Potty Training a Puppy: How to Housetrain Your New Puppy

Behavior & training
Puppy running outside

Tiny paws, boundless enthusiasm, and a bladder smaller than a thimble – welcoming a puppy into your home is a whirlwind of cuteness and chaos. Mastering the art of elimination is a fundamental skill for every puppy. It's not just about keeping your home clean (although that's definitely a perk!), but also about establishing clear communication and building a strong bond with your furry friend. This guide will equip you with the knowledge and tools to make potty training a puppy a positive and productive experience for everyone involved. 

Establishing a Routine for Potty Training Your Puppy 

Since puppies have small bodies, that means that their bladder is small too! The general rule is that puppies can hold their bladder for one hour for every month of their age. So, if you have a four-month-old puppy, then they should be able to hold their bladder for four hours.  Your puppy needs plenty of opportunities to go to the bathroom outside in an appropriate place so that they don’t have an accident inside. To help your puppy be successful with potty training, take them outside as often as possible. You should also expect to take your puppy outside on a consistent schedule: 

  • First thing in the morning after waking up  

  • Every 2-4 hours (depending on your puppy’s age)  

  • After eating  

  • After drinking  

  • After playing  

  • After waking up from naps  

  • After spending time in a crate  

  • Last thing before bedtime  

Puppies thrive on consistency, like having set times to eat and a strict puppy sleep schedule. When you begin puppy potty training, it’s essential to stick to a regular routine so that your puppy gets used to eliminating outside. Plus, this limits the chance of accidents in the house. But what about accidents where your dog might eat its own poop? How do you get your dog to stop eating poop?

Potty training puppy

Steps for Potty Training a Puppy 

Sticking to a consistent potty schedule, even when it's tempting to skip a trip outside, is the best way to set your puppy up for success. It sends a clear message about where they should go and helps them develop the bladder control they need to become a confident, well-adjusted pup.  

Step One: Pick a Potty Place 

Choosing a specific outdoor location as the designated "potty spot" is a crucial step in successful puppy potty training. This eliminates confusion for your pup, keeping them focused on the task at hand instead of sniffing out exciting distractions. 

Step Two: Add a Verbal Cue 

The instant that your puppy starts to eliminate, add a verbal cue, like “go potty.” Stick to the same phrase every single time. As your puppy gets older, this verbal cue will be something you can tell them as soon as they go outside, so they’ll potty immediately instead of walking around or running off to play.  

Step Three: Reward Your Puppy with a Potty Party  

When your puppy finishes pottying, it’s important to praise them and reward them immediately with treats, praise, or play. Think of this as a potty party! The timing is very important—it's what helps your puppy connect the behavior of going potty outside with good things like treats.   

A well-timed potty break shouldn't be the end of outdoor fun. After the celebratory fanfare, walk your pup around or engage in a short game of fetch. Most puppies relish their time outdoors, and you want to avoid creating an association where pottying equals the end of playtime. Keep it fun, and your pup will be eager to repeat the experience. 

Signs Your Puppy Needs to Potty 

While adhering to a consistent schedule lays the foundation for puppy potty training, there might be other times that they need to go to the bathroom, so it’s important to become aware of common signs, like barking, restlessness, squatting, scratching at the door, sniffing, or circling.   

When you see your puppy display these signs, swift action is crucial. Gently pick up your pup and whisk them to their designated potty zone. If your puppy goes to the bathroom, you should praise them and give them a treat. If they don’t potty, bring them back inside.  

How to Handle Accidents While Potty Training a Puppy 

Even the most diligently trained pup will have the occasional accident. This is a normal part of the puppy potty training process. Here's how to handle those unexpected puddles with poise and patience:  

  • Don’t panic! Yelling or scolding will only confuse and frighten your pup, hindering their progress. Immediately scoop them up and take them outside to their potty place and reward them once they’re finished.  

  • If you find an accident inside, clean it up thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner. Enzymes help break down accidents more than other cleaners so that you can fully get rid of the smell, which will prevent your puppy from wanting to potty in the same spot again. 

It’s important to limit the number of accidents your puppy has by keeping a close eye on them or using confinement strategies. Puppies follow their nose, so if they have many accidents inside the home, they’ll become confused on where to potty and may smell remnants of their accident that may cause them to have even more accidents.  

Potty training puppy

Using a Crate for Puppy Potty Training 

Although there are many strategies to potty train your puppy, using a crate is incredibly helpful for many pet parents. A crate should be on your puppy essentials checklist not only for the safe and secure environment they give your puppy, but also as a puppy potty training aid. Dogs possess a natural instinct to keep their sleeping space clean. By providing your pup with a crate that feels like their own cozy den, you tap into this innate desire, making accidents within the crate less likely. 

When you can’t supervise your puppy, you can use a crate to keep your puppy safe and confined while also preventing accidents.  

Crates come in a variety of types and sizes, so it’s important to choose the right crate for your puppy. Opt for a wire one for its breathability and sturdiness, while soft crates offer portability for on-the-go adventures. Remember, size matters! Your pup needs room to stand, turn, and curl up comfortably, but excessive space might encourage bathroom breaks on one side and lounging on the other. For growing pups, a divider keeps them cozy and accident-free until they are big enough to fill it out. 

Introducing Your Puppy to the Crate 

When introducing your puppy to the crate, it’s important to make sure that the crate becomes a happy, safe spot for your puppy. It’s important to never use the crate as punishment, but instead, make it a spot that your puppy can relax.   

You can tempt your puppy into the crate with treats and toys. It’s often easier to get your puppy to go inside the crate and relax after a play session once they’re tired. As your puppy enters the crate, you can use a verbal cue, like “kennel” or “go to bed.” Once your puppy is inside, reward them with lots of praise and treats. In the initial stages of introducing your puppy to the crate, you’ll need to stay close by.  

Crate training your puppy is a separate process from simply using the crate to confine your puppy while he’s potty training, so you’ll want to research how to crate train a puppy so that you can go through the full crate training process to fully utilize your puppy’s crate and set him up for success.  

Puppy Potty Training Using a Bell 

While traditional verbal cues remain effective in potty training, the bell technique offers an alternative, empowering your furry friend to take charge of their needs. This simple method involves hanging a small bell near your designated potty door, accessible to your pup's inquisitive nose.  Each time you head outside for a potty break, gently guide your pup to the bell and give it a light ring. This establishes an association between the bell sound and the act of going outside. 

When your pup successfully uses the potty after ringing the bell, shower them with praise and treats. This positive reinforcement strengthens the connection between the bell, elimination, and all the good things that follow. Remember, patience is key. Every ring, even accidental, is a step towards communication.  

The benefits of the bell technique are multifaceted. It fosters independence by giving your pup a voice to express their needs, building confidence in their ability to communicate. Frequent bell-ringing prompts more frequent potty breaks, potentially leading to fewer indoor accidents. Additionally, the bell becomes a shared language between you and your pup. And who can forget the fun factor? Teaching your pup to use the bell adds a playful element to potty training.  

Indoor Options for Potty Training a Puppy 

Not everyone has a backyard or can take their pup outside every hour. That's where indoor potty options like puppy pads and paper training come in handy. They offer a designated spot for your little one to go when nature calls, keeping your floors clean and your sanity intact. 

Pads are convenient and easy to clean up, perfect for those rushed mornings or bad weather days. And if you live in an apartment or lack easy outdoor access, other options like fake grass mats or even doggie litter boxes are becoming more popular. These are temporary solutions while your pup is young. Once they're older and more settled, you can gradually transition them to outdoor potty breaks.  

Supervising Your Puppy 

As we’ve mentioned, it’s important to limit the number of accidents your puppy has, so it’s necessary to supervise them closely to watch for signals.  

If you’re busy inside the home, using a tether system may be a good compromise. Tethering your puppy means using a leash to keep them close to you. This prevents your puppy from running off and having an accident where you can’t see him while also allowing your puppy more freedom than a crate and a chance to be close to you.  

Puppy outside with owner

Making Adjustments When You’re Away 

Sometimes emergencies come up and cause us to be away longer than expected. It’s important to have plans in place in case these situations come up. Some alternative options that can help you out when you have to be away: 

  •  Hire a dog walker or pet sitter, or ask a trusted friend or neighbor, to come over and take your puppy out for bathroom breaks 

  • Train your puppy to use puppy pads, or any other indoor option, so that your puppy eliminates in one specific area that is easy to clean and doesn’t destroy your floors 

Alternatively, if your puppy is a good candidate for doggie daycare, dropping them off at a daycare facility will ensure their bathroom needs are taken care of while also giving them the ability to socialize and play.  

Before your pup's big doggy daycare debut, double-check that they're fully vaccinated. It's crucial to protect them from common illnesses, and most daycare centers require proof of current shots. As you prepare for this next step, you may wonder “how much are puppy shots?” It can vary depending on location, veterinarian, and specific vaccines needed, so chat with your vet for a clearer picture.  

While you’re working on puppy potty training, it’s important to stick to the routine as closely as possible to prevent accidents, so it’s best to plan for these situations as early as possible, just in case.   

Potty Training and Puppy Insurance: Laying the Foundation for a Happy, Healthy Dog 

Puppyhood is a joyful whirlwind, filled with playful paws, boundless energy, and…occasional puddles on the floor. While meticulous planning and dedication lay the foundation for successful potty training, unexpected health challenges can disrupt your pup's progress. Imagine weeks of consistent routines and fewer accidents, only to be met with a sudden string of mishaps. A vet visit reveals a urinary tract infection, necessitating medication, dietary adjustments, and potential disruptions to your established training schedule. The financial burden of vet bills, coupled with your pup's discomfort and the potential delay in achieving potty perfection, can be overwhelming. 

This is where puppy insurance steps in. It offers peace of mind and financial security when unexpected hurdles arise. Knowing you're financially covered allows you to shift your focus away from worries about vet bills and towards the core elements of successful potty training: consistent routines, positive reinforcement, and praise. This reduces stress and allows you to dedicate your energy to effective training methods. 

Conquering Puppy Potty Training 

Remember, the puppy potty training path isn't always linear. Some pups might do well in the cozy confines of a crate, while others crave the freedom of tethering to your side. Others master the art of indoor pee pads in no time. The key, no matter your chosen method, is consistency. Sticking to a routine, showering your pup with praise and learning to read their unique cues will make all the difference. 

It takes patience, treats, and maybe a few deep breaths. But with every potty party and every conquered mess, you and your furry friend build a stronger bond. So hang in there, celebrate the victories, and remember, clean floors and wagging tails are just around the bend. Happy training!