How To Potty Train A Puppy: A Step-By-Step Guide

rescue dog potty training problems

Many first-time dog owners are terrified of potty training a puppy. When you first start, the task seems impossible. But if you break it down into smaller, more manageable steps, you can do it, just like you can do many things in life and puppy training.

By having a strategy, being patient, and paying attention, you can set your puppy up for success, educate them on where to pee and poop, and develop their skills in creating appropriate boundaries in your house.

Put yourself in the right frame of mind before you start.

Remember this simple puppy potty training advice: “The key to your puppy learning how not to go inside is not allowing them to go inside!” According to Tyler Muto, owner and principal trainer of considering The Dog and K9 Connection Dog Training in Buffalo, New York,

To state, the case seems to be a given. It’s important to start potty training with the mindset that it’s not about punishing your dog for using the bathroom inside, especially in the beginning. The chance is to guarantee that children always have access to fresh air.

Therefore, the real training begins with the dog’s owners. No matter how “good” your puppy is, potty training can only succeed if you are consistent, rewarding with your time, and willing to praise good behaviour.

Get a crate first.

In Muto’s opinion, a crate is an essential tool for potty training (many other trainers agree). Keeping your puppy in their own space will immensely benefit potty and general training. A crate will help your puppy learn to “hold it” since a dog normally won’t want to contaminate an area where they spend time living and sleeping. It gives them a safe place to roam around on their own, so they don’t sneak into your house to use the bathroom, and you don’t find them until it’s too late.

It takes two things to ensure your dog views the crate as their space.

  1. First, make sure the crate is the right size. The size of the crate should allow your dog to sit, lay down, and turn around without being too large so that they can use part of it as a restroom. A crate with a divider that can be changed to fit different sizes is good for small puppies that will quickly get bigger.
    2. Spend enough time in the crate with your puppy so that they begin to call it home. Your dog should learn to equate being secure and content in the crate with good experiences. It’s important to treat using the crate as a punishment.

If your dog doesn’t urinate or defecate during a potty break, ensure they return to its crate or enclosed area once inside the house. Don’t let them go around your house unsupervised.

Go outdoors and try again after another 15 minutes in the crate (or longer if you’ve decided that your dog can tolerate it for longer).

“What happens is that it may be pretty overwhelming outside, so it’s easy for a puppy’s mind to drift elsewhere and forget they have to go unless they have to go seriously,” says Blake Rodriguez of Dream Come True K9 in New York. Then, in an environment where they feel comfortable, they declare, “Oh yeah, I have to pee. If left to their own devices, they will find a restroom and move to another area to rest.

You can use confinement even if your puppy is not in its crate. If your home has many floors or rooms, using a baby gate effectively reduces the amount of space (and secret potty spots) your dog has access to. When your puppy is inside the house, it should spend a lot of time sleeping or chewing on toys in its crate. Keep an eye on them as much as possible when they’re outside the crate to reduce the likelihood of covert poop and pee.

Step two of potty training should develop into creating a schedule.

Consistency is key when potty training a child. If you start a regular daily training program for your dog, they will physically learn how to use the house. They’ll feel safe, and it’ll build canine-human trust.

Start a schedule that includes creativity to promote consistency:

The time of meals (at the same time each day).

Bathroom breaks

Crate time or other solitary confinement.

Game time

Sleep time

Make sure that everyone in your family understands and adheres to the schedule.

Maintain mental distance from the schedule as well. To ensure that everyone can see it, print it out, place it on the refrigerator, or send it to each person’s phone.

In a journal, you can also note accidents and advancements in the time between restroom breaks.

It takes puppies about five months to fully develop bladder control. If you just brought a young puppy home or are starting the training process, start by taking them outdoors every 45 minutes while they are awake. Keep an eye on your puppy and make adjustments as required. Over time, the gaps between potty trips could grow longer. You can figure out how long your puppy should be able to hold it as you advance using the one-hour-per-month rule. So a three-month-old puppy should be able to hold it for that long. They won’t be able to make it to three hours on the spot, so start gently and work your way up to it.

3. Go to the bathroom!

You have an effective foundation for potty training success when you have a schedule and crate. Taking your dog outside for a potty break is a key part of this schedule.

When using the restroom, keep in mind the following:

The first time: Bring your pup to a designated outdoor potty time when you initially come home. Make sure to associate going to the bathroom with this area.

It’s best to start by attaching a leash to your dog. Puppies can walk off and choose to enjoy a roll on the grass instead of getting down to business because they are frequently sidetracked. You want to keep kids focused during potty time. This rule must be followed even by people with backyards. Suppose you can’t quickly reward your dog after they relieve itself outside. In that case, it will be more challenging for them to comprehend that this is the desired habit (also, it can make for a messy backyard).

Most people don’t underestimate how important it is to reward themselves when they walk outside. It simplifies things tremendously.

Every day: Ideally, give them 10 to 15 minutes to smell before letting them go. Keep the enthusiasm and discussion to a minimum to keep them focused on the task. If they refuse to go, bring them back inside and place them in their crate.

Create a verbal cue by telling the puppy to go potty using the word or phrase you will now use to denote the action, such as “go potty” or “do your business.” Pick a word or phrase that is unlikely to be used again. Instil that word or phrase in your dog so that it will be associated with the desired activity whenever they move. Timing is important. If you keep speaking the word to them when they’re not reacting, they probably won’t make the connection between it and what you’re saying. Check to see if they have just started to urinate or, with practice, when they are JUST ABOUT to urinate (if you’ve learned to read their signals that they are about to poop or pee). Use the word just once.

Give your dog a high-value treat after they depart to reinforce that this was exactly what you wanted them to accomplish. Make sure that this treatment is genuinely enjoyable, especially at first. As soon as they are done urinating or fecating, please give them a treat once, and don’t give them treats constantly while you are walking. According to Muto, people frequently undervalue the significance of rewarding themselves when they go outside. This simplifies things tremendously. I’ve seen cases when people do everything correctly, except not rewarding the dog for going outside. Then they start handing out candy all of a sudden. You can start complimenting someone at some point, such as “good girl, good potty.”

Step 4: Keep using the restroom! (overcompensate, specifically)

Stick to your schedule to prevent missing out on travel opportunities. Although every pup will eventually have an accident, it’s important to keep going inside from becoming commonplace. Therefore, when in doubt, overcompensate. “We have to be the ones who are going above and above to bring them out more,” says Rodriguez. Therefore, if you’re fortunate enough to set up a schedule that teaches your dog to go outside, you must be prudent and have good time management skills when you bring your dog inside. As long as we’re doing our job of overcompensating, taking the dog, and effectively managing our time, the dog has a reason to hold it. The dog then picks up on the pattern.

Step 5: Respond appropriately to mishaps.

Accidents can be significantly decreased by adhering to a schedule and keeping an eye on your dog, but they do occur. It also matters how you handle calamities. If your puppy is urinating or pooping inside the house while you are peeing, cheer or calmly say “NO” in a harsh voice (one expert we know uses the word “NOPE” because screaming is tough).

But if you subsequently find a filthy place inside the house, pick it up immediately. Because they won’t comprehend why you’re upset, avoid startling your puppy or attempting to reprimand them (avoid, for instance, rubbing your dog’s nose in their excrement). Use mistakes as learning opportunities. How long did your dog wait after a walk before going potty? Next time, take them out after 50 minutes.

Use an effective, non-toxic, enzymatic cleanser to clean the unclean area thoroughly and eliminate the smell. They’ll be more likely to play another round there if they don’t.

It’s important to remember that some dogs may pee or poop inside the house as a sign of fear or trauma. Finding a dog trainer or behaviourist to help with these issues is a good idea if you believe your dog is engaging in any of these activities.

Using paper and puppy pads for training

We discourage employing this strategy, as do many other trainers. We disagree with dog owners who use wee-wee pads (or pee pads) and paper because they find it convenient or because they believe their puppies can’t go outside while they are still receiving their vaccinations.

In essence, pee pads teach your dog to urinate within your home. Many dog owners start using pads with the idea of utilizing them as the first step in potty training their dogs before teaching them to relieve themselves outside. This rarely works. Most of the time, it merely delays and complicates the potty training process. Rodriguez cites wee-wee pad training and giving people’s dogs to pee inside as two of the hardest things. “They suddenly want their dog to understand that they should stop doing it. And a dog has a very hard time comprehending it.

The fact that they increase the expense, having poop and pee in your house is unclean, and many dogs like chewing on them are additional drawbacks. If getting outside is difficult for you or your dog owing to mobility issues, pee pads are an alternative. Outside is the best place for potty training since it offers your important dog opportunities for socialization and mental stimulation. However, take your dog outside if you have the chance.

While training your puppy to go potty will take some time and persistence, the lessons they’ll learn and the bond you’ll develop with them will help them in many other areas of their life.

Frequently asked questions regarding potty training puppies.

How do you stop a puppy from urinating and pooping in your house?

Again, the simplest course of action is to allow them to go to the interior. One of the most important parts of potty training is managing your time and making sure you’re taking your dog outside as frequently as you can, rather than focusing on punishing them when they (inevitably) do go inside. Confinement is the additional element. Having your dog in a crate or other enclosed space in the house will help prevent them from sneaking off and going inside to relieve themselves, as was discussed above. The more regularly they are allowed to do so, the harder it will be for kids to understand that they should only use the potty outside. Keeping a schedule is also important.

What age is optimal for potty training a puppy?

You can start potty training a puppy at around eight weeks of age (ideally, puppies stay with their mother at least until eight weeks of age, if not longer). Ideally, it would help if you started potty training your child between 8 and 16 weeks. Young puppies have small bowels and bladders, but it takes them around five months to properly develop bladder control. While you can start potty training an older puppy or dog immediately, it may take longer for the lessons to stick if the animal has had a lot of time to develop undesired tendencies.

How long does it take to train a dog to go potty?

One of the many factors that will affect how long it takes to completely potty train your puppy is your ability to stick to your schedule. Depending on you, your dog’s breed, age, temperament, and circumstances, it could take a few weeks or much longer—up to several months. Although the process is not easy, if you persevere and are patient, your pup WILL stick. Though most of the time, they’re just bumps, remember that you will certainly have some setbacks. If you’re truly having trouble, talk to a trainer; they might be able to figure out what’s causing your persistent potty problems.