How To Potty Train A Puppy

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Picking up your puppy is probably the most exciting part about puppy raising, but as soon as all the cuteness has worn off (actually some of the cuteness will wear off the first time he piddles in the house or perhaps a little poopie accident on the car ride home…YUCK!) one of the first things you will think about is how to potty train a puppy.

When we first started raising guide dog puppies over ten years ago we received a guide dog puppy manual on how to raise and train a puppy.

As guide dog puppy raisers we follow all the rules and puppy training guidelines outlined in our puppy manual and when it comes to potty training our puppy we simply turn to page 42 in our manual and follow the instructions on how to potty train a puppy.

How to potty train a puppy - puppy peeing on the grass
How to potty train a puppy – House training our most recent puppy, Charlie

So today we’re going to discuss how we go about…you guessed it…potty training a puppy!

QUICK TIP: You likely don’t have access to a Guide Dog Puppy Manual. Luckily we’ve read many books on puppy training and one of our favorites, Puppies for Dummies is an easy read that will give you a solid foundation for raising and training your puppy.

How To Potty Train A Puppy

Golden Retriever puppy down on carpet nose level.
Reggie A Golden Retriever Guide Dog Puppy In Training

QUICK ACCESS: If you’re having puppy training problems then you should join our Puppy Training Tips email list and get instant access to our New Puppy Owner Checklist PDF. To get started CLICK HERE.

Here are some of the basics we’ve learned over the years on how to potty train a puppy.

Potty training is obviously one of the first things you’ll want to teach your puppy. If done properly, potty training is not difficult. The key is to be consistent.

Never allow YOUR puppy to be unattended or out of YOUR sight. If you are unable to do this remember to use confinement as a means of prevention.

QUICK TIP: We highly recommend crate training your puppy as a primary means of confinement. We’ve been using the Midwest Life Stages Double Door Crate w/ Divider since we brought home our first puppy, Linus over 15 years ago.

Keep your puppy on a schedule. Feed him at regular times and always give him a chance to relieve himself right after being fed. (we feed our puppies Wellness Core Puppy Formula)

Using a designated area in your yard, let your pup have plenty of time (fifteen minutes) to relieve itself.

Encourage the puppy to go by using words such as “Get Busy”. This is the command used at Guide Dogs of America. We use the same command with all of our puppies in training.

When the puppy has done his business, praise him lavishly. A good rule of thumb to follow is to give your puppy a chance to relieve himself at a minimum of these times…

House training our puppy, Charlie. - Pooping outside
House training our puppy, Charlie

When Should I Take My Puppy Out To Potty

This is uber important. Anticipating when your puppy will potty should be something you know like the back of your hand.

Always take your puppy out to his potty spot:

  1. First thing in the morning.
  2. After each meal.
  3. After a nap.
  4. After playtime.
  5. Right before you and your pup retire for the night.

Remember your puppy should always relieve on a leash. It is important to train the puppies to relieve on leash in a variety of surfaces (grass, gravel, cement, etc…)”

Many of these potty training tips are from our guide dog puppy manual and don’t need to be followed to a “T” if you’re training your puppy as a family pet.

One thing I wish I would have known sooner is to train my puppies to relieve on different surfaces.

My rescue pup, Linus learned to pee and poop on the grass and was potty trained in less than two weeks. However, when he was nine months old we took him camping and he would not go potty on the dirt.

There was no grass and we were worried that we’d have to drive into town (about an hour away) to find grass for him to pee on.

After holding his pee for over 24 hours he finally relieved in the dirt and pee’d for about 2 minutes straight (think Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own).

The moral of the story?  It’s important to train your pup to pee on a variety of surfaces.

All of our guide dog puppies have learned to pee and poop on cement, grass, gravel, rocks, wood chips, dirt, and any other place you might imagine.

Yellow Lab puppy resting on tile floor.
As soon is Derby was up from his nap it was time for a potty break.

Potty Training Tips For Your Puppy

One of the great things about being a guide dog puppy raiser is the incredible network of knowledgeable puppy raisers and guide dog trainers we have at our disposal.

Some of the members in our Orange County Group have been guide dog puppy raisers for 20+ years and have raised a dozen or more puppies!

I guess we’re relative neophytes as Dublin is only our third puppy in training and this is only our fifth year as guide dog puppy raisers.

UPDATE: as of today we are entering year 13 as puppy raisers and we’ve raised 11 puppies for multiple service dog organizations.

As guide dog puppy raisers we are required to enroll our puppies in a minimum of one puppy kindergarten and one basic dog obedience class.

One of the first questions we are asked at puppy kindergarten is how are you doing with potty training your puppy?

Even our most experienced puppy raisers will still sometimes have questions on how to potty train a puppy.

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: We recently started training our puppies to alert us when they have to go potty by using a potty training doorbell called the Smart Bell. It requires a little bit of training, but it’s a good alternative to your dog scratching up the backdoor.

Yellow Lab puppy taking a potty break
Derby taking a “break”

Here are some of the puppy training tips and hints I’ve learned over the years when working on potty training with my own puppies:

1. Keep an eye on your puppy – We learned pretty fast that it’s important to keep a constant eye on your puppy. Use puppy gates (same as baby gates), tie-downs, and leashes to make sure you can always see your puppy. If you see him start to sniff around, circle, whimper, or squat then quickly scoop him up and take him out to his designated potty place in the yard. Give him a ton of praise when he potty’s in his spot. It’s important to keep your puppy under constant supervision not only for potty training purposes but to keep him out of trouble in general. We’ve found many a chewed-up shoe, cell phone, remote control because we didn’t keep a close eye on our puppies. This can be both costly and dangerous for your puppy.

2. Keep a puppy potty schedule– If you keep a puppy potty schedule you’ll notice your pup can be fairly predictable with his potty times. We just use a sheet of paper and write it down every time our puppy goes pee or poop (you’ll start to notice trends on your puppy’s potty schedule). Here are a few potty times that should automatically be on your schedule.

  • Your puppy will always need to go potty shortly before and after eating or drinking water. We feed our pups twice a day (our young puppies eat three times a day) at specific times which helps control the times they go poop.
  • As soon as your puppy wakes up. Puppies almost always go potty right after waking up.
  • As Linus’s dog trainer used to say: “Play makes pee!” It seems as though every 10 minutes or so your puppy will pee when playing.

3. Be Consistent – stay free from variation. Stay consistent so your puppy knows what you want him to do. Be consistent by taking him out the same door to the same potty spot. Be consistent with your puppy potty schedule. Be consistent with your puppy’s feeding schedule. Be consistent and make sure everyone in your household abides by the same puppy potty training rules. If you do not stay consistent then it will take longer to potty train your puppy.

4. Be Persistent – continue firmly with your potty training your puppy in spite of any difficulty. At times it may seem like your puppy just does not get it, but don’t waver and be persistent. It took our Aussie mix, Linus less than 2 weeks before he was potty trained. It took about 6 months to fully trust Stetson with his potty training. Stay persistent!

5. Be Patient – defined as the ability to suppress annoyance…puppies are adorable, but they will also test your patience. Try to remain calm and don’t get upset with your puppy. It takes time to potty train a puppy. Be patient and you will be rewarded. If you feel yourself losing your patience step away for a while and let your puppy have some alone time in his crate with his favorite KONG or chew toy.

6. Praise Your Puppy – The most important thing when we raise our guide dog puppies is to give your pup tons of praise every time they do something right. Don’t forget to give your puppy a ton of praise every time he goes potty in his designated potty area. This will help reinforce the behavior with your puppy.

Puppy Charlie taking a pee pee brake.
Puppy Charlie taking a pee pee brake.

7. Crate Training Puppies – we crate train all of our guide dog puppies in training. (if you’re looking for a crate we recommend the Midwest Life Stages Double Door Crate w/ Divider). Many people feel like crate training is like imprisoning your puppy. However, crate-trained puppies enjoy the safety and security they feel when in their crate as they will find it much like their den had they lived in the wild. In fact, many of our puppies in training have grown so accustomed to their crates that they will often go to their crates and sleep any time they are tired. Crate training is great for potty training as it’s your puppy’s natural instinct not to potty where he sleeps. For more information on crate training check out our page on crate training puppies. For starters here are a few basics on crate training:

  • Place the crate in your bedroom where the puppy can still see and hear what is going on.
  • Put a blanket or towels in the crate for bedding. A pup will rarely soil the crate, however, if he does, try removing the bedding.
  • A crate should not be too big, but large enough for the puppy to stand, stretch and turn around.
  • When placing the puppy in the crate, use word “kennel” or “kennel up”.
  • If he should happen to fall asleep somewhere else, pick him up and place him inside and quietly shut the door.
  • Don’t use the crate for punishment.
  • Take your puppy outside to potty before putting him in the crate.
  • Take your puppy outside to potty as soon as you take him out of the crate.

Puppy In Training TV Episode 2 reviewed several puppy training basics including a short clip on taking your puppy to his potty spot (approximate 2:15 in the clip below).

Check out our other Puppy In Training TV episodes.  If you’re interested in sponsoring an episode please let us know by sending us an email through our contact form.

Do Not Rub Your Puppy’s Nose In His Accidents!

We need to reiterate…Do not Rub Your Puppy’s Nose In His Accidents! Do not hit your puppy after an accident! Do not punish your puppy if you find an accident!

Never punish your puppy after the fact. Your puppy will think you are punishing him for whatever is happening at the time of the correction. Your puppy will not make the connection that this is an area that he previously soiled and that is why you are punishing.

Full Disclosure: When I was in college (Holy Crap! Over 25 years ago!) my roommate had a dog and instructed me to…rub his puppy’s nose in his accidents to teach him not to potty in the house.

Guess what, his puppy never connected the dots and continued to have accidents in the house every day the 1+ year I lived with this poor little puppy.

Puppy Clean Up

If your puppy pees or poops on the floor or carpet make sure you clean it up immediately (I’m sure I really didn’t have to say that).

Your puppy’s nose is thousands of times stronger than your nose.

If your puppy smells the pee or poop on the floor then he will return to this spot to pee again.

In order to remove all the stain and odor we like to use an enzyme-based odor remover. Our favorite is the Rocco & Roxie Stain and Odor Remover.

Rocco & Roxie claims to “ELIMINATE STAINS, ODORS, AND RESIDUE If it’s gross, it’s gone. Not just the stain, but the stink…”

Remember your puppy’s nose is thousands of times more powerful than yours make. If he smells a trace of urine then he’ll feel compelled to potty in that spot again so make sure you find a good stain and odor remover.

One final note: If your designated potty spot is in a public area (or even at home) make sure you bring potty bags (we like these earth rated bags made from recycled materials) or a pooper scooper to clean up your mess.  One of our biggest pet peeves is the person who does not pick up after their puppy.

It’s bad for the environment and for some reason the bottom of my shoe seems to always find the dog poop that was left behind.

I hope this little guide helps you with your puppy potty training basics.

Quick Recap

If there are 3 things I’d like you to remember when potty training your puppy:

  1. Puppy Management – Keep an eye on your puppy 100% of the time and when you can’t let your puppy have some quiet time in his crate (Midwest Wire Crates are our favorite for crate training puppies). – the fewer accidents your puppy has in the house the sooner he will be potty trained.
  2. Clean Messes – Any time your puppy does have an accident clean thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner like Rocco & Roxie’s Stain and Odor Remover.
  3. Puppy Potty Schedule – Get out a piece of paper and start writing down when your puppy sleeps, eats, drinks, plays and goes pee/poop. Keep your puppy on a schedule and you’ll start to notice a pattern.

That’s a wrap!

What questions do you have about potty training a puppy?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

How To Potty Train A Puppy - Golden Retriever puppy
How To Potty Train A Puppy – Golden Retriever Puppy, Charlie

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495 Comments

  1. Our new lab is 8 weeks and he has a decent schedule , we’ve had him 4 days so we’ve been able to take him outside to pee after every nap and food . But now we have to work. I notice he pees every 30 min if he’s not napping . How do I make him hold his pee for two hours for when I come home to let him out every two hours til I’m off work? he pees after 30 min regardless if we take him out or not .

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! Here’s a post you might find helpful on raising a puppy while working full time. One of the main points of the article is if you have to be away from home all day then try to find some help whether it be a friend, family member, neighbor, doggy daycare, or pet sitter. Our friends at Labrador Training HQ have an extensive step by step article on potty training your puppy that includes a section on using a small confinement area and paper training that might be helpful. Hopefully those links help. Good luck with your puppy!

  2. Hello. We just got a 8 week Aussie and need some advice on getting her on a schedule for potty training. We live in an apartment and have a play pen set up as well as a designated potty area with pee pads on the patio. Any advice would be appreciated. We are also trying to crate train her.

  3. Hi! We picked up a 5 month old puppy from the shelter about a week ago. He’s done fairly well at not having an accident throughout the day, but every morning he pees right as I take him out of the kennel (even if I pick him straight up & run him outside). I also have problems with him running away from me when I let him out of the kennel (this again results in peeing).
    I’m not sure how to stop the morning pee episodes?

    1. Some puppies have pee accidents when they get overly excited. If this is the case the goal is to try and keep your puppy as calm as possible before going outside. We’ve had puppies that have trouble holding it through the night and set our alarm once or twice to get them outside for a potty break at night. Finally, we’ve had puppies who have had urinary tract infections which has made it difficult for them to hold it resulting in accidents.

  4. My 6 month old schnauzer will not poop outside on his own, he will only go if we walk him. At times he will go out and pee, and then come in and poop on the floor. Any suggestions on how we can stop this?

    1. We always train our puppies to potty in the same spot on leash. You might try doing the same with your puppy designating a spot for your pup to both pee and poop. Start by taking him to his designated potty spot on leash as you would on a walk and make sure he does his pee and poop. After he gets used to going in the same spot you can start walking him to his spot without the leash and having him potty at his spot. Finally, once he’s consistently doing his business at this spot off leash with you there you can start trying to let him go to his spot on his own by letting him out when you know it’s time for him to potty. Hopefully that is helpful. Good luck with your puppy.

  5. My 4 month old rescue pup(hound/retriever) was doing great with potty training but now it has snowed and the wind is crazy and it feels like it’s in the 20’s so she won’t pee or poop outside!! I have stood outside for 30 minutes and within 30 seconds of coming inside she will pee and poop, mostly poop! Tonight she finally pooped 3 different times came inside and STILL POOPED IN THE DEN!! At wits ends!!!!

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! We live in California and the weather never gets too extreme. It did rain for two weeks when we brought home Linus and he refused to go outside. Lucky for us all we had to do was pick him up, place him on the grass, he’d pee, we’d pick him up, and bring him back inside. Of course heavy rain is nothing compared to the weather conditions your facing. If it were me I’d probably consider setting up an indoor potty and place it in the garage. That would give your dog a spot to potty during extreme weather. Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your puppy!

  6. We have a 10 month old ShihTzu which for the most part is completely potty trained accept for marking he is a boy and he will go into our bedroom at pee just a tiny bit how do I stop the marking so he can have free run of the house.

    1. You might want to consider consulting with a certified professional dog trainer for an in home evaluation. Number 1 on my list would be to thoroughly clean any spot your dog marked with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle or Rocco & Roxie. I would also take a step back in your training and monitor your puppy’s behavior more closely so you can catch your puppy in the act of marking. Try to catch him anytime before he marks and bring him outside to his regular potty spot.

  7. My 4 month old female Dal is partially house trained; but an issue is she will go outside and the 10 min later go in the house. Need some suggestions.

  8. I foster and currently have eight 2 mo pups. I also work nights so crating while I’m gone isn’t an option. Understand no easy solution but would appreciate some guidance on these pups. My first with a liter.

    1. You’ve taken on a tall task fostering a litter of 8. Thank you!

      We used to volunteer with a local rescue and fostered two litters. A litter of 2 plus mom and a litter of 7 without mom. We’ve also raised litters of 6, 8, and 10. I’ve talked to a few friends who have successfully worked with litter box training with their litters to get them a start on where they need to potty. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the same success with the litter box. I’ve tried with two of my litters and both ended up more interested in eating the litter and tossing it all over the place. I’ve never really tried too hard to potty train the large litters (7+ puppies), but as they start leaving the house and the number of puppies becomes more manageable I do start working with getting them outside to do their business then bringing them back to their play area.

      At 2 months old with 8 puppies it’s just tough keeping the puppies fed and their sleeping area clean. If these were my puppies I wouldn’t concentrate on potty training until some of the puppies start leaving the house. Maybe when you’re down to 4 or less. Good luck with your litter and thank you again for fostering.

      If you do start potty training and you have success I’d love to hear how/what you did.

  9. Help, I got my puppy at 8 weeks … now 13 weeks. We have tried everything… so much praise and we have to wait for him to wee 3 times before he is done outside however straight after when we bring him inside within 5 mins he does another wee??

  10. My 6 month old Boston terrier messes and pees in the house, AFTER he has been outside for 15-29 minutes. We have 2 adult dogs in the home as well, but…
    I am cleaning up messes several times a day.
    Help
    Nancy

    1. One thing I noticed with both our dogs an puppies is if you let them outside for 15-30 minutes to go pee then let them back into the house they often don’t pee during that time. They just run around, play, sniff, etc, but not pee or poop. When we raise our puppies we always take them out side on leash until they go potty. Honestly we should probably even do this with our older dog, Raven because she will sometimes go outside and just sunbathe for 30 minutes. It’s not until I go outside with her and tell her to “Get Busy” that she goes potty. Good luck with your puppy!

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