Kate graduated from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in biology. She currently resides in Sonoma, California.
Lay the Potty Training Groundwork Early
A new puppy or even a fully grown dog can bring a lot of joy to your household. The most critical part of integrating your new pup into your home is potty training. Use this seven-day guide to get you started with potty training your puppy.
As you begin, keep in mind that fully housebreaking your puppy can take four to six months of consistency and patience. In seven short days, however, you can lay the groundwork and see some significant results.
When to Start Potty Training
The ideal time to start house training your puppy is between 12 and 16 weeks old. By that age, your dog will have enough control over his bladder and bowel movements to be able to “hold it” as needed.
If your dog is older than 16 weeks and has already developed some unfavorable potty habits, it is still very possible to train them using this method. The results might take a few days (or weeks) longer to see, depending on the dog.
The Seven-Day Potty Training Schedule
|Day of Training||Goal|
Establish a consistent feeding schedule.
Establish a consistent "potty break" schedule.
Get your dog accustomed to relieving himself in the same location every time.
Make sure you know the signs that your dog is about to go, and take him outside when appropriate.
Less accidents inside the house should now be happening. When one happens, guide the dog outside to the potty spot.
Check your dog's status.
Reinforce weak areas.
On day one, you need to establish a regular feeding schedule that you’ll be able to stick with. A consistent eating schedule, with no food between meals, is key to establishing a consistent potty routine.
Keep in mind that young puppies should be fed three to four small meals per day to help with digestion and keep their energy levels consistent. Do not regulate water; provide as much water as your pup desires.
On day 2, establish a consistent schedule for taking your pup outside to do his business. You should always take him out first thing in the morning as well as just before you go to bed at night.
If your puppy is only a few months old, he should also be taken out every hour or so during the day, including after his meals and, ideally, when he wakes up from a nap. It’s also a good idea to take your pup outside after he’s been playing or after he has finished chewing on a toy or bone. Keep in mind that puppies tend to defecate more than adult dogs—-up to five times a day is normal.
Make the experience of going outside to eliminate an enjoyable and rewarding one for your dog to instill this good behavior. After he does his business, offer him a treat and/or verbal praise. You can also offer the reward of a walk around the neighborhood.
Use day three as a day to really drive home the location of where he is supposed to relieve himself—this is key. When a dog learns that one spot is the "potty spot," he will automatically want to pee when taken to this location.
Take note of where your dog has done his business, and take him to the same spot each time you bring him outside to eliminate.
On day four, work on spotting the signs that your dog is about to go potty. Pay special attention to your dog when you see a behavior change, especially when he gets up from laying down and walks into a different area of your home.
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By tuning into your dog’s signals, you’ll be able to bring him outside before any accidents happen, and you’ll also be able to avoid unnecessary trips outside when he doesn’t need to do his business. Some signs that your puppy needs to “go” include: whining, barking, circling, sniffing, or—if he is unconfined—even scratching at the door.
By day five, your dog should be having fewer accidents inside the house (with help from you guiding him outside when you see the signs he needs to go). There will still be the occasional accident, however, especially if he is less than a year old.
Approach accidents in the right way. When this happens, do not punish your pup. Instead, when you catch him eliminating in the house, clap loudly to let him know he’s done something inappropriate. Then, immediately take him outside by calling his name or leading him gently by the collar. When he finishes eliminating outside, respond by giving him praise and/or a small treat to reinforce the behavior.
Avoid cleaning up your dog’s accidents with an ammonia-based cleaner, as the smell may attract him back to the spot and prompt him to eliminate there again. Instead, use an enzymatic cleaner to minimize odors.
Day six is a status check day while making sure you are maintaining consistency. Your puppy should be making significant progress at this point in his potty training efforts.
If your puppy just can’t seem to get the hang of potty training at this point and continuously has accidents in the house, you may consider taking him to a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions. It’s possible that he has a physical issue that’s impeding his ability to “hold it,” in which case you would want to get him help for the condition as soon as possible.
You made it! After a full week of consistent house training, your puppy should be doing his business outside and offering signals when he needs to eliminate. Continue your pup on a regular feeding schedule as well as regular trips outside to the same location to reinforce his training and decrease the chance of a setback.
If your dog is having trouble with one specific aspect of potty training, make sure you focus in on that aspect and reinforce good behavior when he does get it right.
Increase the Time Between Bathroom Breaks
Now that you’ve established a routine around bathroom breaks, you can start to increase the time between your puppy’s outdoor visits. A good general rule of thumb to determine how often your dog needs to go outside is that a puppy can “hold it” for about as many hours as he is months old, plus one. That means, for example, that if your dog is three months old, he should be able to “hold it” for up to four hours. Remember, though, that he will still need a potty break shortly after his meals as well as first thing in the morning.
House Training Your Puppy With a Crate
Depending on your schedule and your individual dog’s temperament, you may consider using a crate to aid you in potty training your pup. If you’re comfortable using a crate, it may help you keep a better eye on your dog, so you’re better able to recognize his signals that he needs to eliminate. A crate can also teach your pup that he needs to “hold it” until you open the crate and bring him outside.
When using a crate, make sure that it is large enough to let your pup stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. However, it should not be so large that your puppy could use a corner of the crate as an elimination spot. If your dog does start eliminating in the crate, you should stop using this method. Your puppy may have picked up this bad habit in a previous home, or he may be too young to deal with a crate.
As mentioned before, your puppy should be taken outside regularly for bathroom breaks, but if you need to use a crate for more than two hours at a time, make sure that your dog has consistent access to fresh water. Your dog may eventually be able to stay in the crate and “hold it” for the length of an entire workday, but you or someone else should be around during the day to give him regular breaks from the crate for the first eight months to a year.
House Training With Puppy Pads
In an ideal world, your puppy would learn that outside the house is the only acceptable place to eliminate. However, if your schedule or lifestyle doesn’t allow you to bring your young dog outside multiple times per day, puppy pads or paper training is another option.
Puppy pads give your dog the option to relieve himself in an approved spot within the house. Training your dog to use a puppy pad is similar to training him to eliminate outside. If your dog signals that he has to potty or starts to go potty in another area, immediately lead him to the puppy pad. Once he’s successfully used the puppy pad, make sure to reinforce the behavior with praise and/or treats.
Once your dog matured and is able to “hold it” for longer periods of time, you can then re-train him to eliminate outside rather than using the puppy pad.
Above all, keep in mind that every dog is different, and some may take longer to pick up good habits around eliminating than others. Your pup may have perfect manners after just a few days, or he may take a few months to really get the hang of things, especially if he picked up bad habits before joining your family. Remember that patience and persistence are key when it comes to potty training and that your efforts will be well worth it in the long run.
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.
© 2017 Kate Daily
Sandy. on August 09, 2020:
Ever since winter my dog will no longer poop outside. He stopped when the snow came. So we let him poop on a pad in the house. In the spring he pooped outside twice. He is 16 months old now...we have tried to keep him outside a long time in his spot that he used to poop in but he wouldn’t go. He ended up compacting his poop in his butt.
So any suggestions? So we have to keep a puppy pad down or he will just poop in the spot the pad usually is on the floor. Very frustrated
Ladonna on July 03, 2020:
My York’s is 6 and is potty pad train and now he is not what is going on
JM on August 18, 2019:
I have a 13 month old Pomeranian that joined our family at 11 months. He absolutely knows and understands the command “go potty” outside, but is still having many accidents inside. We take him out every hour and a half, but he still has accidents. We took him to the veterinarian to see if it were a medical issue and urine and blood analysis showed no medically issues, thankfully. We have tried treating and praising him outside, still accidents. Any ideas?
Kendra on November 13, 2018:
I have a 1 yr maltase jack Russell mix, she is crate trained, but I am having problems with the potty training, she will not go outside. this morning she politely climbed on my couch and peed ugh I at the point I have only had her 2 weeks but I am really to take her to the animal shelter HELP
Kate Daily (author) from California on February 25, 2018:
Haha, I know your frustrations Ace! Hang in there, it's all about consistency and not "giving in" before your dog learns.
Ace on February 25, 2018:
One more accident and I'm turning my dog into hamburger
Kate Daily (author) from California on December 30, 2017:
Great Dean! Dogs are a bit of work, especially when they are young. But it is well worth the work in my opinion. I wouldn't trade my four-legged friend for the world.
Dean M Maiden on December 30, 2017:
I'm thinking about getting a dog and this read has helped put my mind at ease about one of my concerns ,cheers