How To Potty Train Your New Puppy

A puppy peeing in the grass.

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Puppy potty training can seem daunting, but it’s important to get it done correctly so your furry friend doesn’t have accidents in the house. 

Even if you’ve had dogs before, potty training a new puppy is a different process that takes some patience and consistency.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to a successfully potty-trained puppy in no time!

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Before you start: Set The Right Expectations

The first thing to do before you start potty training your puppy is to set the right expectations. Potty training your puppy won’t happen overnight, it takes time.

Along with that, puppies have small bladders and just can’t hold it as long as an adult dog. This means that even if your puppy knows that they are supposed to go potty outside if you wait too long to take them out, they will have an accident in the house.

Potty training a puppy is as much about teaching the puppy where to go as it is learning to take the puppy out often enough.

Supplies You Need To Potty Train A Puppy

Potty training requires very few items, but there are a few that you will need to make the process easier. You will need:

Getting Started With Potty Training Your Puppy

Teaching your puppy to go potty outside is mainly done through repetition. You need to consistently take your puppy to the designated potty area before they potty in the house.

As they continue to have successful potty trips to that spot they will start to understand that this is where they potty. This is a very simplified explanation of the process, continue reading for more details.

Take Your Puppy Out Often And Create A Potty Training Routine

The most important thing is to remember that puppies need to go potty often, around every 2 hours or so when they are awake. It is important to create a potty break routine with your puppy so they learn to expect to go out at certain times.

A good way to start is by taking them out:

  • First thing in the morning
  • After naps and before bed
  • After playing or exercise
  • Before and after being in their crate
  • Whenever they seem like they need to go
  • Shortly after they eat or drink
  • Once or twice during the night

Just make sure to take them out often enough that they potty and poop outside before they have a chance to have an accident inside.

Set A Feeding Schedule

Puppies need to eat more often than adult dogs, needing to eat 3 or 4 times a day instead of just 2. Having these meals at set times will make it easier to set a schedule for potty training.

Most puppies will need to go potty within 5 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking. If you always feed them at the same time each day, you will know when they need to go out and hopefully prevent any accidents they may have around meal times.

Water is a little more difficult as that should be left available all day. You will just have to pay attention to when your puppy gets a drink and take them out in that 5 to 30-minute window.

Observe and Supervise Your Puppy

A very important part of potty training your puppy is observing and supervising them. You need to be able to tell when they are getting ready to go potty so you can take them outside before they have an accident in the house.

As you watch your puppy, there are a few things you will want to look for that will indicate they need to go out:

  • Sniffing or circling
  • Pacing
  • Sudden stopping of play
  • Standing still with a stiff tail
  • Squatting

Signs that your puppy needs to potty can be very subtle at first. It is important to pay close attention so you don’t miss them. If you do, your puppy may have an accident in the house.

Use A Crate To Aid In Potty Training

Puppies should not have free run of the house until they are fully potty trained. The best way to avoid accidents is to confine your puppy to a smaller area using a crate or pen.

Crates are especially helpful because puppies do not like to soil where they sleep. This natural instinct will help with the potty training process.

When you confine your puppy, make sure they have enough room to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If the crate is too small, they won’t have enough room to be comfortable and may not want to go in it. If the crate is too large, they may decide to use one end as a potty spot.

What Does A Potty Trip Outside Look Like?

When you take your puppy outside to go potty, you want to go straight to the spot you want them to potty in and stand there. Don’t interact with your puppy at all. Let them sniff around, but do not play with them. You want them to learn that this is a potty trip.

After they are finished, you can play with them before coming back inside.

For nighttime potty trips, keep your interaction with your puppy to a minimum. Let them out of the crate, leash them, and take them to their potty spot. When they finish give a quick “good boy” or “good girl” and bring them back in. Remove the leash and put them back in the crate.

The less you interact in the middle of the night, the better chance of your puppy falling back asleep quickly and the better chance for a decent night of sleep for you.

Teach “Go Potty”

A puppy peeing in the grass.

Teaching the command “Go potty” can help your puppy understand what you expect of them when it is time to go outside.

When you take your puppy out to potty, say “go potty” in a happy voice as they do their business. Once they are finished, give them lots of praise and maybe even a treat.

By consistently using the same phrase, your puppy will learn that “go potty” means it is time to go to the bathroom.

I will add that I never had success with this with Luna and Morgan. A large part of that is not everyone in the house was using it, though everyone took their turn at taking them out while we were in the potty training phase.

If you want to teach this phrase to your puppy, everyone that takes them out to potty needs to use it.

Reward Your Puppy When They Go Outside

Whenever your puppy goes potty outside, make sure to give them lots of praise. This will help reinforce that they have done something you approve of.

You may even want to give them a treat as well. If you do, keep it tiny. Puppies don’t need large treats to get the message that what they did was good.

My Puppy Had An Accident, Now What?

A puppy sitting next to a puddle of urine.

If your puppy has an accident in the house, don’t get mad at them. They are still learning and accidents will happen.

The best thing you can do is clean up the mess and try to avoid it happening again in the future. Think about the circumstances right before the puppy had the accident. Did you miss a regular trip outside or were they not being supervised?

If the puppy wasn’t being supervised, just make sure to double down on the supervision, keep an eye out for the signs of needing to go potty and have the puppy go in the crate (after having a chance to potty outside) when you know you can’t supervise them.

Every accident Luna had happened when we weren’t wathcing her. And that happened when everyone thought someone else was watching her. Make sure that someone will be watching the puppy at all times when the puppy is not in her crate.

Clean Up Accidents Quickly And Thoroughly

Cleaning up dog pee with paper towels.

If your puppy has an accident in the house, you need to clean it up quickly and thoroughly. Puppies are attracted to the scent of their own urine and will often return to the same spot to potty if it is not cleaned properly.

To clean up accidents, use a pet enzyme cleaner or pet odor neutralizer specifically designed to remove pet urine. You can get these on Amazon, Chewy, and Petco.

Soak up as much of the urine as possible with paper towels or a cloth.

Then, apply the cleaner to the area and follow the instructions on the bottle.

And finally make sure the area is completely dry before letting your puppy back in the room.

How Long Does Puppy Potty Training Take?

According to Fetch by WebMD it can take 4 to 6 months and possibly up to a year to have your puppy fully potty trained. 

In my experience, Luna and Morgan were potty trained, to some extent, within a month or so. Now a lot of that, in the early weeks, was probably more we were trained to take them out than they were trained. Luna only ever had a couple of accidents in the house and both of those were within the first month of house training (and honestly, both were the fault of the humans in the house, not her).

I honestly can’t say when either dog was fully trained, where they wouldn’t have an accident if given the opportunity. Neither dog had free reign of the house with no supervision until they were at least a year old (that’s how long it took to trust them not to be naughty).

The age of your puppy also plays a role in how long it takes to get them trained. A younger puppy, around 8 weeks old, will take a bit longer as they are physically unable to hold their bladder very long.

Most puppies can only hold their bladder for about an hour per month of age, so an 8 week old puppy will only be able to hold it for about 2 hours. An older puppy, around 6 months old, will be able to hold it for longer periods of time, about 6 hours.

So if you are waiting for when your puppy can hold it all day, you’re looking at waiting until they are at least 8 months old and possibly longer. Until then, they will need at least a few trips outside during the day.

What Not To Do While Potty Training A Puppy

Now that you have a better understanding of how to potty train your puppy, there are a few things you should avoid doing.

Never punish your puppy for having an accident in the house. It’s not their fault they didn’t get taken out in time to avoid the accident. When they can only hold their bladder for a few hours, they will go potty, whether you take them out or not. It is your responsibility to make sure they get enough trips outside to prevent the accident from happening.

Punishing your puppy for having an accident can also work against you. They won’t learn “don’t potty inside” they will learn “don’t potty in front of you.” If you teach your puppy not to potty in front of you, they won’t want to go potty outside for fear of being punished again. You need to be proactive to prevent the accident in the first place.

Another thing not to do is to not make your puppy hold it longer than they can. Remember the rule, they can hold their bladder for about 1 hour per month of age. So your 4-month-old puppy will still need to go out at least every 4 hours, possibly more often based on meals and water consumption.

Tips for Responsible Dog Owners

Prevention is key when it comes to accidents in the house. The best way to prevent an accident is to take your puppy out often, especially after they eat or drink, and before they go to bed for the night.

A good rule of thumb is to take them out every 2-3 hours during the day, and right before bedtime at night. Young puppies will also need at least one trip out during the night, possibly 2.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations on your new puppy! Potty training a new puppy can seem like a daunting task, but if you follow these simple tips, you’ll be successful in no time.

Prevention is key, so take your puppy out often and establish a routine. Remember to not scold them when they have an accident, as this will only discourage them from going potty in the future. Be patient and consistent, and your puppy will be successfully potty trained before you know it.

Do you have any potty training tips or tricks that have worked for you? Share them with us in the comments below!

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