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How To Potty Train A Puppy

Adding a bundle of unconditional love and boundless energy to your family is what joy and excitement feel like. While puppies are utterly adorable, they come with some challenges, one of which is potty training. Teaching a puppy to go potty takes a lot of commitment from its new family.

Potty training pups require routine and behavior conditioning. Owners must commit to the training process, establish regular potty times, understand the pup’s toilet needs, refrain from reprimanding the pup, and reward pups. Crates and leashes work well as training aids.

Completely potty training your pup takes about 3-4 months and, in some pups, even longer. This may seem like a long haul, but it gets easier over time as you establish a potty routine. Using tried and tested techniques, you speed up the process. Teaching your pup using behavior conditioning makes all the difference.

Set Yourself up for Successful Potty Training

Irrespective of your puppy’s stage and training goal, behavior conditioning is the only effective way for your pet to learn.

Dr. Alexa Dias heads up behavioral coaching at the K9 Training Institute. She has 20 years of experience teaching pet owners to work well with their dogs. The k9 Training Institute offers a free workshop on training your pet and reveals secret techniques that professional animal trainers use.

Dr. Alexa Diaz is a leading animal behaviorist with 20 years of experience training service dogs. She has a wealth of knowledge and fascinating insights to share with dog owners. She heads up training at the K9 Training Institute.

Her training methods are basic obedience training. The training techniques are in no way harsh or punishment related. The K9 Training Institute specializes in owner/dog relationships and the best ways to communicate with pets. Training emphasizes the use of body language as opposed to verbal commands.

Pets do not have an inherent knowledge of how and where to potty. A pet owner’s guidance is the only way to successfully train them. Potty training, in particular, requires behavior coaching.

Potty Training Needs a Hands-on Approach

Puppies don’t arrive potty trained, and it is the owner’s responsibility to manage the process. It takes wholehearted commitment to teach your pup the correct way to potty.

Preferably one person in the family should take responsibility for this task. Training entails routine, and schedules play a huge role in setting routine.

Leaving potty training to different household members, especially younger children, delays the process. Your puppy needs constant monitoring, and you need to understand how its bladder works.

Puppies are ruled by their instincts and immediate requirements. Pups need to learn to control these, and they can’t be left to figure this out alone. To successfully potty train your pup in the shortest possible time, you must keep an ongoing eye on your puppy. This is so that you get to know your puppy’s potty cues and train it accordingly.

Set Up a Routine for Your Puppy

This first step in potty training your new family member is setting up a clear, consistent routine. Teaching your puppy how to behave and react requires behavior conditioning and constant supervision. This is your responsibility as the pet’s owner.

A puppy’s routine is critical to its well-being and development. Routine is extremely important to your pet and should be just as important to you. Pets are excellent at predicting situations. Routine makes learning so much easier and more pleasant for them.

The are many benefits to routine, and all of these have a hand in successfully toilet training your puppy:

It helps your puppy adjust to its new family and environment.

Routine gives your pup security.

Consistency reduces anxiety in puppies.

Routine builds confidence for pets.

Pups learn what to do and when to do it.

Good behavior results from routine.

Routine teaches your pet to be disciplined.

Routine ensures that your pet gets enough sleep, playtime, and nutrition.

It fosters a close bond between pet owners and their pets.

Just as much as routine benefits your puppy, it benefits you. By getting into a potty training routine, you will have success far sooner than if you randomly manage your pet’s toilet habits. A good pet owner’s routine must include the following:

Potty time at least 30 minutes after mealtime

An outside trip to potty, preferably once every hour and gradually lengthening the time between potty breaks

Toilet time immediately after a pup wakes up from a nap

An outside potty visit first thing in the morning

A toilet trip right before your pup crates during the day

Removing your pet’s water bowl at least two hours before bedtime

A potty trip last thing at night before the pup settles down to sleep

Toilet time is four hours at night; puppy owners should set the alarm for nighttime toilet breaks

If you take your pup out for a toilet break and it doesn’t relieve itself, try again in another 10 – 15 minutes. Your puppy may get distracted by all the smells, sights, and sounds, but be persistent and wait as long as possible.

Another great potty-training tip is to take your pup outside after an activity; for instance, after playtime, take your pup outside to potty. This reinforces the other routines you have put in place. Keep this up; even if your pup doesn’t need to pee or poop, it learns behavior and association.

Figure Out at What Intervals Your Puppy Needs to Potty

You must monitor how often your puppy’s bladder fills up and be conscientious about taking it outdoors to potty. Puppies cannot control their bladders, so it is up to you to manage this for them.

When you know the time between bladder emptying, you can predict the halfway mark and know when your puppy’s bladder is nearly full. Take your puppy out now and wait for it to potty before you allow it back indoors.

Some puppies will not go in front of you as this distracts them. If your pup doesn’t empty its bladder while you are watching, try moving away and allowing your puppy alone time to relieve itself.

By establishing this pattern, your pup will understand the need to relieve itself before the situation becomes desperate. Take your pup back to the same place each time; it will sniff and use the same spot.

Small breeds of dogs have smaller bladders, and the urge to empty their bladders may be far sooner than a larger breed. Take these into account when planning your puppy’s toilet breaks.

Reward Your Puppy to Increase its Confidence

Puppies are entirely dependent on you for food, water, and guidance. When you are pleased with your pup, it feels good about itself. A reward is a great way to accomplish this.

Many pet owners make the mistake of rewarding their pets with treats. This becomes a habit that could lead to food treats being the only motivation for good behavior.

There are many ways to reward a pup; playtime, petting, verbal praise, toys, and walks. You are responsible for establishing what works best for your pet and using that as a reward. Dogs love your attention just as much as they love snacks. Reward your pet immediately after it has relieved itself. This creates an association between toileting outside and good behavior.

When your pet understands the rules around toileting, start slowing down on the rewards. Ultimately your pet must relieve itself outside when it needs to.

Do Not Reprimand Your Pup for Toileting Inside Your Home

Pet owners often show irritation when a puppy potties inside. A puppy owner must not do this. A negative reaction indicates to a pet that it must not potty in front of you or where you can see its mess. Your pet may learn that this upsets you, but not that this habit is inappropriate.

Reprimanding a puppy for relieving itself indoors teaches it to hide this from you. You may find that your pup goes behind furniture or out-of-sight places, not to upset you.

Never reprimand your pet if you haven’t seen it pee or poop indoors; your pup will not understand the reason for your reprimand and will most likely do the same again.

Any form of punishment, as slight as it may be or even a raised voice, distresses your pup and indicates that its behavior is inappropriate. Dogs love to please, and at this early stage, they can’t discern what of their behavior you disapprove of.

The best practice is to snap your fingers to interrupt the puppy and then take it outside to continue. Take your pup to the same place each time to condition its behavior.

Establishing an interruption technique without raising your voice is useful as a cue for any other behavior modification.

Clean up Thoroughly if Your Puppy Messes Inside

If your pup messes inside, do not make a fuss about it. Please clean up the mess but clean it up very well. The most important is to rid the spot of any urine or poop smell. Dogs return to places with these smells, so don’t tempt your puppy to do what it shouldn’t.

Many household cleaning products contain ammonia which resembles a dog’s urine smell. Rather opt for odorless cleaning products.

The best way to clean mess up is to:

Soak up urine with toilet paper or a paper towel, or pick the poop up in a paper bag.

Use a warm damp cloth to wash the area. Do not use detergent.

Soak up excess water with toilet paper or a damp towel.

Use dog odor spray to refresh the area and remove potty smells.

Enzymatic cleaners work well and are readily available at most pet stores.

If you have a steam cleaner, use this to clean the spot. Some steam cleaners have odor remover humectants that completely remove the odor.

Cleaning up the mess on tiles or hard floors is just as imperative as on carpets. Even though you cannot see or smell the mess, pups still pick up on the odor.

A sign that you may not have noticed or completely removed odor from your pup’s mess is that your pet will sniff, scratch or continuously move around an area.

Suppose your pet keeps relieving itself on the same spot, or you smell an odor but can’t trace it. Help is at hand. Shine a flashlight around the area; this will light up any animal mess.

Try the Crate Training Method

Although not every pet owner is fond of crate training, it is helpful for potty training your pup. You will need to get your pup used to its crate, though.

The first step is to buy an appropriately sized crate. A large crate is not effective, particularly when it comes to potty training. You will need a smaller crate.

Start crate training by coaxing your pup into the crate with a toy or chew object. Do this until the pup is comfortable moving in and out of the crate. Closing your pup in a crate before it’s comfortable is not acceptable and detrimental to your pet.

When your pet is accustomed to its crate, start letting it stay in the crate for very short periods until you are sure that the pet is happy with the experience. Leaving your pet in a crate is a temporary solution, as your pet needs exercise and fresh air.

Crates work really well for potty training, especially at night. If you use a crate for training, only crate your pet for up to four continuous hours at night. Your pup considers its crate a den, and animals generally won’t soil their dens. It is then up to you to take your pup out at night to potty outside and bring it back into the safety of its crate.

The challenge with taking your puppy out at night is that you must wait. Please don’t leave it alone outside. Your pet needs you to validate good behavior.

You can use crates for shorter periods during the day if you need to, but you must ensure your pup has toys or chew things to keep it occupied. Even if your pup is crated, still listen out for scratching, restlessness, or whining, as this may indicate that your pet wants to potty.

Puppies that soil their crates often do so because the crate is too big and does not feel like a safe den.

Important crating guidelines:

Never use crating as punishment for your puppy. Crates must become safe spaces for your pet.

Ensure your dog has access to water when it is in a crate. Water dispensers or secured water bowls work best. Remember to take your pup to relieve itself during a crating period.

Make sure your pet has enough space in its crate to stand up, move around, and fully stretch out.

Make your pet’s crate comfortable by including a dog bed and blanket.

Keep your pet’s favorite toys in the crate.

Please only leave your puppy unattended in its crate for a short time.

Ensure the temperature in and around the crate is moderate and not too hot or cold.

Do not use crates in confined areas; ensure ample airflow around the crate.

Pups Learn to Show You When They Need to Potty

After your pup learns to control toilet habits, your job is still ongoing. Your pup will start showing signs it needs to potty. Potty signs include:

Sniffing around a certain area

Licking its groin area

Walking around in circles, looking for a place to relieve itself


Standing next to a door that opens to its potty area

Barking at the door, it usually exits from

Scratching at a door

Pawing you

Playing and then abruptly stopping or changing behavior

Going back to a place it previously soiled

Even though your puppy can read its toilet cues, you still need to be on hand to give it the correct place to relieve itself. Failing to do this will undo many of the good training and behavior techniques you use.

There are Other Helpful Tips to Assist With Potty Training Your Puppy

Having a routine and putting consistent behavior techniques in place play the biggest role in potty training your pup; there are other useful tips to add to your training efforts:

Put a leash on your pup when you take it outside to relieve itself. If your pet gets distracted, you can move it away from the distraction without letting it run around looking for another spot.

A leash is also useful if you need to keep your puppy close to you inside your home.

Please keep your pet in smaller areas and wait to give it a free roam of the house or garden until it’s fully trained. This makes it easier to manage your pet’s potty training and gives your pet a good sense of appropriate places.

If your pup continues to mess in the same places, don’t give it access to that spot. Remove the temptation and urge to use the same place again.

If your potty-trained pup suddenly starts having mishaps check whether it has a bladder infection or whether its crate or sleeping area is too small or big.

Using puppy pads may be a necessity in certain instances. Approach this situation like outdoor puppy training and maintain the same routine and reward system.


Potty training a puppy is a lengthy process requiring the owner’s supervision and commitment. Routine, regularity, and reward are key to successful training, as are behavior conditioning techniques. The K9 Training Institute offers free training that focuses on behavior and gentle obedience training.

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