaptive species, puppies need consistency and stability in their lives, especially when it comes to potty training. 

Puppies tend to poop and pee immediately after a meal, after a nap, and after active playtime, and before bedtime. Schedule his or her potty breaks accordingly. Taking your dog or puppy out at regular intervals of time will help regularize their body clock and digestive system. 

This way, your dog will signal you when they are ready to go and it will also be simpler for you because you have a time chart to refer to. 

Corgi puppy sitting in a pen indoors with puppy supplies around it

Start with Crate Training 

One thing you can count on is that your puppy isn’t going to pee or poop in the same place that he or she rests and sleeps. So, get your puppy a crate to call his home for a week when you’re potty training. Every time your puppy gets away from the crate, know that your dog may need to go do his thing. 

Crate training is a crucial element of potty training because it helps you monitor their actions at night when everyone in the house is asleep. 

Using the right crate with the right attitude

There are a few things to factor in when getting your pup a crate. Make sure you get the right size because anything too large may give your pup enough space to pee and poop in one corner of the crate. Ideally, crates for potty training should be spacious enough for your pup to sleep, get up, and adjust his or her position. 

Considering puppies are one-third their whole size by the time they’re ready for adoption, use a crate with a detachable divider. As your pup grows bigger, remove the divider for more space.  

Additionally, a crate might seem like a confinement zone but try not to treat it as a punishment. Make it cozy with soft bedding and comforting linens to make your pup feel welcome in it even though you may have an ulterior motive as a potty trainer. 

Corgi puppy sitting outdoors on a walk way holding a leash in it's mouth

Take Your Dog Out Often

You need to take your puppy out at least twice daily, and eventually introduce them to a leash. The earlier you do this, the faster they’ll learn – although it’s not important to rush the process.

It’s best to wait until your puppy is around 4-6 months old – this is when their brains are very moldable and able to learn effectively. You can at first simply let them walk around the house with the leash on, build up some confidence, and then take them for short nearby walks.

This will allow them to satisfy their instinct to mark their territory and will also let them relieve themselves out in the open – just as nature intended. It will also let your dog get accustomed to pooping on several different surfaces – from concrete to grass, sand, or any other ideal surface.

Soon, daily walks will become a thing they look forward to immensely – strengthening the bond between you and your dog. 

Find out how to teach your dog to behave in a park before you take daily walks to the next level. 

small black and brown puppy sitting on a puppy pee pad indoors

Handling Potty Training in an Apartment

If you’re potty training your puppy in an apartment, do it with litter boxes and potty pads. Once you notice signs such as squatting or circling around, immediately take your pup to the litter box. 

Give them a few minutes to look around and sniff up all the nearby smells for scent memory – this will get them accustomed to the litter box area and help them associate it with relieving themselves. Over time, they will simply walk over to their designated spot and go to town without any prompting.

Provide Treats

Treats are special and delicious tokens of encouragement for dogs and pups and they work like a charm when you’re potty training them. After every successful potty session, give them a treat to help positively reinforce the behavior.

Now you’ve given them all the more reason to go to their designated potty spots instead of going indoors.  Just remember to keep an eye on daily treat consumption, however. Too many treats can wreak havoc on a young dog’s digestive system.

a husky puppy double high-fiving a person

Use Positive Reinforcement

Puppies thrive on positive energy and they usually look to you for it, so make potty training a rewarding experience for yourself and your puppy with praises and loving words of encouragement. 

Applaud them or cheer them on once they’ve finished pooping. Make sure they are done first, however – dogs can get very charged up when given attention and praise, and your pup might make an unpleasant mess if they get too excited while taking a poop break. 

If you wish to potty train your dog in 7 days, motivate them with positive reinforcement every now and then, and they’ll learn much quicker. 

If your dog does mess up, as they inevitably will, remember to keep calm and stick to the program. 

If your dog does make a mess in the wrong spot, quickly take them to the right area, and praise them if they do the job properly.

a small brown and white puppy sitting on carpet behind a urine stain

Clean Up Errors ASAP

If your dog relieves themselves in the wrong spot, it’s very important to make sure that they do not learn to associate it with their bowel movements. Dogs have a sense of smell that’s over 10,000 times more acute than ours – meaning that even if we wipe a spot clean, they can still detect the odor from previous pit stops.

To avoid this, consider using an enzymatic cleaner. This nifty solution uses organic catalysts to break down stains and prevents even a dog’s keen nose from picking up unwanted smells.

long-haired black, white and brown puppy sitting inside a white porcelain toilet

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Dog?

To train a puppy properly, it can take up to 8 weeks. 

By this time, your pup should be thorough with the process. By 8 weeks, most puppies are well-aware of their surroundings, they know where they have to potty, and their routine is pretty much set. That said, puppy training time frames can be highly varied. Some factors that come into play here are:

  • The breed of dog
  • Their individual personalities
  • Any traumatic history
  • Body metabolism
  • Whether the dog lives indoors or outdoors

As you can see, there’s quite a lot to consider. Just stay patient, and your dog will eventually get the hang of it – eventually, they will follow potty routines by themselves and require little to no supervision.

A dog is fully trained by the age of 9 months to a year. By this time, they should make absolutely no mistakes and have zero accidents, except in the case of illness or injury. Smaller breeds may take a bit longer to learn, considering that their smaller bladders and faster metabolisms present a unique challenge.

Remember to pay attention to your dog’s health during the process.

Sometimes, a dog may take longer than usual to get potty trained – while this could just be factored into their personality and confidence, sometimes, a dog’s potty training can be sidelined by an injury or infection.

UTIs in particular can make passing urine painful for your dog – making it much harder to train them. Make sure to follow up on such concerns with your vet – don’t keep your pup waiting.

a golden retriever laying on a white surface with several rolls of toilet paper and text states: potty training your puppy, everything you need to know

Some Final Thoughts 

Potty training your dog isn’t an exact science. There are plenty of things to keep in mind such as the dog’s natural environment, his or her ability to train, clear communication on your part, and your pup’s willingness to learn and adapt. 

Just do the best you can, and do it with love.


Cartoon portrait of a man with black hair and glasses

About the Author

A self-confessed “pawrent”, Paul Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents.

Connect with Paul Andrews on LinkedIn

44 Comments

  • Tiffany McCullough - Metaphysical Mama
    August 13, 2021 at 11:07 am

    Great post! I wish I had this when I was potty training my dogs, it would have made it much more pleasant. Training dogs can be a lot of work, thanks for sharing this information to help make it a little easier.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 13, 2021 at 10:15 pm

      Yes, it can be a lot of work. That being said, it’s SO worth it to have a well-behaved and well-adjusted dog as they get older. Isn’t it? 🙂

      Reply
  • Michelle & The Paw Pack
    August 13, 2021 at 6:10 pm

    It’s been yeaars now since I last had to worry about potty training! I remember my boys took awhile to fully potty train, which is pretty common for small breed dogs, but once they got it they got it. I trained both of mine to go outside only while living in a walk up city apartment, which wasn’t very fun, but we got the job done.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 13, 2021 at 10:14 pm

      It’s been years for me too, until now. Having a puppy again has been quiet the fun reminder of all the work that goes into raising a puppy as of late lol

      Reply
  • Ruth Epstein
    August 13, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    I have never had a puppy, have always rescued older dogs although I had to potty train Layla as she had been an outdoor only dog but she learned quickly and we are on a strict routine to this day. As for crates have never used one and do not believe in them. I never knew what they were till I go to the USA.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 13, 2021 at 10:12 pm

      I am a huge fan of crate training BUT there needs to be a clear distinction between crate training and leaving your dog in the crate for hours on end. My dogs all view the crate as a safe place and most of the day now it’s just there, door open (or off entirely) with bedding in it as a safe place that they can retreat to. That started with us making it a safe and happy place when they are young. It pulls on the way they are biologically wired, providing them with a den just as they would have had in the wild. A place they can retreat to when they want to be safe if something is making them anxious. When we’re not home, our dogs are loose in the ‘dog room’, a bedroom that is just for them. However, I know if they ever had to stay at the vet in a kennel there or anything like that, they are used to the crate and it would be far less stressful for them.

      Reply
  • Marjorie at Dash Kitten
    August 13, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    I honestly would not have the patience to train a puppy and would need to refer to posts like this if I had a puppy landed on me. The one thing I DO agree on is that positive reinforcement is key to good training. Who needs a dog who is afraid because they get yelled at instead of puppy who learns bit by

    It is a complex issue with so many factors that I would go running to the rescue and ask for an older dog who enjoyed long walks 😉

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 14, 2021 at 9:42 am

      It’s definitely a process that requires commitment! We’re working through it right now with Lucifer and I had forgotten how much work it takes haha

      Reply
  • Terri
    August 14, 2021 at 1:28 am

    Potty training always seems so overwhelming. These steps makes it a lot more manageable, especially with what to except and ways to overcome setbacks. Great article!

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 14, 2021 at 9:36 am

      It’s definitely a lot of work, requiring patience and commitment. However, if you’re armed with the right information, it can go relatively smoothly!

      Reply
  • Robin
    August 14, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    These are such great ideas! I hadn’t thought about crate training as being a way to potty train a dog. You have a really interesting point there. I think that the most important point is – patience. Learning is hard work and it takes time. Dogs need time to learn just like we do.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 16, 2021 at 9:49 am

      Yes!! There are many different methods but they all have one thing in common – the need for patience.

      Reply
  • Kamira Gayle
    August 15, 2021 at 10:57 am

    I’ve never had a dog, however, have had cats. I remember doing similar steps in training to go potty. As soon as my little one finished eating I’d put her in the litter box. She caught on fast. I had no idea puppies can utilize litter in the same fashion for potty training. I only ever heard of wee wee pads for dogs. Patience is a virtue for sure and positive reinforcement too. Animals are smart. Following your tips I have no doubt puppies will catch on fast.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 16, 2021 at 9:47 am

      Yes, there are a few different methods. We actually use a fake grass mat with a pee pad underneath for our puppy right now. It helps to enforce the idea that grass = potty and has been working great with the transition to encouraging him to do his business outside.

      Reply
  • Sadie
    August 15, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Oh Boy! I remember this phase (x 3). I think it is even harder with older rescue dogs that are used to being confined and doing their business in their crate. Definitely agree that praise and positive reinforcement is the best method for training.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 16, 2021 at 9:45 am

      Yes, the older they get, the harder the training process is. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done, but it takes a lot more time, effort and, of course, patience.

      Reply
  • Nikki
    August 15, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    It’s been so long since we last potty-trained but I remember our biggest mistake was confusing separation anxiety “accidents” for not being potty trained! Took us weeks to realize he had anxiety that was causing issues, not that he didn’t understand.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 16, 2021 at 9:43 am

      Yes! There are definitely different causes of accidents that we need to be familiar with. Separation anxiety accidents, over-excitement accidents, nervousness/fear accidents… Recognizing the reason it happens is the first step to addressing it.

      Reply
  • Tiffany
    August 15, 2021 at 7:24 pm

    Having a schedule is key! I even record when they eat, sleep, pee, poop, etc so I have a better idea when they will need to go in the future…LOL

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 16, 2021 at 9:41 am

      That’s a great tip!

      Reply
  • Jana Rade
    August 15, 2021 at 8:20 pm

    Puppies are keen learners, and when it’s done correctly, they can learn very fast. That said, it is my experience that some learn faster than others. Jasmine was potty trained in a couple of weeks–truly! (Me working from home likely helped.) JD, even though I used the same methods, took much longer.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 16, 2021 at 9:41 am

      This is definitely true! Going through the potty training process with Lucifer has opened my eyes to just how true that is. I have never had a puppy that picked up on it as quickly as he has (we’re super lucky lol)

      Reply
  • BJ Bangs
    August 16, 2021 at 8:17 am

    Very comprehensive post. It’s interesting to know that you need to wait a bit till a pup is ready to be potty trained. Also, keeping to a schedule is interesting. Great post.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 16, 2021 at 9:38 am

      Dogs are such creatures of habit. A schedule can make a HUGE difference in how quickly a pup will pick up on the training.

      Reply
  • Sophie Harriet
    August 18, 2021 at 4:27 am

    It sounds like hard work to potty train a puppy, but it is obviously such a necessary step! I’ve never had a dog but this would be a great article to refer back to if I ever get a puppy in the future.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 21, 2021 at 10:05 am

      Training a puppy, including potty training, requires a lot of time and effort. However, if you invest the time in the beginning, you set yourself up with a well-behaved dog for the remainder of their lives.

      Reply
  • Rosie Ireland
    August 18, 2021 at 11:31 am

    My sister said her puppy made her feel like she had a newborn baby. Potty training was tough for her but she was prepared for lots of accidents!
    Great tips, as usual!
    Rosie

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 21, 2021 at 10:04 am

      I can definitely understand that comparison!

      Reply
  • Nkem
    August 19, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    I wish I knew these tips and information back when I had a puppy in high school! Haha there was a lot of dog pee everywhere.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 21, 2021 at 10:01 am

      It’s definitely an experience, isn’t it! Our current puppy is my first-time puppy training since high school and I’m being reminded quickly of just how much work goes into it.

      Reply
  • Stephanie Renee
    August 19, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    This is such a great post, and offers some great information on potty training for puppies. My sister recently added a new puppy to her family, and we offered her some advice on potty training her puppy. She started with the crate training, and stayed on a consistent schedule. That seemed to helped out so much. Thank you for sharing this information.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 21, 2021 at 10:00 am

      I am a huge fan of using the crate when potty training. It really does make the process so much easier for everyone involved (including the puppy).

      Reply
  • Stella
    August 20, 2021 at 5:54 pm

    A very useful, well-laid-out post. I have to admit that potty training is one of the biggest reasons why I am still on the fence about getting a dog. I feel like I just finished potty training my kids and this seems like even more work. Maybe sometime in the future, I will be ready to take on a challenge because I would love to have a dog to accompany me in the second half of my life.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 21, 2021 at 9:56 am

      Have you considered adopting older? We knew that we weren’t in a position to be able to potty train a puppy when we adopted Indiana. We chose him because he was 1 1/2 and already housebroken, but still super young so that we’d get most of his life with us.

      Reply
  • Seriah Sargenton
    August 21, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    Potty training a puppy is one of the hardest tasks I have ever done. I loved using the cage at times because it helped me to control the number of accidents that would happen sometimes when she wasn’t inside.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 22, 2021 at 10:16 am

      Yes, the crate is a great way to help control accidents, especially at night by offering a safe space your dog can sleep while limiting the space that is available to them.

      Reply
  • Lynn
    August 23, 2021 at 2:29 am

    Great post, Britt! My SIL & BIL got a new puppy earlier this year and I remember speaking with her about potty training! My SIL told me all of the stories haha! I’ll have to refer back to this if I ever get a puppy of my own! Thanks for sharing x

    Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 24, 2021 at 8:29 am

      We’re in the thick of it right now with our newest addition to the family. Luckily for us, Lucifer has been a DREAM to potty train compared to puppies that I have had in the past!

      Reply
  • Lyosha
    August 24, 2021 at 4:56 am

    patience and schedule is the only thing really for all of my dogs. I think potty training is the only downside of having a puppy

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 24, 2021 at 8:25 am

      This is so true! We adopted Indy when he was a little older because we weren’t in the position to potty train at the time.

      Reply
  • Erica (The Prepping Wife)
    August 24, 2021 at 8:50 am

    My husband and I have been discussing the idea of a puppy, so this was a fantastic read! I think that we will definitely crate-train ours. Our cat has a couple of places in the house that are “safe spaces” meaning if we’re playing and he decides it’s over, he can retreat there and is left alone. I would definitely want the same for any other animals we have in the future, including puppies.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 24, 2021 at 3:31 pm

      Yes, it’s so important to have a space that they know is going to be safe when they just need to be left alone.

      Reply
  • Tiffany
    September 14, 2021 at 3:38 am

    I had no idea that you had to wait to potty train puppies, or that they needed schedules, patterns, or routines. There is so much I do know about them lol. When I babysat the kids their dogs and cat were really good about telling you they wanted to go outside, lol. 🙂

    Reply
    • Britt
      September 14, 2021 at 8:14 am

      They eventually get to that point, where they let you know when it’s potty time. Our boy Lucifer is just really getting the hang of that now.

      Reply

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