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Puppy Potty Training Guide

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Potty Training your puppy or dog is ALL about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. The goal is to instill a Habit for your puppy or adult dog and help them learn what it is you expect and want them to do.

It typically takes 2-4 weeks for a puppy to be house trained, but some puppies may take longer. Smaller breeds have smaller bladders with a higher metabolism and will require more frequent trips outside. Potty training is about helping your puppy break current habits and replacing them with a new one, it is as simple as that.

There are setbacks, do not get mad when they happen. If you continue an extremely consistent regimen as outlined in this puppy potty training guide, you will see improvements. The more consistent you are, the faster the process will go for your puppy or dog.

Housebreaking or potty training your puppy or dog requires a combination of creating a set routine and constant supervision.

The more consistent you follow the routines in this potty-training guide, the quicker and more reliable your puppy or dog will understand where to pee and poop or eliminate. Potty training is actually one of the easiest things to teach a puppy or dog because dogs are clean by nature and usually do not like to potty where they live and sleep.

Always supervise your puppy when he is not in his pen or crate. The biggest reason people struggle with house training is that they give their puppy more freedom than the puppy or dog is mature enough to handle. An un-supervised puppy or dog is absolutely going to make mistakes until they know what are supposed to do! Think about a toddler; you wouldn’t leave a 2-year-old unattended all day, would you?

This potty-training system will work potty train a dog of any age, not just puppies.

Common Mistakes that cause potty training to take longer than it should:

Giving your puppy too much freedom or access to the home

Giving your puppy too much free-range access to food and water

Not monitoring your puppy or dog

Not being consistent with your intervals

Not giving your puppy or dog enough access to go potty outside

Expecting your puppy to “hold it” for longer than the size of their bladder has the capacity to do

It is important to create a routine for your puppy or dog. Set up a feeding and watering schedule. This usually consists of feeding and watering your dog two to three times a day. Always provide water after you exercise with your dog.

Free-range access to food and water is not recommended until AFTER your dog is completely housebroken. What goes in goes out and setting up a feeding and watering schedule controls the intervals of what is going in. As a rule of thumb, a puppy will need to pee about 20 minutes after they drink and will need to poo about 30 – 45 minutes after they eat. Knowing these benchmarks will allow you to help your puppy limit their mistakes by taking them outside to give them the opportunity to eliminate outside a few minutes before they need to go potty.

When your puppy drinks, take them outside before they must go and if you CONTROL access to water you now know when you need to take them outside.

Take your puppy out regularly, every 2-3 hours. Also, your first action in the morning should be to take your puppy out of their crate and bring them outside to the spot where you want them to eliminate. You may want to carry your puppy out if he is very young and you think they might try to eliminate inside the house. Also, take your puppy outside to eliminate about 20 to 30 minutes after they eat.

Supervising your puppy is important, because without supervision you will not be able to catch them WHEN they are making a mistake and you will miss the opportunity to instantly redirect them to do the proper behavior whether it is going potty inside or destructive chewing.

K9 Culture Dog Training recommends you keep a 10 foot inexpensive leash on your puppy until their behaviors become more consistent and they are making less mistakes. The long leash gives you the ability to give a soft tug when you say No or Leave It or whatever command you are using. Since your training leash will have a loop at the end, simply cut it off with scissors so the leash can easily slide under objects to prevent them from getting stuck on everything.

Typical signs your puppy or dog is about to eliminate are constant sniffing, spinning in a circling, and squatting. If you catch your puppy in the action of eliminating in the house startle him with a loud clap or tug on his long-leash and then pick him up immediately and walk to his elimination spot. Catching your dog in action is an important part of the process of housebreaking. Do not punish him or he may become afraid of you or worse, go and hide to eliminate which makes it harder for you to help him understand and learn what you are teaching him because you can no longer see him doing it.

Potty Training with a Crate System

Make sure it is large enough for the puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down, but not big enough for him to use a corner as a bathroom.

If you can’t be home during the house training period, make sure somebody else gives him a break in the middle of the day.

Don’t use a crate if puppy is eliminating in it. Eliminating in the crate could have several meanings: he may have brought bad habits from the shelter or pet store where he lived before; he may not be getting outside enough; the crate may be too big; or he may be too young to hold it in.

This management system is used when you cannot physically supervise your puppy and can be used with a crate, a playpen or the two combined for a larger area.

Do not us a crate as a punishment tool, but as a way to know your dog will not eliminate in the house. If you cannot supervise your dog, put him in his crate or playpen. Most puppies will be able to stay in a crate for their age in months plus one. So, an 8-week-old (2 months) puppy should be able to stay in a crate for 3 hours without eliminating unless you let them drink shortly before going in. This is a rule of thumb and every dog is different. If the puppy or dog is given the opportunity to get out of his crate when necessary, it can aid your house-training efforts. As the puppy is let out from their dog crate, take him outside on a leash to the spot you will want him to eliminate.

When you take your puppy or dog outside to go potty. KEEP him on a leash and only give him about 3 feet of slack so he does not have much room to play or sniff. Be patient in this process for you are teaching him to get more leash or be released from the leash to go explore and play, he needs to go potty first. If you follow this process every time you take him out, you are training him to use the same area of the yard so it makes cleaning up your back yard easier and more importantly, you are teaching him to go potty FIRST each time he goes outside. This will help you later when the weather is bad and you don’t or he does not want to be outside very long.

As he begins to go potty, mark it by saying “go potty” and then praise him. If you do this repeatedly, your puppy or dog will learn to go potty on command.

If he does not go potty after 15 or 20 minutes, do not let him roam around. Go back inside and put him in his crate otherwise he WILL go potty shortly after coming in. After 15 minutes take him back outside to give him another chance to go potty. After he has gone potty outside, then he gets to have freedom to roam in the areas you want him to be inside your home.

If he goes, praise him. If not, put him back into his crate and try again in about 15 minutes or so. Keep doing this until he goes outside.

Continue with this routine until your dog goes every time you take him outside, then you no longer need to have him on a leash when he is in the back yard. Most people mistakenly think that to potty train their puppy or dog, just put them in the backyard for a while and let them back in. This leads to inconsistency and your potty training will take longer because your puppy will get busy exploring and forget to go potty and then go potty once they remember after they come back inside.

Don’t expect him to go more than a couple of hours without having to go potty, and don’t expect him to wait once he is out of his crate; you need to let him out before you do anything else.

Make sure the crate size is appropriate for your dog. You don't want one so large that your puppy can eliminate and then get away from it.

Other Housebreaking Issues:

Other housebreaking problems may exist, such as marking and submissive urination. Proper training, with supervision and management systems will either eliminate these problems or minimize them. Marking by male dogs, is not a housebreaking issue. It is an issue related to instinctive behaviors. Your dog may be fully housetrained and would not think of peeing in the house but to a dog lifting his leg to scent mark is not the same as having to go to the bathroom. We as humans tend to think of dog urine as something unpleasant, but to a dog it is something of great interest. A dog leaves its scent to tell other dogs a message. This message could be about whose territory it is, about the dog's social order or advertising mating availability. Dogs use urine marking to show their dominance or to claim something as belonging to them.

Submissive urination usually diminishes with training. Most importantly, remember that you are dealing with a very sensitive dog with little confidence. Through training a submissive dog has structure and guidance to learn how to be more confident.

If your pet has an “accident” in your house, it is important to neutralize the spot with an enzymatic cleaner to completely get rid of the odor and proteins related to the urine, otherwise, the smell is like a call to the animal to mark the same spot again. Enzymatic cleaners such as Nature’s Miracle and Simple Solution absorb the odor and proteins from the urine. Avoid ammonia based cleansers! These products are safe for use around pets and children.

Some Common Potty Training Questions and Problems:

Should you use potty pads?

The old method of paper or potty pad training can be very effective; however, it adds unnecessary time and a bigger mess to the whole process. Think of it this way: You now have to potty train your puppy Two Times! Once to use the potty pad and then later to stop using them.

Dogs or puppies purchased from a pet shop or pet store or any place where they were always kept in a small cage can take longer to potty train because they are often kept in a crate ALL the time and have no choice except to potty in their crate. For them, they know no other behavior.

When house training, follow these steps:

• Keep your puppy on a regular feeding schedule and take away his food between meals. Dogs thrive on routines which is why a well-trained dog is always a happy dog!

• Take puppy out to potty first thing in the morning and then once every hour to hour and a half or 15 - 20 minutes after they drink. Also, always take him outside after he wakes up from a nap. Make sure he goes out last thing at night and before he’s left alone.

• Take your puppy to the same spot each time to do his business. His scent will prompt him to go.

• Stay with him outside, at least until he’s house trained.

• When your puppy eliminates outside, praise him or give him a treat. A walk around the neighborhood is a nice reward.

Now that you have a new puppy, get them started off on the right paw and help them understand how to be a great member of your family by getting them trained. A trained dog is a happy and self-confident dog. If you would like to schedule a dog training consultation with the #1 dog trainer in the Dallas Metroplex, give us a call or click here for our trainer’s calendar.

K-9 Culture Dog Training


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