Puppy Potty Training — A Step-by-Step Guide
A puppy potty training protocol for zero accidents — from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
Did you know that potty training begins as soon as you bring home your puppy? The issue is, most humans wait until their pup has an accident to get serious about potty training.
While potty training requires a lot of attention from you, the human, just 1–2 weeks of dedication will result in a lifetime of zero accidents. Well, until they’re old and potentially develop incontinence but that’s a whole different story.
Here are the simple steps to potty training your pup so they have zero accidents.
Step One: Rule out any medical issues
This seems obvious, but I’ve had clients who’ve asked me about potty training problems they’ve come across when their pup ends up having a UTI or has GI issues.
You must ensure that all medical issues are taken care of FIRST before you can begin any potty training.
Step Two: Prevent ALL accidents inside
This is the most important step.
In fact, if you ignored ALLLL the other steps and JUST did this one, you’d probably have a fully potty trained pup.
This is because dogs are creatures of habit. Meaning, wherever they pee, they’re going to want to pee there AGAIN and AGAIN.
This can either work in your favor (i.e., outside) or against you (on your favorite fancy rug).
Which, you’re probably wondering — how do I prevent all accidents inside?
The first option is to crate train. For potty training, your pup’s crate should be just big enough so they can stand up and fully turn around. This is so they don’t pee on one side of the crate, and sleep on the other.
I have a free crate training protocol you can download, to get your pup to love their crate!
The second option is to attach your puppy to you via a leash and carabiner. This way your puppy doesn’t wander off and pee somewhere when you’re not watching. The key to this is you actually have to pay attention — they can still pee while they’re attached to you if you’re glued to your phone!
Step Three: Establish a regular potty training schedule
If your pup knows that you regularly take them out, they’re going to have trust that they will have an opportunity to pee outside soon.
This is why with small/young puppies, I encourage you to take them out after they drink water, and after they eat their meals. In general, a puppy can “hold it” for an hour for every month old they are.
In other words, an 8-week old puppy will have to go out at least once every 2 hours.
That being said, this is the MAXIMUM they can hold it for, so you’ll want to take them out much more often.
If you’re in an apartment or high rise building, you’ll want to consider a potty patch on your patio.
Yes, your puppy can ‘hold it’ for much longer overnight as there is less activity, but a young puppy will probably need to go out once in the middle of the night.
Make sure to put up water an hour before bedtime!
Step Four: Reinforce heavily for going outside
Lots and lots of praise and at least 3 high value treats when they DO go outside.
Bonus Tip: IF you catch your pup going inside, do not punish them
The issue with punishing is that it can cause your pup to be scared to pee in front of you. This means they will get creative when they need to go — like pee behind your couch or poop in the closet to ‘hide from you.’
At the end of the day — we’re human. We aren’t perfect, and there may be an accident. If you catch your pup in the act, pick them up and take them outside ASAP. This will help them learn that they should be going outside.
If you don’t catch them in the act, use an enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle that will prevent accidents happening in the same spot in the future.
Still have questions? I break down the most common potty training roadblocks in the video below.