Puppy Potty Training 101: Tips for Teaching Good Bathroom Habits

time
15 Minute Read
Updated April 15, 2021

So you got a new puppy, eh! Your adorable fluff will bring lots of joy to your life, but puppies aren’t always sunshine and rainbows. Raising a puppy is tough, especially when it comes to puppy potty training.

It takes time and patience for your puppy to learn appropriate bathroom habits, and until then, you will likely have to deal with your baby dog having the occasional piddle party in your house. 

How to Potty Train a Puppy

Potty training your puppy doesn’t have to be hard, so long as you follow the right steps and are consistent with your puppy’s routine. We can help you build a routine that works for you and your puppy so that you can have a fully potty-trained puppy in no time. 

To help you start off on the right foot, we put together some simple tips that you can use to potty train your new puppy. Before we get to the tips, let’s look at a few commonly asked questions about puppy potty training.

At What Age Should a Puppy be Potty Trained?

One of the most common questions about puppy potty training is - when should I start potty training my puppy? 

Potty training is one of the very first training routines that you’ll need to teach your puppy. It starts from the very first day they come home. Most puppies are kept with their mother until at least 6 weeks, but often until 8 weeks. 

This ensures they are fully weaned from their mother’s milk and eating solid food, but it’s also because puppies learn a lot of routines and early behaviours from their mothers and littermates; this includes some bathroom habits.

Once you bring your new puppy home, you will need to continue their potty training immediately. 

Check out how long can dogs hold their pee to better understand how your puppy’s bathroom habits will progress as he grows. 

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

Like any aspect of your puppy’s training, potty training time depends greatly on your training methods, environment, and consistency. Every puppy is different, so the time it takes them to get a solid grasp on their potty training can range from a few days to a few months. 

The key is to pick a method that is easy to maintain and to be consistent. Flip-flopping between methods or changing your commands and routines will make it harder for your puppy to learn. 

The initial steps of potty training, where to pee, are usually learned quickly, within a few days, but what takes time and routine is when to pee. Your tiny pooch hasn’t learned to hold their pee, so even though they may know that going outside is correct, they may not be able to hold it long enough to get there. 

Puppy Potty Training Tips

Young-puppy-taking-potty-break

Whether you are just planning your new puppy’s homecoming or you have already been attempting to potty train your pup, these X tips can help you build good bathroom habits and routines to help your puppy learn. 

1. Show them the Bathroom

Always start your training by showing them the appropriate place to relieve themselves. If you are just bringing your puppy home, take them immediately outside to where you want them to go. Start every morning with a trip to the bathroom, and end every night with the same. 

2. Make a Puppy Potty Training Schedule

A consistent routine plays a huge role in your puppy’s potty training success, so it’s best to make a schedule and stick to it as strictly as you can. The schedule will change as your puppy grows and learns more bladder control, but you should be consistent day-to-day. 

No matter how old your puppy is, you should start with more frequent potty breaks and work your way down. Even older puppies need repetition to learn good habits. Here’s a simple breakdown of how frequently your puppy will need to go to the bathroom at each stage of puppyhood:

6-12 weeks - every 2 hours and within 1 hour of any meal

3-6 months - every 2-4 hours

6-10 months - every 4-6 hours

10+ months - every 6-8 hours

Potty training goes hand-in-hand with crate training your puppy, so your potty breaks can easily be worked into your puppy's crate training schedule.

corgi-in-crate-with-toys

3. Potty Training a Puppy at Night

Overnight is a bit of a different story. Puppies under the age of 4 months may need one or more bathroom breaks at night, while puppies over 4 months are more likely to be able to sleep through the night. 

Be prepared to wake up at least once in the middle of the night for a bathroom break for the first month of potty training. You can risk it, but you might wake up to a messy kennel or an accident in your living room if you don't. 

Some puppies learnt o sleep through the night faster than others, so if your puppy is dead to the world for 8 hours a night - congrats! You are one of the lucky ones. It normally takes at least a few weeks for your puppy to learn to sleep soundly through the night. 

4. Look for signs

Your dog can’t just tell you he needs to go, but you might be able to see behaviours that your puppy needs to pee. Young puppies won’t show many signs, but as your puppy adapts to his potty routine and you start to space out bathroom breaks, you might start to notice repeated behaviours that tell you he needs to go outside.

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:

      • Standing right in front of you and staring at you
      • Whining or barking near the door
      • Pacing to and from the door
      • Herding you towards the door
      • Circling and sniffing an area on the floor( as if they are getting ready to pee)

5. Try a Door Bell

One easy way to enhance your dog’s potty training is to give your puppy a better way of letting you know they’ve got to go. Potty training bells are a simple and effective way for your puppy to signal to you that he needs to go outside. 

There are a variety of styles, but the basic type is a ribbon or rope with large bells that hang on your doorknob. You can train your puppy to nudge or poke the bells to let you know it’s potty time. Lil Pals makes a super cute training bell system that we love. 

This is an extra step of training, but it’s easier and more intuitive for your dog than you think. Here are a few easy steps for training your pup to ring the bell:

      • Introduce your puppy to the bell. Let him sniff the bell and reward him for approaching it. 
      • Every time you take him out, ring the bell and say the word potty, outside, or whatever word you want to use to help your puppy associate the bell with bathroom breaks. 
      • Start to encourage your puppy to nudge the bell to make a sound. Reward every time he does this and take him outside immediately. 
      • Repeat, repeat, repeat.

6. Reward Success

Keep treats on hand all the time. Every time you take your puppy out to go potty, reward him for doing the deed. You want him to know that he’s doing the right thing in the right place, so a tasty reward will help.

Carry a treat pouch, or keep treats safely stored by the door so that rewarding your dog is both quick and easy. 

7. Food and Water

A well-fed and hydrated puppy is a healthy puppy, but their food and water habits directly affect their bathroom needs. Keep this in mind when you are planning your puppy’s potty routine. 

Dog’s have quicker digestion than we do, so plan bathroom breaks for within an hour of each meal. If your pup gulps down a bunch of water right before bed, he’s most likely going to need to pee during the night, so schedule bathroom breaks around their eating schedules.

The type of diet you feed will also be a factor. Raw foods digest much quicker than heavily processed foods like kibble, so your puppy will need to use the bathroom sooner after meals. 

What to Do When Your Puppy has an Accident

puppy-standing-by-to-pee-house

Let’s face it, accidents happen. Throughout your puppy’s potty training experience, you will likely have to clean up several accidents in the house, but this doesn’t mean you failed. It just means that your puppy needs more practice. 

An important part of potty training is knowing how to handle missteps. How you react to your puppy making a mess in the house can dictate how he learns to correct those mistakes in the future. Let’s look at some tips to keep in mind when you catch your puppy in the act. 

1. Interrupt

You won’t always catch them midstream, but when you do, interrupt them and bring them outside or to the correct bathroom spot immediately. To help them associate the act with the place, you need to move quickly.

2. Use a Vocal Command

Use the same vocal commands each time. Pick one word that you will use when you bring your puppy to the bathroom. It can be outside, out, bathroom, potty, or any other short word that you choose. You want them to learn the word and what it refers to. 

3. Don’t Get Mad

Of course, it’s frustrating, but your puppy doesn’t understand your anger, so do your best to stay calm. When you get mad, you are likely to stray from the routine or even frighten your puppy, which will confuse the lessons you are trying to teach. 

Take a breath, use your vocal commands and take your puppy outside as you always do.  

4. Clean It Up

The least fun part of puppy training is the clean-up, but it’s an important part of breaking bad habits. Dogs leave behind pheromones in their urine that their sensitive noses can detect even when ours can’t. 

So a quick clean job may get rid of the stain and odour for you, but if your puppy can still smell it, then he’s much more likely to go back to the same spot, thinking it’s the bathroom. Be diligent and use a pet-safe cleaner designed to eliminate these pheromones. 

Shop All Pet Stain & Odour Removers

Puppy Potty Training in an Apartment

Living in an apartment can make potty training your puppy a little trickier. When you don’t have immediate access to the outdoors, it can be a little more difficult for your puppy to hold it long enough to get outside. 

Living on the 10th floor means a long elevator ride for a young puppy who just woke up and has to go now. It doesn't mean you can't train your puppy to go outside, but it's good to have contingency plan for days or times that you can't make it all the way downstairs.

Fortunately, potty training a puppy in an apartment is still totally doable, but you might have to try a different approach to get started. To make sure your puppy has quick and easy access to a bathroom, it’s a good idea to start your puppy on pee pads. 

What is a Pee Pad?

A common potty training tool for young puppies is pee pads. Pee Pads are an absorbent pad you can have in the house for your puppy to go to the bathroom on. These are popular for very young puppies, and puppy’s in apartments where going outside is a longer trip. 

These pads are often infused with a puppy training pheromone, a synthetic version similar to the pheromone in their pee, to indicate to the puppy that this is the appropriate place to relieve themselves. 

Pee pads are a great way to start your puppy’s potty training because you can place the pee pad close to the areas that your puppy commonly hangs out, like his crate. As your puppy adapts to the pee pads and gains some bladder control, you can slowly transition them from using the pee pads to going outside. 

How to Pee Pad Train a PuppyPomeranian-puppy-using-pee-pad

Even though pee pads are scented to attract puppies, the process of pee pad training isn’t always intuitive for young puppies. To make sure they understand how to use pee pads properly, you’ll have to take some steps to help them understand what it is and how it works. 

Here are a few things you can do to get your puppy started on pee pads:

1. Let them Explore the Pad

The first step is to let them sniff and explore the pee pad. They’ll be able to smell that synthetic pheromone, so they’ll be curious. Encourage them with verbal praise if they walk on the pad. At this stage, some puppies will instinctually mark the pad by peeing on it. Great! Give lots of praise and reward, so they know they did a good job. 

2. Stick to Your Potty Training Schedule

Just like you would have a routine for taking your puppy outside, you should stick to that same schedule for the pee pad. You want to get them used to go to the bathroom at regular intervals so that it’s easier to transition them to outside bathroom breaks. 

3. Make it Recognizable

If your puppy is not picking up on the pee pad’s subtle scent, it can help get some of their own scent on the pad. When they have an accident in the house, dab the pad in your puppy’s urine. This can be a great signal to your puppy that the pad is the potty. 

4. Easy Access is Important

Keep your puppy’s pee pad close, but not too close. You want the pee pad to be accessible at all times but still separate from where your pooch eats, sleeps, and plays. Pee pads aren’t 100% leak-proof either, so pick a non-carpeted area of the house, like the kitchen or bathroom. 

5. Reward, Reward, Reward

Just like any type of training, make sure to always reward successes. Every time your puppy uses the pad, give him a treat or toy. Keep rewards close by so you can treat your puppy as soon as he’s done his business.

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How Often Do You Change Pee Pads?

Pee pads don’t hold a lot, so you need to check them a couple of times a day. Partially because you don’t want puppy pee to soak through the pad to the floor, but also because your puppy might not want to use the pad if it’s already too heavily soiled. 

Pee pads may need to be replaced a few times per day, so stock up. Dogit Homegaurd Puppy Training Pads uses special quick-dry technology to turn liquid into gel and locking it into the pad for a less messy potty training experience. 

Shop All Training Pads and Accessories

Pee Pad Tips

Pee pads aren’t always the cleanest option for potty training. Puppies can miss the pad or soak through if they have a particularly heavy flow. For male dogs who lift, you risk them spraying the wall or having pee splashback on the floor around the pad. 

You also have to watch out for puppies that like to play with the pads by digging, chewing, or just picking them up and dragging a soiled pad around the house. Here are a few pee pad tips to help keep your house a little cleaner during potty training:

    • Use a pee pad holder to keep your puppy from being able to move the pad around. These plastic frames are designed to hold the pee pad so your puppy can’t fuss with it and have non-slip rubber grips on the bottom to make sure the pad doesn’t slide around. 
    • For a cheaper DIY method for keeping the pee pad in one place, try a couple of pieces of double-sided tape on the bottom of the pad. 
    • To keep your walls from getting sprayed with splashback, hang some thick plastic sheets on the walls next to the pee pads. 
    • Consider a washable, waterproof pad like this one from Tall Tails for something a little more eco-friendly. It can hold up to 1.5 cups of liquid to keep your floors clean and dry. 

Pee Pad Alternatives

Pee pads aren’t the only solution for indoor potty training. A somewhat outdated version of a pee pad was to lay down some newspaper for your puppy to go one, but it’s not a commonly used method anymore.

We have much more sophisticated options for indoor potty training than paper, like dog bathroom systems. Unlike disposable pee pads, bathroom systems collect urine in a tray below the surface that can be emptied or drained, and the whole system can be washed and sanitized. 

Some systems even use a simulated grass texture or grass scent on the surface to make potty training easier. Indoor dog bathrooms aren’t always the cheapest option, but they can be cost-effective compared to months of buying disposable pee pads. 

The systems are also really good for potty training your puppy on a deck or balcony of an apartment, condo, or townhouse.

Transitioning from Pee Pads to Outside

pee-pad-by-back-door

Dogs can use indoor bathroom solutions, like pee pads, into adulthood, but they are most commonly used temporarily at the beginning of the potty training process. Ideally, you want to transition your puppy from pee pads to going outside as soon as you can.

Once your puppy has built good bathroom habits with the pee pads, you can easily transition them to going outside by moving the pee pad to as near the door as possible and then to just outside the door. After a few days of taking them outside to pee, you can remove the pads entirely. 

Keep in mind how long your puppy can hold their pee, though. Without a bathroom option indoors, your puppy may have an accident if you wait too long between bathroom breaks. 

Potty Training a Dog

old-lab-wearing-diaper-on-couch

Not every pooch that needs potty training is a young puppy. Fully grown adults and senior dogs may need potty training when you bring them home. Some rescue dogs have never been house-trained, so they need to learn the rules of your home just the same as a puppy would. 

Older dogs tend to have bad bathroom habits ingrained already, so they may be a little more stubborn about adapting to a new routine. Relearning bathroom routines can take time because your dog is already used to the bad habits he’s already learned. 

Beyond breaking bad habits, you also need to consider health factors that could contribute to your dog’s accidents, like incontinence and mobility issues. 

Incontinence

Senior pets are more likely to suffer from health issues that cause incontinence. Incontinence is the inability to hold their bladder and or bowels. This could be due to injury or disease and can lead to your dog “going” wherever he happens to be. 

While incontinence may be treated with supplements or medications, depending on the cause, some dogs will need to wear dog diapers to manage their issues. Just like baby diapers, you can choose from either disposable or washable options to suit your dog’s needs. 

Mobility Problems in Dogs

For dogs that have limited mobility, getting to the bathroom in time might be an issue. Managing their hip and joint health can help improve mobility, reduce pain, and promote better bathroom habits. 

Mobility issues are common in senior pets but can affect younger dogs and breeds with predispositions to joint issues. Giant breeds like mastiffs, breeds with back issues like basset hounds, and even small breeds prone to knee injuries like Boston terriers could have trouble getting to the bathroom when they are in pain. 

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UTIs and Kidney Issues

Urinary health can be another factor in a dog’s bad bathroom habits. Dogs suffering from a urinary tract infection or compromised kidney function will need to pee much more often. If you find your dog needs to pee more frequently or is straining to urinate, then it’s time to call the vet. 

One Step at a Time

husky-puppy-checking-out-pee-pad

No training experience ever goes 100% as planned, so be prepared for mistakes and setbacks. The important thing is to always circle back to the same routines, vocal commands, and tools until your puppy starts to get it. This means you may have to repeat steps that your puppy is struggling with. 

Every puppy learns differently, but they will eventually build good bathroom habits. Consider if your routine is suitable for accommodating your puppy’s bathroom needs and make adjustments or arrangements as needed.  

Are you trying to potty train your puppy? Let us know your success, struggles, and tips for teaching your pup good bathroom habits in the comments below!

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channeling some crazy cat lady vibes with her four lovable, but rebellious cats.

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