Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
How Long Does It Take to Potty Train a Puppy?
If you are wondering how to potty train your puppy if you work all day, it's important to realize that successful potty training takes time, close supervision, and lots of patience.
Forget about potty training systems that promise fast results (like getting a puppy potty trained in under a week). Most puppies take about eight weeks or even longer to be successfully potty trained even with constant supervision.
Are You Really Ready for a Puppy?
If you are a busy person and do not have a puppy yet but are considering getting one, you will need to carefully evaluate whether a puppy is truly a good decision. You may find that adopting an older dog that is already potty trained is a better option. There are countless potty-trained dogs in shelters and at dog rescues that are desperately in need of a home.
If you work full-time and have your heart set on getting a puppy or already have one, it is still possible to potty train your puppy, but it won't be as easy as it will be for someone who stays at home or works part-time. Below are two solid options for busy pet parents who work full-time.
How to Potty Train Your Puppy If You Work Long Hours
If you work all day you are left with two options:
- Find a qualified daycare provider or a dog walker or pet sitter who can help you with the potty-training process while you are at work all day.
- Set up a safe, puppy-proofed area on the floor and cover it with pee pads or newspaper and accept the fact that your pup's potty-training progress might proceed at a slower pace.
Leaving a Puppy Outdoors Isn't a Good Option
There is a third option as well, which is delegating the pup to a backyard, but these latchkey puppies end up getting into trouble in some way or another. They may ingest things they shouldn't, which can lead to upset tummies and even intestinal blockages and expensive surgeries. These unsupervised pups may also rehearse troublesome behaviors such as digging, barking, chewing, or attempting to escape the yard.
On top of this, staying in the yard teaches the pup to go potty wherever he wants to and whenever he wants, which prevents him from being successfully potty trained when inside the house. Not to mention, the pup will be vulnerable to theft, poisoning, teasing from ill-minded people, extreme weather, and potentially dangerous critters such as snakes, skunks, raccoons, and even birds of prey.
Why You Shouldn't Use a Crate for Long Hours
Crating your puppy for 8 to 10 hours while you are at work will lead to significant problems because this timeframe surpasses the puppy's biological capability of "holding it."
This can lead to your puppy peeing and pooping in the crate which is a great mess to clean up since you are forced to bathe your dog, clean the crate and any messy paw prints on the floor.
On top of this, having your puppy laying over his urine and feces will interfere with his natural instinct to not soil where he sleeps, leading to setbacks in the potty training process.
Your pup also has other important needs that need to be met. He needs to move, play, explore, and socialize. So unless you have a friend or neighbor that can stop by at several intervals to take your puppy out to potty, walk, socialize, and eat, crate training is not a good option for a young pup.
How to Correctly Use a Crate for Training
Yes, it is true that the use of a crate in potty training can work wonders because it's the pup's natural instinct to not want to soil where he sleeps, but if you keep your pup enclosed in there for too long, you will break down this natural inhibition.
Once again, this means you'll have to deal with a very unhappy puppy that is crammed in a crate all day, and on top of that, one that is covered in pee and poo. This is the last thing busy pet parents want to deal with upon returning home!
These pups may also resent being closed in the crate due to negative associations (for the sake of comparison, who wants to be stuck in economy class several days in a row for 8-10 hours straight?). Not to mention, your pup will fail to carry over the "clean den instinct" to the rest of the house once he or she is old enough to free-roam.
There are two different options for busy puppy owners, and there are pros and cons to each.
- A short-term confinement option made of several outings.
- A long-term confinement option where the puppy has permission to eliminate indoors.
You can only crate your pup during an 8-10 hour workday if you can arrange for at least two bathroom breaks. One quick run home during lunch won't be enough, at least not until he is five to six months old."
— Pat Miller, "Positive Perspectives 2: Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog"
Option 1: Get Help With Potty Training Your Puppy While You're at Work
This option works well for puppy owners who wish to crate train their puppies and teach their pups to go potty outdoors. This option is also helpful considering that young puppies need to be fed three times a day and need to move and stretch their legs for proper development. Pups also need to keep their minds active to allow those little neurons in their brains to create new, important pathways.
- The puppy should be taken out to potty first thing in the morning before going to work.
- Feed him breakfast and then take him out once again before being placed in the crate. When placed in the crate, the pup should be provided with a safe chew toy stuffed with treats to keep him occupied.
- Have a friend, neighbor, relative, pet walker, or pet sitter swing by twice in the day, first during mid-morning to take the puppy out, then out to potty again before noon.
- Feed the pup his meal at noon and then take him out again after his meal (and hopefully exercise him again).
- Stop by again in mid-afternoon for another potty break.
Afternoon to Evening Potty-Break Schedule: When to Take Your Pup Out
- When you first get home
- Before his evening meal
- After his evening meal
- In the middle of the evening
- Right before going to bed
- Once or twice during the night or early morning hours
What About Doggy Daycare?
Although it may turn out to be somewhat costly, an alternative option is taking the puppy to doggy daycare, a place where busy dog owners who work 9 to 5 jobs can take their puppies and dogs. Dogs can be dropped off on the way to work and picked up on the way back. Staff will take the puppy out frequently during the day and will feed him is midday meal.
What Are the Advantages?
With doggy daycare, the puppy receives the following benefits:
- Mental stimulation
- Socialization through play with other puppies
- Interaction with staff and clients
Puppy owners who work all day may also be delighted to pick up a tired pup rather than a puppy who has loads of pent-up energy from being confined for hours on end.
How to Choose a Doggy Daycare
It's important to find a reputable daycare that requires proof of vaccination for all of their participants and has strict hygiene measures in place to prevent infectious diseases.
Option 2: Potty Train Your Puppy Using a Long-Term Confinement Area
One of the most common ways to potty train your puppy if you work all day is through the use of what Ian Dunbar, veterinarian and founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, calls a "long-term confinement area."
A long-term confinement area is a larger area than what is provided by a crate. It allows the pup to have space and to eliminate as needed. It works best for busy pet parents who must leave the puppy for more than a couple of hours.
What Is a Long-Term Confinement Area?
A long-term confinement area is often comprised of a sturdy enclosure like an exercise pen, also known as Xpen. You can also keep the puppy in a puppy-proofed room such as a kitchen, bathroom, or utility room and close it off with a door, sturdy boxes, or a baby gate. Some puppy apartments are suitable as long-term confinement areas for very small breeds.
A long-term confinement area is typically located on a washable surface for ease of cleaning. Tile and linoleum work great. The area should be lined with pee pads or newspaper. Initially, you may find it useful to cover a large percentage of the floor area with pee pads or newspaper to set your puppy up for success. Gradually, you can remove pads and paper until your puppy learns to potty on just a few.
Can You Use a Litter Box for Dogs?
Some puppy owners like using litter boxes. For pups destined to potty outdoors on grass, puppy owners may use litter boxes with fake or real grass so that the pup develops a substrate preference for grass.
Tip: Keep your puppy's food and water in one area and some interactive, safe toys and their bed at the farthest corner away from the potty area. By nature, puppies (other than store-bought puppies or puppy mill dogs) are reluctant to potty near where they eat, play, or sleep.
Why Using Newspaper Has Its Risks
Newspaper training a puppy may seem like an economical solution, but its main drawback is the fact that at some point, you may have to teach your pup to no longer potty on papers. This can be confusing because at first you have been teaching your pup to pee on newspaper indoors, but then you will be telling him that this is no longer okay.
Sure, there are pups who have been successfully trained to go both indoors on paper and outdoors on grass, but going indoors might not be feasible when pups develop into large dogs and create lake-size puddles of pee.
The Advantages of Long-Term Confinement Areas
There are several advantages to using a long-term confinement area:
- It helps prevent accidents around the house.
- It will help the pup learn to use a designated indoor area to potty.
- It provides more room for the pup to stretch and walk around.
The Disadvantages of Longer-Term Confinement Areas
Disadvantages include some setbacks in the potty training department, for example:
- Because the pup goes potty indoors, he may come to learn that it's acceptable to do so.
- Since the pup goes potty when he needs to, he won't learn how to "hold it" in the same way that crate-training teaches.
- You need to rush home right away when you shift is over (no happy hour with your co-workers).
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2018 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 08, 2019:
Leanne Taylor, I hear your struggle. I owned littermate puppies and fostered several puppies and the process can feel very tiring and I was at home with the all the time. I can attest that with 2 puppies the chances are very high that the puppies will get bored and try to play with the pads. With me being home it was easy because every single time they went to try to tear them, I redirected them. I also got the puppy pads that stick to the floor so they won't feel too attracted to playing with them. Since you are not home most of the time. to reduce the chances for this, you may invest in a puppy pad tray and see how it works out for you. It also helps to have in the area you have created for them 2 opened crates with the door latched open (so it doesn't accidentally close on them) so they can sleep in it at night and get out of it to potty on a pad placed nearby. You may have to identify the areas where they are having accidents and cover those areas with pads. It sounds like though your puppies have a too large area. With the run of a large section of the house it is more difficult to potty train. If you can create an area nearby the door they go out to potty and then block it off safely, that, would work better. You can then place the pads by the door area. With my pups, the areas they used to have accidents the most were the closest to the outside door and those near the opposite side since they sometimes peed when they were excited to see me. With time, as your puppies learn to keep it for longer, and you always praise and reward them when you are home and they go potty outside, they should be making less and less messes. If they automatically sleep in their crates, you can then separate them so they each have their crates and start closing them for the night and then open very early in the morning. Your puppies are still very young so it will still take a bit for them to attain more control, but you are already seeing some progress, so I take that as a good sign.
Leanne Taylor on September 08, 2019:
Good morning,I have got 2 cockapoo puppies. I bought the first one for company for my old daschund after losing his brother at Easter and thought toilet traing would be easy as the pup would learn off my old boy. Sadly I lost Alfie a month after getting the pup so decided to get another puppy as company for him and I am having a nightmare with toilet training. I am a Postie and work full-time but am able to call in on the pups a couple of times while I am work. When I first got them I tried crate training but they got really distressed,pooed and urinated in their pen and pretty much run around in their own muck so I had to come down in the morning and not only clean up all their mess but bath them to as they were covered and all this before starting work at 6. I ended up leaving them loose downstairs with a stair gate to stop them going upstairs. I put puppy pads down which they sort of use but there's usually a poo or pee in the kitchen as well. They are now old enough where I can walk them before work,I put a couple of puppy pads down in the hall where they normally do their business and go to work. 3hrs later I come back and check on them,they have dragged quite often a wet puppy pad through the house torn it up then peed and pooed in the kitchen and also in the hall where the puppy pads were. If I'm here and the doors are open to the garden they walk out out do what they need to do in the garden,so they do actually know what they should be doing I just have absolutely no idea what to do with them when I'm not around,I have run out of ideas and getting to breaking point as I can't see me every being able to toilet train thrm. They are now 13weeks and 16weeks old,I trained my daxie pups within 2weeks. HELP....!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 20, 2018:
Hi Suhail, Kudos to you for using such great methods! Yup, that's exactly what I have been suggesting to do as you can read in the link on newspaper training puppies. The newspaper is strategically placed closer and closer to the exterior door and then placed on grass and then made gradually smaller and smaller. Also, placing some blades of grass on it until the puppy is conditioned to go potty totally on grass can help through the process. Anything to help these pups generalize! Best, Adrienne
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on November 19, 2018:
You have given nice options in this article.
I have always used newspaper method in a large confinement area. The trick is that I keep reducing the newspaper coverage as the time goes by. The pup, now totally anchored on peeing and pooing on newspaper has a gradually decreasing newspaper coverage area within the confinement area. Then the coverage is almost left in a small corner. Finally, I move the newspaper out in the backyard in a bed or so. The pup uses it only symbolically. It starts associating newspaper patch with soil.
This method has not failed me yet. But then who knows.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 10, 2018:
That is wonderful that you always had someone at home to care for and train your puppies while you were at work. Pups in busy households struggle due to lack of guidance and this can put a dent in their progress.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 08, 2018:
Thank you for covering this important topic so well, Adrienne. I've been very lucky because there has always been someone at home to train and care for my puppies when I've been at work. Training them without this support might have been difficult, but you've shared some good suggestions about how to do it.