Updated: Nov 30
When you bring home your new puppy, it’s hard to know where to start with housetraining, but you know you have to start somewhere–and quickly! Potty training your dog can be an overwhelming experience, but with these 7 easy steps, you’ll have your puppy potty trained in no time!
Step 1: Determine the Elimination Spot
First things first–choose where you want your pup’s potty place will be. If you live in a big-city location where the outside is not easily accessible, you may want to establish an inside location out of the way of the main activity. If you have convenient, immediate outside access to a fenced-in yard right outside your doorstep, you may want to designate a corner of your yard. You may choose to have your dog relieve himself on daily walks. Regardless of your living situation, deciding on a special place for your pup to do his business will let him know what is expected of him.
Whether you want your dog to go inside temporarily or permanently, you’ll need to have a spot convenient to the puppy and out of the way of foot traffic. Those who live in dwellings with limited outside access like apartments or high rises may find inside locations the most convenient. Others may want to introduce a younger puppy to proper methods and move outside later, and others may want a spot to go inside while away.
You’ve got a lot of options when deciding the best surface that works for you and your dog, as no one wants a pup thinking he can go wherever he wants! You can get as fancy as a self-cleaning Wi-Fi and app-controlled potty pad, an artificial grass patch, or disposable potty training pads.
If you choose an outside location, tucking it away from main traffic areas will help keep your yard tidy. Grass, mulched areas, or dirt can be used for your pup’s special area.
Be aware that urine contains different pH levels and nitrogen compounds which can kill grass, especially when the lawn is already treated with products containing nitrogen.
To get rid of urine spots on the grass, you can either reseed the area or allow natural grass to grow back. Keep your lawn well-hydrated. You can also ensure your pup is eating high-quality food with just the right amount of protein to cut down on nitrogen concentration. Certain supplements can help prevent urine spots while also aiding in digestion, but be sure to see if your dog meets any age and weight requirements.
Encouraging your pup to use one spot is easy with a pee post or stake treated with pheromones. There are pee posts shaped like fire hydrants, rocks, and other objects to stand out or blend in with the landscape depending on your preference.
Going on Walks
Some pet owners enjoy introducing leash training and potty training at the same time by going on daily walks. Always make sure you pick up any waste and be courteous of common areas and people who have “curb your dog” signs. Don’t throw bags away in random neighborhood trash cans on the street waiting for collection; rather, use designated waste containers or your own trash bin.
Step 2: Observe & Make a Schedule
Of course, you’ll want to get started right away with potty training, but first, you’ll need to learn your puppy’s natural habits. This step does not have to take long, but don’t skip on the power of simple observation.
Start by studying your puppy to discover the timing of his natural urges. This will help you build a housetraining routine.
Most puppies go after waking up, playing, and eating, so those are great places to begin your observations. Be on the lookout every 30-45 minutes to begin and increase the time the more success your puppy experiences.
Some puppies can hold it longer than others, and of course, bladder size will be a factor depending on the size of your puppy. A puppy may be able to hold its need for about one hour per puppy’s age in months, so see where the sweet spot is for your canine.
In addition to frequency, pay attention to behaviors indicating your puppy is ready for a potty training routine. If he starts sniffing around and searching for a corner, he’s trying to tell you something. Take him outside immediately.
Whatever your observations may be, be sure to write them down somewhere with the time of day and circumstances like activity level, outside stimuli, naptime, etc. Keeping a schedule can be such a helpful tool during the process and will help be proactive in preventing accidents. Your pup will quickly learn your routine when you stay consistent.
Step 3: Patience
You’re not alone if you’re having trouble potty training your puppy. Whether it’s your first puppy training rodeo or you’re an experienced owner, this can be a frustrating process that most people would rather avoid altogether. However, patience is your key to success if you want to save yourself some trouble and get it over with as quickly as possible.
Give your pup a chance to do his business! Waiting for 5 minutes isn’t usually enough time. Pups can get distracted and sniff around at anything they find interesting, so you may need to redirect his attention. If he doesn’t go in around 15 minutes, you can always end the training session and try again at a later time.
Every dog is different, and there’s no magic number for how long it will take your furry friend to be housetrained. Personality will be a key factor in how long it takes to potty train your puppy, as you may well know your new companion can be stubborn! Some are trained quickly, others in 4-6 months, and still others can take up to a year to be fully housebroken.
Don’t forget to be patient with yourself, too! Deep breaths; you’ve got this! Rome wasn’t built in a day, so practicing patience alongside a good attitude will take you far.
Step 4: Accidents Happen
It’s inevitable that your puppy will have accidents. If you’re lucky, potty training will go smoothly, and you won’t have accidents. But eventually, you may need to catch your pup making a mistake. The key is not to get angry or frustrated; instead, use positive reinforcement. When you notice an accident, don’t yell at your dog or rub his nose in it, as negative reinforcement just teaches your dog to fear you and breaks the bonds you’ve worked to establish. Instead, simply pick him up and move him outside (or lead him there). Then praise him for his actions outside and give him a treat when he finishes. This way, he learns that going outside is what he should do after relieving himself indoors.
A dog may break routine and forget its training if a distraction like a new visitor gets your pup overly excited. If your dog is sick, he may have frequent accidents. Make sure to monitor your pup’s health for any changes in bathroom habits.
As much as we might not want to admit it, accidents can happen due to human error. If you’re waiting too long in between potty sessions, you may need to adjust your approach and be flexible with the process.
Step 5: Cleanup Time
If you’re trying to potty train your new puppy, it’s essential that you make cleanup a priority. It’s crucial to clean any indoor space immediately to prevent odors. Use paper towels and cleaners specifically made for pet messes so that you don’t accidentally harm your puppy with harsh chemicals or irritants. You can choose cleaning products containing enzymes that are a catalyst to speed up waste breakdown or use household items like distilled white vinegar on tough stains.
If your puppy has an accident on carpet or fabric, absorb as much waste as you can with paper towels. Don’t rub vigorously, but blot the stain instead. Follow product instructions and wipe the area with a clean towel.
Failing to stay on top of accidents can not only cause foul odors where it sits, but your puppy (and humans) can step in it and track the mess all over your house! We’ve all heard horror stories of a robot vacuum running over unattended accidents–now that’s an epic mess! You can also ruin the subflooring if urine is left to seep into a spot unattended.
If your dog uses your yard as an outside bathroom area, be sure to do a sweep and pick up piles on a regular basis. For inside dogs, keep the designated area clean and odor-free.
And above all, always clean up your pet’s messes when out and about. No one likes stumbling upon an unsightly pile. Waste left out can pose risks to other dogs and wildlife by spreading giardia, attracting unwanted insects, and tainting water sources. Not picking up after your pet is a surefire way to make neighborhood enemies and may even result in a citation if you violate local “pooper scooper” laws.
Step 6: Make it Fun
Once your dog has started to use his pee pad or go consistently outside, you’ll want to teach him to relieve himself on command. Get a bunch of tasty treats and play a game of go potty. Take him outside, go to his favorite bush or patch of grass, and coax him by leaning over and patting your knees saying, Go potty! Pick a consistent phrase to use each time.
You can use a leash to lead your puppy to the designated area. You want to encourage good behavior, and a leash can prevent a puppy from wandering off into an area where you don’t want him to go. Your pup will quickly learn that you holding a leash could mean a treat is coming!
If he starts going in a place outside the potty area, try distraction! Redirect your pup to the elimination spot and reward if the puppy starts heading in that area. Call your pup’s name in an excited manner to grab his attention. Use a high-pitched tone of voice and look for that tail wagging or body wiggling!
Try to set aside time every day for playing with your puppy after bathroom time, like fetch or a game of hide and seek. Your puppy will know fun times are ahead after he goes, so try to offer a variety of play experiences to keep your puppy engaged.
Step 7: Praise & Reward Good Behavior
The reward part of a dog potty training strategy is just as important as the discipline part. If you want your puppy to know that you are pleased with him, you need to make it clear by verbally rewarding him when he does what you want him to do.
If you wait too long, the dog will not connect the action with the praise. Make sure to praise immediately after the desired behavior. Praising frequently helps make that connection for the desired action, and also helps strengthen the human-animal bond.
Puppies absolutely love treats! Offering a variety of scrumptious treats motivates your pup to perform the desired behavior and encourages a strong bond with you. Whether you buy your treats or make them yourself, engaging your puppy’s sense of taste and smell is stimulating and exciting beyond his normal eating routine.