Black and white border collie puppy on green grass

13 Tips For Potty Training Your Puppy

Bringing a new puppy home is an undeniably exciting time and yes, it is going to be super fun – but first, there’s some work to do. Namely, getting your new little furball potty trained. Unfortunately, most puppies don’t come with good bathroom habits already programmed in. Not to fret, it can be a breeze, that is, IF you know how to do it the right way. This is where our handy puppy potty training guide comes in. It will answer all of your housebreaking related questions and offer plenty of helpful tips to help the process to go smoothly.

13. Be Prepared:

Before you even attempt to house train your puppy, everything you will need should be close by and handy. Have the crate set up (or puppy playpen – via Amazon), puppy pads (via Amazon) on hand, and treats (via Amazon) for when he does, in fact, go potty outside. The fewer distractions during training, the better. Having to stop a training session to go searching for something can result in losing the puppy’s attention, thereby wasting the lesson he just learned. Gather any and all equipment before training starts.

12. Remember – Size, Breed, and Background Will Likely Play a Role:

Certain things can hinder the training processes. This can be because of negative experiences, prior toileting issues, and even breed. Some breeds are prone to urinating when they are exciting and some are just harder to train simply due to their personalities. Puppies that come from an abusive or neglectful background, including those that originated from a puppy mill, tend to have a harder time learning when and where ‘to go’. These precious pups are just going to need a bit more attention as well as some patience. Yelling or becoming frustrated will not help and will likely end up doing the opposite of what’s intended.

High angle photo of a corgi looking upwards

11. As Will Age:

Ideally, potty training should start between the ages of 12 to 16 weeks. This is the prime time, so to speak, for retaining new information. That is not to say that older puppies cannot be taught good bathroom habits, they can, it might just take a little more work. Although starting with a clean slate is ideal, almost any puppy can be retrained and depending on what his life was previously, he might need to be. In these cases, positive reinforcement is one of the best tools that you can use. If Fido was originally taught to use puppy pads and then uses the outdoor ‘bathroom’, as you trained him, feel free to heap the praise and treats on him. This will reinforce your training over previous teachings.

10. A Regular Feeding Schedule is Crucially Important:

Planning out a schedule, and more importantly, sticking to it, is absolutely imperative in successful potty training. Feeding a specific amount of food, at a specific time every day, helps quite a bit with timing needed potty breaks. The puppy needs to be brought outside immediately after waking from sleep or a nap and within 30 minutes after eating. Keep it on a schedule, however, also keep an eye out for potty signals. If you notice him circling, sniffing, or whining at the door – bring him outside, he likely needs to relieve himself.

09. Don’t Be Afraid to Consult the Experts:

Being as informed as possible is always a good idea – knowledge is power, after all. Whether it’s calling a pet trainer or simply reading a few of the many expert puppy potty training books available (we prefer How to Housebreak Your Puppy in Just 7 Days by Ken Phillips – via Amazon), there is no shame in calling in the professionals. If you choose to do so, be sure to ask for their opinion on a plan of action for when it is just you and the furball.

08. To Crate Train or Not Crate Train:

Crate training can be a terrific tool when trying to housebreak your pet. Using it for a safe space when you are not able to be home is a great idea, although a puppy playpen is also an excellent option. The playpen offers more room and freedom. Be sure to place a few puppy pads in a designated area within the playpen. Dogs do not like to go potty where they sleep so a puppy playpen, which offers more space than a crate, is probably going to be the better option.

07. Accidents Will Happen:

Mistakes happen, it is inevitable, however, striking, screaming your dog, or ‘rubbing his nose in it’, is not the way to rectify the situation. Firstly, if the accident did not happen in your presence, then the dog will likely not understand what he is in trouble for. Secondly, using intimidation methods will only cause the dog to fear you. Use your voice/noise to let him know what he has done is unacceptable. An odor-eliminating spray (via Amazon) will discourage him from marking the same spot again.

06. People, Places, and Things:

Dogs tend to associate people, places, and things. This can be used to your advantage by simply using the same area to go potty in, the same person conducting the train, as well as incorporating the same tools for each lesson. This will help your pooch to associate them with their training, which in turn can help them focus more intently.

05. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due:

You want to be sure to make it known when your puppy does something good, like doing his business outside. ‘Good boy!’ or even a tasty snack will reinforce the fact that he has done the correct thing. This is quite possibly one of the most important steps in the puppy potty training process. For the most part, your canine companion wants nothing more than to make his favorite human happy.

Close up photo of dog wearing sunglasses
“U Mad Bro?”

04. Don’t Give Up:

You might get discouraged, potty training a puppy, especially a stubborn one, can be incredibly frustrating and stressful. The key is to not give up. Even when it seems as though he is just never going to get it, don’t give up. Each pup is going to learn his way and at his own pace. Giving up, or giving in, will only bolster any bad behaviors or habits as well as start you back at square one if and when you try to train him again.

03. Don’t Get Mad:

There is a good reason canines are known as ‘man’s best friend’. Humans and their canine counterparts tend to have a bond like no other. This typically includes an innate ability to sense when something is wrong with their favorite person. Even if you are not showing outward signs of being angry, your pooch is still likely to pick up on your negative emotions and this can be detrimental to the training process. Yelling, screaming, and hitting should always be avoided as this will only make him be scared of you which can lead to behavioral issues, sometimes even aggression.

02. Use Tone + Noise:

If you happen to catch Fido in the act – Instead of screaming, use a firm, strong tone of voice, and a command such as ‘outside’ or ‘no’. Also clapping, loudly, tends to stop them in their tracks. Once you have gotten their full attention, lead your puppy, gently, outside, to his designated potty spot, and tell him, THIS is where you go! The same goes for puppy pad training – lead him to the appropriate area and make it clear what, exactly, he is to do there.

01. Watch Out for the Signals:

Puppies will give cues when they need to relieve themselves. Actions such as sniffing, circling an area, and whimpering are some of the first signals you are likely to notice. If you see your puppy perform any of these actions, that is your cue that he needs to be taken outside or led to his puppy pad designated area.

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do Encourage Good Potty Habits: Encouragement is one of the strongest training tools there is. A dog, pretty much any dog, wants nothing more than to please his favorite human.
  • Don’t Use Intimidating Discipline: The last thing that you want is for your puppy to be afraid of you. Yelling, hitting, or using any form of intimidation will only make your dog fear you. This will not help with training and could very likely result in aggressive behavior.
  • Do consider a playpen over a crate, if possible: Canine playpens come in a variety of sizes and models, and they offer more room for your puppy to move around. It can also be used when you are home. Leave the door of the pen open so he can access it freely.
  • Don’t get discouraged: Much like potty training a human toddler, doing so with a puppy will too, take time. Do not get discouraged if it seems like little to no progress is being made – everyone, including your puppy, learns at their own pace.
  • Do have fun with it: Your puppy will only be a puppy for so long. Enjoy this time with him and don’t take the situation too seriously. He will get it, eventually.

As hopeless as this can feel sometimes, your puppy will undoubtedly get the hang of it – and, it will help to build a stronger bond in the process. The love, stress, sweat, and tears – all of your hard work will pay off, you just have to stick with it. In the end, it will be more than worth it. A relationship with a dog is likely one of the only connections where you get more than a 100% return on the love and kindness that you give.

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