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how to potty train a puppy

Nothing is cuter than a new puppy (we dare you not to have your heart melted at those eyes). But your dreamy new family member can easily become a nightmare if you don’t start housebreaking, stat! To get you started, here’s how to potty train a puppy:


Get a room. And by room, we mean a crate!

  • The right crate can be made of wire or plastic and should be large enough for your dog to stand up, lie down and turn in a circle comfortably.


  • A crate can be used as your puppy’s bed, babysitter and time-out zone. If your pup isn’t potty trained at home yet, he should be crated any time you’re not directly supervising him. But just popping him into the crate will all but guarantee that you won’t have a silent night, so…


  • Condition the crate to be a relaxing and safe space by giving your pup something fun to do while he’s in there. Try a stuffed or frozen KONG® toy; both of these last much longer than a traditional dog biscuit and engage your dog’s brain and body so he doesn’t get bored.


Recognize patterns. Even though he can’t verbalize it to you, your puppy may be trying to tell you he needs a potty break:

  • If you’re playing with or petting your pup and he suddenly walks away, it’s time to take him out to potty. 


  • If you see your pup start to sneak into another room where family members aren’t present, you can bet you’re in for a surprise later!


  • If you notice your pup lingering by the door, he may be trying to tell you something.


Stick to schedules. Putting your pup on an eating and potty break schedule will help you nail down potty training quickly.

  • Give your pup access to food and water 2-3 times per day, but only for 30 minutes at a time. After 30 minutes, pick it up and put it away until the next scheduled feeding time.


  • Pull up food and water for the night around 7 p.m. Letting food and water flow free means that you never know when your pup is eating and drinking…therefore, you never know when he’s gotta go!


How long can puppies hold it?


A good rule of thumb is one hour for every month old they are, plus one. So if your pup is 3 months old, he should be able to hold it for four hours (3 months + 1=4 hours). Arrange your schedule (and expectations) accordingly to make sure you aren’t asking too much from your puppy!


Have hawk eyes! Allowing your puppy too much freedom too soon is a novice mistake. So if you’re working on potty training, be sure to keep a watchful eye on him all the time. 

  • This may mean having your dog on a leash in the house, or closing doors to rooms you’re not currently using to limit his access to them.


  • It may help to put a small bell on your dog’s collar to bring your attention to him if he starts to move. That way, if you’re watching your favorite TV show while your dog sleeps at your feet, and all of a sudden you hear a bell moving away from you, you can run your pup out for a quick potty break.


Dispel the myths. Everyone has their own ideas about potty training, but consider these two myths before scolding your pup after an accident:

  • Myth: Punishing him now for an earlier accident will make him realize he’s done wrong.


Fact: Dogs live in the moment, so you can’t punish him now for what happened in the past, even if it was just five minutes ago. Rubbing his nose in an old accident will only make him run away from you when you get upset over the next accident.


  • Myth: He knows what he did.


Fact: It’s easy to believe your dog knows what he did was wrong; when you find a “present” on the floor, he gives you his best “I’m sorry!” act. In reality, dogs don’t have the cognitive abilities to put that scenario together. They can, however, figure out these patterns:

He probably doesn’t know you’re upset that he made the poo, he just knows he’s in a room with poo, and you’re mad!


No matter what, remember to stay strong in the beginning. It’s much easier to start your pup off on the right paw with potty training rather than trying to fix bad habits later! Need a little personalized help? Check out ccpdt.org to find a great, certified dog trainer in your area.

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Posted by Alicia De Leon
on August 25 2016 18:51

I was at my wits end. These tips make so much sense. Thanks! I will put them to work as soon as I get home to my fur baby. She's 6 months old.

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