A black and tan puppy sits on a tan floor beside a pile of newspapers.
Potty training is a process that EVERY pet parent has to go through, no matter the breed, size, or age of the dog. Millions of pages of information are available on potty training online and offline, yet it remains to be one of the most tedious and frustrating aspects of pet parenting. While several factors may make or break the puppy potty training process, let’s take a look at the role age has to play in it.
What is the appropriate age to start potty training for different breeds and sizes of dogs?
Regardless of the breed or the size of the dog, it is highly recommended to start potty training your pup right from the day you bring them home. Setting the tone from day 1 makes it easier for a puppy to grasp concepts and routines relatively quickly because it leaves less scope for accidents and mistakes. Puppies are like sponges at that tender age and tend to absorb everything they experience and are taught, be it desirable or undesirable behaviors.
Larger breeds are generally easier to potty train as compared to smaller breeds, not because of their temperament or behavior, but because of the size of their bladder. Smaller breeds tend to have a higher metabolism rate and weaker bladder control. For this reason, not only do they have to go more frequently, but they are more prone to accidents in the house because of their inability to hold their pee for long.
What age is too early to potty train a pup?
A newborn puppy cannot pee or poop on their own. The mother dog licks the puppies to stimulate them to eliminate. If the newborns are under the care of humans and if the mother dog is not around, the task of stimulating their genital and anal glands falls upon the human caregiver.
Puppies learn to start eliminating on their own at about 2 weeks of age. However, their brain and cognitive skills are at a very raw stage of development at that age. Hence, they may not be able to respond to human communication very effectively. Moreover, on the off chance that they get intimidated by humans in the training process, their future learning ability and relationship with humans may get severely hampered.
At about 4 weeks of age, puppies are more open to exploring and interacting. This is the earliest that potty training can begin. Some puppies may be receptive to training and routine setting at this age whereas some may need more time. Make sure to take it at a pace that your puppy is comfortable with.
A golden retriever is laying down in the bathroom beside a toilet and a teal floor mat. A thought bubble reads "Am I too old for this?"
What age is too late to start potty training?
Once we welcome our puppy home, the more we wait to potty train them, the more difficult it is likely to get. This is because in the absence of a consistent potty routine, puppies will end up forming and following their own routine, which means they may have accidents all over the place and may relieve themselves at random times during the day without warnings.
While it is never too late to train a dog, the time taken to achieve potty training success may vary at different ages. This is primarily because the longer a dog spends practicing a behavior (desirable or undesirable), the more time it is going to take for them to unlearn it and learn new behaviors in its place. As pet parents, we must be willing to put in the time, effort, and patience required to hand-hold them through the process.
A dog can be potty trained at any age. However, the dog’s preferences must also be accommodated. E.g., some dogs may strictly prefer a particular surface to pee on. To get faster results, you may want to make a similar surface available for your dog to pee on at their designated spot, whether it’s grass or artificial turf.
A beagle sits on its hind legs on grayish-brown hardwood floors between a large green analog clock with white hands set to 8:00 and a puppy pee pad that has a yellow stain in the middle of it.
How long does it take to potty train a pup?
A blanket answer to this question would be between 1 to 2 months. However, the duration required to potty train a puppy depends on a variety of factors, such as:
- Past habits
- Training provided by the pet parents
- Preference of the pup
- Adherence to routine
If potty training is begun at an early age, it generally takes a couple of weeks to set a consistent routine and another couple to achieve a considerable amount of success in potty training. Some dogs may take longer whereas some get adjusted to their routine in a matter of days. When it comes to an older dog with pre-learned behaviors, it may take more than a couple of months to potty train them.
Negative Consequences of Starting Potty Training Too Early or Too Late
Potty training success is dependent on multiple factors like the pup’s bladder control ability, the ability of the pet parents to prevent accidents and provide training, setting the dog up for success, and setting and following a consistent routine. When done at the appropriate age, the likelihood of all the above factors working well together is high, thereby ensuring a quick success rate.
At a tender age of 0-2 weeks, puppies cannot even relieve themselves on their own, let alone have bladder control. Between 2-4 weeks, they are in the process of figuring out the concept of peeing and pooping on their own. Thus, trying to train a puppy below 3-4 weeks of age to control their bladder may result in UTIs, constipation, kidney damage, and other infections.
On the other hand, waiting too long to potty train may lead to utter cluelessness in your dog. They may grow up never having learned bladder control. Trying to train bladder control at an older age may also adversely affect their urinary tract and kidneys.
There may be several behavioral risks involved with potty training a puppy too early or too late, such as:
- If the puppy is too young, dealing with a frustrated pet parent during the potty-training process may be a little too intimidating for them. Such experiences may leave a scar and may start their human socialization off on the wrong foot.
- Potty training too early means expecting way too much of a puppy that is way too young. A puppy’s mind and body are too raw during the first couple of weeks of their lives and may not be as open and receptive to training.
- On the other hand, waiting too long to start potty training may lead to your pup learning and keeping rigid habits that may be hard to kill, such as peeing on the carpet, preferring to relieve themselves in their home rather than outside, etc.
- Lack of consistent routine can also be thoroughly confusing for dogs, especially puppies. It may lead to accidents all over the house, destructive behaviors, and other undesirable behaviors like barking, whining, hyperactivity, etc. stemming from confusion and a conflicted mind.
A golden retriever dog is happily laying on the floor of a living room in front of its owner, who is wearing an orange sweater and gray pants while she sits on the floor in front of a gray sofa with a yellow and a white pillow and a gray blanket. She is looking at a tablet.
Importance of Following a Consistent Routine When Potty Training a Puppy
A newly adopted puppy is in the process of figuring out the household and the family members in the first few weeks. The training and learning imparted during this time go a long way in making or breaking the dog. This includes potty training. Adhering to a fixed schedule helps in making life predictable for puppies, thereby making them feel safe and secure in their new environment.
Setting a consistent routine in terms of potty training includes taking them to a designated spot, such as a Porch Potty, frequently throughout the day and during more or less fixed times, keeping their meal times fixed, and keeping a fixed pattern of activities throughout the day to make life more predictable for the pup, training and rewarding consistently, etc. A consistent routine enables a puppy to quickly learn what is about to follow next and in which areas of the house certain activities must be performed. This reduces the likelihood of accidents and sets them up for potty training success.
While on the journey towards achieving potty training success with your dog, roadblocks are inevitable. The good news is that with a good plan, a consistent routine, and the support of Porch Potty, potty training does not have to be as difficult as it is rumored to be. Make sure to provide clear directions and constant positive feedback to accelerate the process.
Siddhika Bhat: Certified dog trainer and behaviorist and founder of Wag A Bond. Siddhika helps dog parents develop deeper connections with their furbabies by helping them understand and respectfully work with their dog's innate behaviors.
For more information on potty training your dog, check out these articles: