How to Potty Train a Dog

Image of a dalmatian in the process of being potty trained

When it comes to how to potty train a dog, there are many things that you’ll need to teach them. One of these is where to potty.

Potty training a dog can be frustrating sometimes, and others can seem very easy. This article contains many tips and tricks on how to potty train a dog. It also explains what to do if you experience set backs with training.

How to Potty Train a New Dog

There are some multiple methods to potty train your dog.

Two of the most popular methods are:

  • Crate training
  • Potty pad or paper training

Crate Training

Some people do not want to keep their dog in a crate all day while they are gone. Usually, after a few days, puppies adapt to being in a crate during the day, and it makes life easier for you. By teaching your dog to stay in a crate, it will not only make potty training easier it will also help with vet visits and traveling.

Dogs love having a place to call their own. If you provide them a crate, they will quickly learn to love spending time in their crate. This makes it very easy to train your dog to stay in a crate.

How to Crate Train Your Dog

Image of a small papillion dog in a crate of a dog owner learning how to potty train a dog

When you use a crate to house train your dog, this is based on the principle that dogs like to be clean. They do not like lying next to or in their urine or poop. If your dog’s crate is just big enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lay down, then they will not be able to use the bathroom in one corner and sleep cleanly and comfortably in the other.

If you have a large breed puppy, you can still get a big crate and use the partition provided with the crate to block off a section of the crate for them to stay in while they are growing.

When you are not able to watch your puppy constantly put them in their crate. Many times, this will be when your puppy wants to sleep, or you are gone from the house.

Your new puppy will let you know that they need out to potty.

These signals may be whining and scratching at the side of the crate or barking at you. As soon as you notice these signs, take your puppy out immediately.

Do not let them use the bathroom in their crate as this teaches them it is okay to potty in their crate.

Eventually, your puppy will be able to hold it the whole time in their crate without having an accident.

Potty Pad or Paper Training

Image of stacks of potty pads for how to potty train a dog

Another option for how to potty train a dog is teaching them how to use a potty pad. If you do want to allow your dog to have a place to potty inside, potty pad training them is a viable option.

Potty pad training is great for people who work very long hours and cannot make it home during the day to let their dogs outside or small dogs that live in an apartment or in an area where winter is very harsh.

By potty pad training your dog, you are giving them an approved location to use the bathroom while you are gone.

Sometimes potty pad or paper training your puppy is not the best thing to teach them to do.

If your ultimate goal is only to have your dog use the bathroom outside, then it is best to skip potty pad. Potty pad training is teaching your dog that it is okay to use the bathroom inside.

If you’re going to potty train your puppy using potty pads, there are disposable potty pads and washable potty pads that you can reuse.

You lay these pads out for your puppy. When you would take them outside to use the bathroom, take them to the potty pad instead. Your puppy will quickly learn that this is the approved place for them to use the bathroom.

Tips to Successfully Potty Train Your Dog

When you first get your new dog, you must decide which method of house training you are going to use – crate or potty pad. After you decide, you need to start implementing certain things to help make training an easier process.

These are some tips to use each time that you take your dog outside to potty or to their potty pads:

  1. Go with your Puppy. Most dogs love for you to come with them while they are using the bathroom. This also allows you to know that they are, in fact, going. Your dog likes the company of being with you too.
  2. Use the same phrase each time: When you take your puppy out, use the same codeword each time. Some people use words such as “go potty” when they take their dog out. Say this word as they start to use the bathroom outside. Eventually, they will learn that this is their cue to go outside and potty.
  3. Sometimes use a leash and sometimes do not: If you’re going to need your dog to potty on and off a leash, be sure to train them to potty on and off a leash. If you’re planning on taking your dog for a walk and want them to do their business while on the leash as well as know it is okay to go off the leash, use both methods when training.
  4. Take them to unfamiliar places to potty: If you plan to take your dog on a road trip, also take them to other places to potty. Make sure that you clean up after your dog if they do not potty in your yard. By letting your dog learn to potty in other places, it helps when you need your dog to potty away from home.
  5. Allow them to potty on different surfaces: Some dogs have only ever used the bathroom on the nice lush grass. When their owners take them on vacation to the beach or desert, they did not want to potty on the dirt or sand. Teach your dog; it is okay to potty in different places.
  6. Potty first, play later: Some dogs will do their business as soon as you let them outside, others can easily get distracted and will want to play first and potty later. Limit all distractions until your puppy has done their business. This may be keeping all dogs, toys, and other people inside until your puppy has finished.

Where to Confine Your dog

Even if you are not going to confine your dog to a crate while you’re gone, you should confine them to a certain area of your house.

This is usually a bathroom or kitchen with a baby gate in place. Most often, this is an area that is very easy to clean. Your puppy will have a few accidents in this area, so make sure it is a place that you do not mind getting soiled.

If you do not have a small enough area that can easily be gated off, a small playpen or exercise pen can easily be used. This will help prevent your dog from having accidents all over your house.

How to Create a Great Routine for Your Dog

When using either of these methods, it is best to always keep your pet’s routine consistent. Feed your pet at the same time and the same amount each day. When you are taking your pet outside, make sure it is very often, and they have plenty of time for exercise.

Creating a routine is vital to your house-training success. Puppies have very tiny bladders, and water runs right through them. This is the same for food. When you take your puppy outside, you have to make sure that you are giving your puppy plenty of time to use the bathroom.

When trying to figure out how long your puppy can hold their bladder, a good rule to follow is 1 hour for every month of age up to 1 year of age. So for example, a 4 month only puppy should be allowed outside every 4 hours.

Most dogs will not be able to hold their bladder for longer than 10 to 12 hours. All puppies will develop differently, so do not get discouraged if your puppy cannot hold it for long periods of time.

When setting up a schedule for your puppy, monitor their daily events.

With all young puppies, you should take the puppy out during these times:

  • First thing in the morning
  • Last thing before bed
  • After playing inside
  • When getting out of the crate
  • After waking up from a nap
  • After playing with toys or bones
  • After meals
  • After drinking water

If you follow this routine you will probably be making multiple trips outside at first. This is an okay schedule for you to follow when you’re home all day, but if you are at work, all of these potty breaks will not be able to happen.

Certain arrangments may need to be made so your puppy can be let out many times a day. Some workplaces may allow you to bring your dog with you for the first few weeks.

You could also make arrangements for a friend or dog walker to come by and let your dog outside to help keep them on a set schedule. The quicker your dog learns that there is an approved place to use the bathroom and a place that it is not allowed, the quicker your puppy will become potty trained.

Things You Can Do to Help with Potty Training

Most of the potty training is teaching your dog where the right location is to go to the bathroom, but there are a few things that you can also do to help them learn.

  • Watch your dog for signs: Watch your puppy very carefully for their signal that they need to go potty. Each dog will give you a different sign; you just have to figure out what their sign is. Some dogs will never show you any sign that they need to go outside; they will just stop in the middle of playing and potty and then return to playing. Figuring out your dog’s signs early will help decrease the accidents in the house.
  • Control Their Feedings: A puppy’s digestive system is not fully developed, so they cannot eat a lot of food. This is why it is always recommended to split their food into 2 to 3 small meals a day. This also helps with bathroom time. As soon as your dog is done with their meal, they will need to go outside. If you are overfeeding your dog, it can cause gastrointestinal problems that will make potty training more difficult.
  • Give them Praise: Beating your dog after they have had an accident in the house is not going to accomplish anything. The best thing to do is to praise them when they do the right thing as soon as your dog starts using the bathroom outside, start praising them, and let them know that they are doing great.
  • Reward them: Give them a treat as soon as they are done. This way, they will associate using the bathroom outside with a treat. If you wait until you come back inside, they think that they are being rewarded for coming inside and will want to go outside and back in just to get a treat.
  • Clean their mess: If your dog does have an accident in the house, clean their mess with an odor-removing pet cleaner. This will help remove your pet’s scent. If they continue using the bathroom in that same spot, clean the spot using an old rag. Take that rag outside and leave it in the place that you want your puppy to use the bathroom. Each time you take your dog outside, take them to the old rag. They will smell their scent and use the bathroom in that place.
  • Take out immediately if caught in the act: If you see your dog starting to squat to use the bathroom, pick them up, and take them outside immediately. If they do their business outside, remember to praise them and give them a treat. When learning to potty train, preventing them from going inside is the key.

How Long Does Potty Training Take?

How long it takes for your dog to potty train can differ depending on many things.

A young 6-week old puppy is developmentally different than a 6-month-old puppy. Some puppies are very quick learners and only have a few accidents in the house. Others can take months, especially if they came from a shelter or breeding facility where it was acceptable to use the bathroom in their cage.

All dogs can successfully become potty trained; some just take more patience and persistence.

Problems You May Encounter When Learning How to Potty Train a Dog

Even if you have followed all the rules and are hoping for a well house-trained puppy, sometimes training doesn’t go as planned.

If your puppy is having a lot of problems with potty training, it may not be the training at all. They may have a medical problem. Talk to your veterinarian about your concerns with potty training as there are several issues that your pet may have causing the delay in potty training.

These are some common complaints that veterinarians and dog trainers see:

  • Your dog has a urinary tract infection: If your dog has a bladder or urinary tract infection, it will be very hard for them to control their bladder. Your veterinarian can test your dog’s urine and see if there is an infection. Most of the time, a few days of an antibiotic, and your dog’s urinary problems will be fixed.
  • Your dog does not like the weather: Some dog’s regress on training when the seasons change. Some dogs do not like to get wet and will refuse to go outside when it is raining. This can really cause problems with potty training. Try taking your dog out under an umbrella or getting them a rain jacket to keep them dry.
  • Your dog involuntarily urinates: Some dogs will urinate when they are excited. This will be as soon as you get home, and they are very excited to see you. Some dogs are submissive urinators meaning that they will pee when they are scared. Older dogs will become incontinent. This is when the sphincters in the bladder are not strong enough to keep their urine inside. All of these conditions will need a veterinary exam to help start on medication to help prevent these issues.
  • Your dog is urinating all over the house: Some small dogs will pee all over the house. These dogs are usually learning to potty on a pee pad. There are potty boxes that you can train your dog to use so that it is a little different than the floor. This also helps keep the mess inside a box.
  • Your dog is having accidents in the same spot: This is because you did not clean up the mess effectively, and there is still a little bit of odor that your dog can smell. Make sure that you use an enzymatic cleaner and thoroughly clean any accident spots in the house as soon as you find them.
  • Your dog made a mess everywhere. It is a very common mistake to give your dog free roam of the house before they are fully potty trained. This usually results in a mess everywhere in your house when you come home. It is always best to stick to the potty-training schedule for a few months even after you have not had any accidents. This helps keep your pet learning good habits.
  • Your dog is having accidents in their crate: If you got your dog from a shelter or pet store, these dogs might have trouble learning to crate train at first. They were used to having to use the bathroom in the cage that they were confined to. Most of the time, with these dogs, you just need to start from the beginning with training and give them very frequent trips outside.

Final Thoughts on How to Potty Train a Dog

Learning how to potty train a dog can be difficult yet rewarding. By spending time with your dog and giving them guidance on how and where to potty, you will set your dog up for a long and happy life.

If you have trouble with potty training and seem like you are not progressing with training, see your veterinarian. Keep in mind that there can be many underlying reasons that you puppy is continuing to have accidents in the house. With a little patience and persistence, your dog will learn where to potty.