So you’ve got a new puppy, or you soon will – congratulations! There’s nothing like raising a dog from a puppy, with all the sweet snuggles and kisses along the way.
But you’ve also got a big job ahead of you: potty training your puppy. The habits you teach your puppy now about not going inside, holding their bladder until they’re outside, and even letting you know when they need to go potty will last the rest of their life. It can seem daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before, but just know that millions of people have successfully house trained their puppy, and you can, too!
Here’s what you need to know about how to potty train your puppy.
What age can I start potty training my puppy?
Anywhere from 8 weeks to 12 weeks to 16 weeks is a good time to start. You can choose when to start potty training according to what works best for you and what’s a good fit for your puppy.
Older puppies have better bladder and bowel control, meaning they can “hold it” for longer, so waiting until the 12-to-16-week mark means fewer trips outside and fewer nighttime wake-ups for you. On the other hand, starting earlier, around 8 weeks, can teach your puppy good habits from the start and might mean fewer accidents in the house, but the downside is you’ll have to go outside a lot more frequently.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: The average number of hours a puppy can hold it is equal to their age in months + 1. So an 8-week-old puppy’s age in months = 2, plus 1 = 3 hours; a 12-week-old puppy’s age in months = 3, plus 1 = 4 hours.
How long will it take me to potty train my puppy?
From start to finish, the average amount of time it takes to housebreak your puppy is anywhere from three to six months. Most pups are housebroken by the time they’re six months old, though some dogs will have a tougher time and may need longer.
What do I need to potty train my puppy?
Some tools can help make the job of potty training your puppy easier, including:
Puppies and dogs have a strong instinct not to eliminate where they sleep and spend time, so by using a crate (correctly!) during the housetraining phase, you can help your puppy learn to control their bladder and bowels and not eliminate inside.
A leash and collar
When it’s time to go outside, a collar and leash will be invaluable. They’ll help you keep control of your puppy and direct them to the area outside where they should do their business. In the early weeks of housebreaking, when you and your puppy are going outside every few hours, you may even want to keep the leash on your dog in the house, too, so you can get out the door as fast as possible. Browse our selection of nearly 2,000 leashes and 900 collars at Hot Dog Collars and find the right ones for your pup!
Pet stain cleaner
Accidents in the house will happen at some point during potty training, so be ready to clean them up! Cleaners created especially for pet stains have enzymes in them that break down the protein in your puppy’s pee and poo. This is important because when residue remains, your puppy is more likely to return to that same spot to do their business again in the future.
Baby gates/dog gates
Since accidents are bound to happen, use gates in doorways and stairways to keep your puppy out of rooms you don’t want them before they’re fully housebroken.
High-value treats that your puppy loves will help reinforce the good behavior you’re training. (More on that below.)
If you plan on training your puppy to go on pee pads in the house, whether exclusively or occasionally, you’ll need plenty of pee pads.
Inside door bell(s)
An optional tool, but a helpful one. Hang the potty training bells from the inside door handle and ring them every time you take your puppy out to potty. Over time, they’ll grow to associate the bells with the need to go and can ring the bells all by themselves to let you know they need a trip outside. Check out the selection ofDing Dong Bells Potty Training System at Hot Dog Collars.
Patience, persistence, and a positive attitude
Potty training can feel like it’s taking forever when you’re in the thick of it, and it won’t be 100% successful along the way. You’ll need patience and persistence to keep a positive attitude and carry on despite setbacks. A sense of humor helps, too!
How to potty train your puppy
Take your puppy out often
you should give your puppy the opportunity to eliminate outside every few hours, especially at the beginning. Plan to take your puppy out:
- First thing in the morning
- After waking up from a nap
- After eating and drinking
- After playing
- Before being put in their crate
- After coming out of their crate
- Last thing before bedtime
- Every few hours throughout the night until they can hold it overnight
Does this sound like a lot? It is! But don’t stress. Over time, you’ll begin to recognize your dog’s cues that they really need to go, or notice patterns as your puppy grows and settles into a loose schedule. Then you might find that it’s safe to cut down on the number of trips outside during the day.
Ring the bell on the way out every time
if you’re using potty training bells in order to create that association in your puppy’s mind.
Designate a “potty spot”
which will be the place you always take your puppy to during potty training. Go to the spot and use a cue word like “potty,” “make,” or “go” and wait until they do their business. If they don’t go right away, try again every 10-20 minutes until it happens.
If you’re planning on training your puppy to use pee pads sometimes or all the time, then do the same as above but take them to a spot you’ve designated in your house or garage with pee pads all ready to go.
Reward good behavior
by giving your puppy a high-value treat and praising verbally (“good puppy!”) as soon as they’ve eliminated in the potty spot.
Deter bad behavior
but DON’T punish it. Punishing your dog for behavior after the fact won’t teach them not to go in the house, it will only make them more likely to avoid you, which is the opposite of helpful during potty training. If you discover that your puppy had an accident in the house, just clean the mess thoroughly and plan on taking them out more often. However, if you catch your puppy in the middle of the act, say their name or “uh-oh!” sharply (but not shouting) to get their attention, then take them outside to the potty spot immediately (picking them up if you have to) so they can finish. Make sure to reward them when they do!
Keep an eye on your puppy
They may decide to go somewhere in the house to do their business so it’s best not to let them out of your sight, especially in the early weeks, or you might find some, um, surprises waiting for you.
Be Patient and Persistent and Stay Positive!
Potty training your puppy doesn’t happen overnight (unfortunately!) but if you consistently give your puppy opportunities for success and reward good behavior, it will happen in time. You might have some rough stretches along the way, but always remember that your puppy isn’t trying to ruin your day, they’re simply new to this world and they’re still learning how everything works. So be patient with them and enjoy these precious puppy days, accidents and all, because they go by so fast.