Puppy Potty Training: Advice and Troubleshooting

puppy potty training

Puppies are universally loved, and for good reason. They are adorable, fluffy creatures that provide hours of entertainment and companionship. We see them all over social media, participating in training exercises and exhibiting a variety of behaviors that are simultaneously cute and hilarious. Many people will get the itch to go out and purchase or adopt a puppy at some point in their life, which is always exciting for both new and experienced dog owners alike. 

Most people expect that potty related accidents will occur with their new puppy at some point or another. What happens, however, when the first accident turns into five, then ten, then twenty… 

This is typically the point when new puppy owners begin feeling frustrated and turn to their dog owning friends for advice…

 “Shove their face in it!” 

“Pick up the rug they peed on and chase them with it!” 

“Make sure you discipline them loud enough that they will never want to do it again.”

So the owner tries these things, and the accidents keep happening. Now, however, the puppy is hiding from the owner and beginning to run away when their owner attempts to approach them. The owner becomes even more frustrated by their “spiteful” puppy, who they think should clearly know better than to use the bathroom in their house, and begins getting more angry when the accidents happen. 

Can you see how this can become a vicious cycle that is not only ineffective at resolving the issue, but can also damage the blossoming bond of trust with your new puppy at a very early age?

At Christian K-9 Academy, we’ve spoken with countless dog owners in Columbus who have experienced the constant frustration of their puppy going to the bathroom in their home. So if you are getting a new puppy soon – or perhaps already have one and have experienced some of the issues outlined above – then take a moment to read this guide on potty training. Implementing an effective potty training regimen is one of the most important aspects of puppy raising and training, and a necessity for any dog!

Step 1: Prepare your home

Preparing your home – for the arrival of a new puppy is vitally important. Make sure to do the following before your dog enters its new living space:

  • Thoroughly sanitize your home. This is vital if you already have dogs, or have had them in the past. With the strength of a dog’s nose, your new puppy will quickly sense any lingering odors from past accidents. Sanitizing your home in advance can help prevent the temptation to go indoors from arising.

  • Purchase the right size crate for your dog. Crates have multiple benefits for a dog, providing safety and security. They are also very useful for potty training. The size of the crate is crucial. Too small, and the dog will be uncomfortable and cramped. Too large, and your dog will have space to potty at one end and then move to the other end of the crate. We recommend using the petmate vari kennel, gunner kennels, ruffland kennel, or impact crates. Wire crates are flimsy, can be broken out of easily and also don’t provide a “Den” like environment. 

  • Find out about the dog’s history/circumstances. This may be more difficult with shelter dogs, but try to understand if they have already started potty training or if you will need to start from scratch. 

As a rule of thumb, your puppy will be able to hold their urine for one hour for every month they have been alive. So a four-month-old puppy should be able to hold its bladder for four hours, and so on. Smaller dogs (with smaller bladders/bowels) may not be able to hold it for as long as bigger dogs.

golden retriever puppy in grass

Step 2: Prepare yourself

Owning a puppy requires constant patience on the part of the owner, especially in the early days. As your puppy explores their new world, they can get themselves into heaps of trouble – from chewing on furniture, to eating food they should avoid, to going to the bathroom in your home.

It is important to prepare yourself for the inevitability that your dog will have accidents in your home. Your new puppy will need constant supervision. Try to avoid getting angry or flustered if they do have accidents. Punishing your dog is more likely to create negative associations with you than it is with the act of pottying in the home. Positive encouragement and rewards when your dog does go outside to potty is essential.

Step 3: Create a schedule

Setting a routine for your puppy’s potty training is important – use reminders or alarms on your phone to help manage this. A reactive approach to potty training will end up in more frequent clean-up operations, so get ahead of the game with your schedule.

Your potty training schedule should be appropriate for the age and size of your dog. Follow your schedule and take your dog out at regularly scheduled intervals. You should always take your dog outside after they have taken a long nap, eaten a meal or been drinking water. You can use a cue word such as ‘outside’ or ‘potty’ in step with directing them outside, and as time goes by, you can even teach your dog to ring a bell to indicate when they need to go. Once your dog has finished going to the bathroom outside, reward them immediately and give positive encouragement to help reinforce the behavior. We recommend using a very high reward such as chicken or steak and ONLY give it to the dog immediately after it uses the bathroom. Don’t wait to come back inside to reward the dog. It will just learn that going outside and coming back in produces the reward, not the pottying itself!  

Puppies younger than 12 weeks old will need to be let out regularly as they have little control of their muscles. This will include the middle of the night, so don’t be surprised if you have to take your puppy out to the bathroom two, three or even four times when you’re usually trying to sleep.

puppy running and jumping in grass

Step 4: Use the crate

As we mentioned above, the crate is a vital tool in your arsenal when it comes to potty training. Your dog should enjoy spending time in their crate and feel comfortable staying in it. Use the crate wisely, particularly if you have to leave your home or in other situations where you can’t actively supervise your puppy.

Make sure the crate is comfortable for your dog. Lay down a dog bed or towels inside to help create a cozy environment. You want to create positive associations with the crate, so consider feeding them treats or giving them toys to play with whilst inside. 

Be careful not to leave your puppy in their crate for prolonged periods of time. Leaving them in the crate for too long can result in destructive behavior – not to mention that younger puppies will inevitably have accidents if left in there for too long.

Bonus tip: When taking your dog out for a potty make sure they go! If they don’t bring them back in and put them in the kennel and try again in 10 to 15 min. Reward if they choose to go to the bathroom or repeat this process until they do. Potty outside = Freedom inside. No potty = Kennel

Step 5: Troubleshooting

Even following the steps above, it is unlikely that your potty training experience will be completely flawless. Most puppies have at least a couple of accidents – the important thing is to remain calm, exercise patience, and stick to your schedule.

There are some things you can do to mitigate any problems with potty training:

  • Pick up your dog’s water bowl at night change feeding schedule. Just be careful to provide your dog with water if they appear thirsty (e.g. panting, dry nose, low energy) or if the conditions are particularly hot, we don’t recommend pulling water on hot days.

  • Clean up thoroughly after accidents. Your pup’s nose is strong; the last thing you want to do is leave residue of previous accidents which may encourage future ones. Use an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate lingering odors.

  • Adjust your schedule to slowly give your dog more freedom. As your dog gets older, you’ll slowly be able to allow them more time out of their crate and extend the amount of time between potty breaks.

  • Still having problems? Contact a professional dog trainer. Potty training is frustrating and time-consuming. Sometimes it can take the expertise of a dog trainer to get the results you want.

In conclusion

Potty training isn’t always straightforward, and is in fact one of the more difficult aspects of owning a puppy. You need to remain diligent and disciplined to ensure your puppy grows up knowing where to go to the bathroom.

If you have any questions about potty training – or need help with any other aspect of puppy training – reach out to us at Christian K-9 Academy! Our expert team has helped numerous puppy owners in Columbus and the surrounding areas with proven programs for all aspects of puppy training. Contact us today or sign up for an evaluation.