How to Potty-Train Your Puppy Dog

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Puppies need consistent potty-training to learn properly.
Puppies need consistent potty-training to learn properly. (Image: Puppy image by AttitudeAngel from Fotolia.com)

When you adopt a young dog, you need to train him to eliminate waste in a location that is acceptable, otherwise you will end up with a dog that eliminates wherever he wants. The potty-training process can continue for several months -- it may take your pup up to a year to become reliable, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. While you should expect some accidents along the way, consistent training and feeding of your little pup will result in a well-trained dog.

Things You'll Need

  • Leash
  • Dog treats
  • Crate
  • Crate divider
  • Blanket
  • Dog toy

Walk your dog outside, on a leash, to the area you have chosen as the potty spot every one to two hours. Puppies have small tummies and bladders, so you need to walk them more frequently than you do adult dogs to give them the best chance to eliminate successfully every time. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine recommends waiting no more than the number of months of your puppy's age, plus one, between bathroom breaks. So if your puppy is 2 months old, he can wait no more than three hours between potty breaks.

Over time, you can decrease your dog's amount of potty breaks once he gets older and eliminates on a consistent schedule.

Arrive at the potty spot and say something like "potty time, "go potty," do your business" or "bathroom" -- but only one, consistently -- to your puppy. You may have to pace back and forth with him for a few minutes before your puppy eliminates. When he does, give him plenty of verbal praise and a tasty treat.

Return inside if your puppy doesn't eliminate, but keep him on his leash to ensure he doesn't sneak off and eliminate indoors instead. You can also crate him. Wait about 15 minutes, then return back outside to try again. Once your puppy eliminates, reward him with praise and treats.

Crate your puppy between potty breaks if you cannot supervise him, to encourage him not to eliminate indoors. Puppies consider the crate their den, a place where they sleep and snuggle; they will avoid eliminating inside this den. Make the crate comfortable with a soft blanket and a favorite toy. Block off part of a larger crate with a crate divider so the pup doesn't have enough space to sit away from an accident.

At night, once he reaches 4 months of age, your puppy should be able to sleep through the night without a bathroom break. Crate him during this time to discourage any inappropriate elimination around your home.

Watch for signs that your puppy needs to eliminate, including sniffing, circling, whining and pacing. At the first signs of his need to eliminate, bring your puppy out to the potty spot to eliminate, rewarding his elimination with a treat and praise.

Feed your puppy on a consistent schedule and bring him out to the potty area first thing in the morning, after meals, after play and before bedtime. If fed at the same times each day, your puppy will begin to eliminate consistently, according to PetEducation.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean up accidents promptly with an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate any residual odors from attracting your puppy back to the spot to eliminate again. When mopping up urine or cleaning feces, bring it out to the outdoor potty spot to encourage him to eliminate in that area instead.
  • You can train smaller breeds of dogs to eliminate indoors on puppy pads instead of outdoors. Use the same steps -- but instead of bringing your dog outdoors, bring him over to the indoor potty spot. Change the pads regularly for cleanliness.
  • Interrupt your dog if you catch him in the act of eliminating indoors by clapping your hands or shaking a can filled with several coins. Immediately bring him to the potty spot to finish and praise him.
  • Punishing your dog after the fact for eliminating indoors does nothing but cause your dog to fear you. He won't associate the punishment with the inappropriate elimination and may become stressed, leading to behavioral problems.

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