How to Potty Train a Puppy

A puppy sitting on a pee pad

Puppies are positively adorable. They're warm, fuzzy, affectionate and cute. They also pee and poop a lot. To keep your home clean and smelling fresh, you'll need to tackle potty training right away. If you don't know how to potty train a puppy — or if it's been a while since you've had a young dog — read on for a refresher.

In this article, we'll share a bevy of essential potty training tips, offers troubleshooting advice and end with a special section about small breeds. By the time you get to the final paragraph, you'll be ready to housebreak your newest furry addition.

How to Potty Train a Puppy

Healthy puppies have very efficient digestive systems — and some of them pee up to 12 times a day! It's your job to figure out exactly when they need to go and teach them where to go. Need help? No problem; let's review some time-tested toilet training steps.

Learn When He Needs to Go

A potty-bound puppy is pretty easy to spot. He'll start sniffing around for a good place (probably a corner), he'll look anxious and he might whimper. That's your cue to lead him outside and let him do his business.

Develop and Stick to a Routine

Developing a routine can help your fuzzy friend learn when and where he can go to the bathroom. Here's how to potty train a puppy:

  1. Take your pooch outside to potty as soon as he wakes up — and we mean immediately.
  2. Similarly, take your pup outside after he's eaten or drunk anything.
  3. Create or assign a toilet area in your yard. He'll soon associate that patch with potty time.
  4. Make sure you take him outside at least every two hours.
  5. When he goes, praise him — give him a puppy treat and a snuggle.
  6. Don't punish him for accidents. He's just a little pup trying to learn the ropes. Besides, punishment can actually slow the potty training process.
  7. Be consistent and positive. Stay on track and you'll soon see success.

Establish Good Habits from the Get-Go

Purina doggy experts agree that establishing great habits from the get-go is a vital part of potty training. Positive reinforcement is the best and most effective way to establish a close relationship with your new pooch, so try to catch him being good. You can foster good behaviour by:

  • Getting your pup's attention with a low-pitched, serious warning sound, like "Ahh!"
  • Distracting him with a more appropriate activity
  • Enthusiastically praising good behaviour with a high-pitched "Good puppy!" and a treat

Your puppy wants to please you. If you use positive rather than negative reinforcement, your pup will associate training time and behaving appropriately with praise.

Don't Carry Him Outside

This goes against most people's instincts — but try not to carry your pup outside during toilet training. If you do, he might wait to be carried in the future instead of walking by himself. Instead, show him the way on foot and let him toddle after you. Walking will stimulate his bowels and bladder — and it'll give him more confidence in himself and in his surroundings.

Set a Timer

If you think you might forget to take your puppy out, or if you live in an apartment and need time to take your pup to an appropriate place, set a timer. Once an hour is perfect, especially at the beginning. You'll have more opportunities to praise him for success when he pees in the potty spot!

Use Baby Gates

Baby gates are great for puppy potty training. Metal gates are ideal because puppies tend to chew. If you go with wooden gates, keep an eye on them to make sure they stay in one piece. If you restrict your puppy's unsupervised space inside the house, they're more likely to ask to go out — and if they do have an accident, it won't be hard to find.

Consider Crate Training

Want to know how to housebreak your puppy quickly? Consider crate training. Before they leave mom, puppies know not to soil their beds. Consequently, they're much less likely to soil the inside of a crate than your kitchen floor — or heaven forbid, your new sofa. Instead, they'll hold on a little longer or ask to go out. If you'd like to learn more about crate training, read our crate training how-to guide.

Potty Training: FAQs and Troubleshooting

Things don't always go to plan. If you have questions about how to potty train a puppy or need to troubleshoot, you've come to the right place. Let's take a look at a few of the most common toilet training queries and issues.

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Pup?

Most people fully potty train their puppies within four to six months. That sounds like a long time, but you'll make constant progress. The number of accidents you'll need to deal with will reduce as you go on, and he'll get consistently better at telling you when he needs to go out.

What About Puppy Pads?

Try to stay away from puppy training pads unless you absolutely have to use them. Why? Because doggie might get confused if you let him pee or poop inside. If you do decide to use them, keep them close to your front door so they're closely associated with going outside.

Cleaning Up Accidents

Accidents are an inevitable part of the potty learning process. Stay calm and don't be tempted to punish your pooch. If you catch him in the act, quickly take him outside to his toilet area. Then — and preferably when he's not looking — clean up the mess and follow with a neutralising disinfectant spray.

Special Steps for Little Dogs

Small-breed dogs sometimes need extra help when it comes to potty training. Little dogs like dachshunds, pugs, Maltese, Chihuahuas and shih tzus have high metabolisms and tiny bladders, so they burn through food and need to potty more frequently. Here are two ways you can get to the toilet training finish line anyway:

Take Him Out Often

The solution to a small bladder is more time outside. Has he eaten or drunk anything lately? Time to go outside. Is playtime over? Time to go outside. Every 30 minutes during the daytime is ideal — and remember to reward him when he's successful.

Combine Sleep and Potty Training

If you decide to crate train, you might find small-breed potty training easier. He won't want to soil his sleeping area, so he'll probably let you know (loudly) when it's time to go. Don't worry — after the first few weeks, nighttime potty trips should diminish.

Potty Training Recap

There may not be a silver bullet puppy potty training method, but if you follow the tips at the beginning of this article, you'll get there. Setbacks are common, so don't worry if you and your furry pal don't get toileting down pat right away. Patience, understanding and a good supply of odour neutraliser go a long way — oh, and a touch of humour. After all, your little guy will only be this young once.

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