a photo of a black pug puppy wearing a bright green harness sitting on a path with green astroturf in the background. This represents a blog post in how to potty train a puppy

How to Potty Train a Puppy

Potty training is an important aspect of raising a puppy, and it requires careful planning, timing, and patience. By setting routines and learning your puppy's patterns, you can better predict when they will need to go potty. One way to do this is by offering meals at the same time every day. This creates a regular eating schedule for your puppy and helps establish a predictable potty routine.

Another helpful tool that I HIGHLY recommend in potty training is creating a "puppy potty chart." This chart should not only include when your puppy goes potty, but also when they eat, drink, play, and have training sessions. I am attaching a copy of one here for your use. By tracking these activities, you can identify patterns and anticipate when your puppy is likely to need a potty break. This proactive approach to potty training keeps you organized and helps you stay on top of your puppy's care.

For example, let's say you notice that your puppy always needs to go potty about 20 minutes after eating or drinking. You will know this information because you have been tracking in on the potty chart and you can start to plan a potty break around this time to avoid accidents in the house. This level of organization and predictability makes the potty training process smoother and more successful.

One of the best ways to reward your puppy for going potty outside is by offering treats. Food is usually the highest value motivator for most puppies, so it's a great option to use during potty training. Whenever your puppy successfully goes outside and relieves themselves, have a potty party! Be excited and shower your puppy with treats and praise. Make them feel like they've just won the lottery. This positive reinforcement will help them associate going potty outside with something enjoyable and rewarding.

While it's important to reward your puppy with treats during the initial stages of potty training, you can gradually taper out the treats as they become more consistent in going outside. However, don't be stingy with the treats in the beginning. This is a critical time for your puppy to learn the correct behavior, and generous rewards will help them understand what is expected of them. As they continue to progress in their potty training journey, you can replace treats with verbal praise and occasional rewards, such as a favorite toy or a belly rub. Remember, consistency is key, so be patient and continue to reinforce the desired behavior until it becomes a habit for your puppy.

Two additional key points are to make sure you take your puppy outside the MOMENT they wake up (from sleeping overnight or a nap) and out for one last potty break just before bedtime. Doing this as late as possible ensures that your puppy has emptied their bladder and is less likely to need to go during the night. This will not only help prevent accidents but also allow both you and your puppy to get a good night's sleep. It's important to note that the last potty break of the day should be separate from the bedtime routine. This will help your puppy understand that going potty is the last thing they do before settling down for the night.

Here are some additional ideas for effectively training a puppy to potty outside:

  1. The tether technique: This technique involves “attaching” your pup to you when you cannot watch their every move. You can simply slide the leash handle through a belt and wear it attached to a collar or harness on your puppy. Having your puppy tethered will give you both a chance to get in sync with each other AND work on potty training. Watch your pup carefully for signs that they may need to go. Most of the time they will look at you and then begin to sniff. Be sure to take them out regularly when you have them tethered and reward them generously when they go. Using the tether technique will also allow you to take them over to a certain area in your yard if you want to teach them to go in one place.
  1. Timers: Setting a timer throughout the day is a valuable tool for potty training. All dogs are different but, by using a chart, you will begin to learn your puppies potty habits and set timers accordingly. You can also pair this with other techniques listed here. Every time your puppy eats or drinks, set a timer for 10-20 minutes to take them out. You may have to chart for a couple of days to figure out the best timer schedule for your pup. After they go, set a new timer for anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours depending on the age and habits of your pup. 
  1. Crating: If your puppy is crate trained, you can use the crate for the times when you cannot keep an eye on your puppy. Most pups can go at least an hour in a crate without having an accident (again, your chart will help you decide what works for you pup). You can mix up crating with tethering to manage potty training.
  1. Using potty pads: Some people like the convenience of training a puppy to use potty pads. I don’t recommend them but if you do choose (or need) to use them simply put them around your home and confine your puppy near one while you wait for them to potty. Most of the time, puppies will naturally use a potty pad. Mind you once you train your puppy to use a pee pad it's more challenging to ween them off than it would be to potty train them from the beginning. However, a great way to transition your puppy from using pee pads is by taking a soiled one outside and placing it in the area you’d like your puppy to go. You can also place a new one which will prompt your puppy to go potty outside. Next, you can slowly cut the pad down in size, day by day until it is just a small square. At this point, you can eliminate it all together.
  1. Separate areas: If your home allows for creating a separate space (for example, blocking off a family room or part of one) where you can spend much of your free time with your puppy, this can help with potty training. As long as you can see them at all times, this will be a good place to spend time with them and watch for signs that they may need to go. If you can’t watch them, don’t rely on this often.

Accidents WILL happen. If your puppy has an accident just say “uh oh” and take them outside to sniff around. Disciplining your puppy is not recommended because it can make them shy to potty in your presence and it could teach them to go off inside and “hide” to potty” and we never want to create fear in puppies. The more you reward them for going outside the more they will do it!

You can use all of the above techniques separately or combined to potty train your puppy. With some trial and error, I hope you find what works for your household!


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