How to Potty Train a Puppy

A puppy at it's master's feet

A small young black and brown puppy looks like it's ready to jump around in front of its master's legs on hardwood floor

How to Potty Train a Puppy

Everyone loves puppies. They’re cute, cuddly, and a joy to be around. But they’re also little peeing and pooping machines that leave puddles and poops all over the place.

Fortunately, the solution to these less-than-pleasant-smelling accidents is a simple one.

Proper potty training.

If you’ve just added a new furry friend to your home, you’ve made the right choice in doing your homework on how to potty train a puppy.

As sweet and loving as your new family member is, your job as a new pawrent is to make sure their transition into your home is as easy as possible. And the only way for both of you to retain your sanity is to make sure that good habits are learned early on.

Read on to discover what the ideal age for potty training is, what you’ll need to stock up on, and why. We’ll tell you what kind of progress you can expect when potty training a puppy in relation to its age and why crate training is so important. We’ll explain how it helps with teaching your dog where to potty and we’ll outline the common mistakes made during training.

Let’s get down to business!

Before Your Puppy Comes Home

Your job starts long before the arrival of your new four-legged friend. Making sure you have all the essentials is key to a successful training process. You’ll need:

A Crate

Dogs are clean animals and won’t want to pee and poop where they sleep. When you’re learning how to potty train a puppy, designating a specific space for your pup to relax, retreat, and sleep will ensure that they don’t go to the bathroom in that area.

A crate is an excellent investment for new dog owners. They are portable, making transporting your dog easy, will lower their anxiety levels, and will help you to keep your home fresh and clean. Plus, they can be lifesavers when it comes to chewing, for your home and your dog.

Puppy Gates

We highly recommend setting up puppy gates (a baby gate works just fine!). This is the best way to show your new family member which areas of the house are off-limits. Also, sealing off certain rooms means you can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing your dog is safe.


Toys are a valuable tool when you’re training a new puppy, especially if they’ll spend long periods of time alone. They make appropriate chewing possible and you’ll be able to use them to modify behaviors throughout your pup’s life.


Treats are another way to keep your pup content in your absence and they provide extra stimulation throughout the day.

It also pays to remember that, no matter how unlikely it may seem in the case of specific breeds, dogs have certain instincts passed down to them from their ancestors, like chewing. Treats are good to chew on and furniture is bad—a lesson that should absolutely be conveyed when you’re potty training a puppy.

Pee Pads

Pee pads can be a very useful tool when you’re training your new dog, especially for younger puppies who need to potty more often. A Porch Potty serves a similar purpose; they make a dedicated potty space available when you can’t easily go outside. They also make it simpler to train a dog to use their indoor bathroom.

Seriously consider purchasing these aids when you’re learning how to house train a puppy.

A beagle puppy with its paws on a puppy gate

A happy Beagle puppy with a red collar is smiling while its front paws are on a wooden puppy gate

FAQs on the Importance of Pee Pads

Are Pee Pads Necessary for Potty Training?

Although you could do without them, pee pads can be a great help when you’re housetraining.

Are They Right for You and Your Pup?

This will depend on your needs and what you’d like to do in terms of training your pup.

Why Is It Important to Designate a Potty Spot?

This is the only way to get your pup to pee and poop where you want them to. The smells associated with this space are what bring them back to it, eventually without assistance from you.

How Do You Condition Your Dog to Recognize Their Potty Spot?

By taking them to the area you’ve designated whenever you spot the signs of their needing to poop or pee. Acting quickly when you see these signs drastically reduces the chances of potty training mistakes happening.

What are the Pros and Cons of Puppy Pads?

The pros of puppy pads include that they’re easier to do away with than your favorite rug and they soak up urine quickly. They also contain odor eliminators that reduce the lingering smell of urine and are easy to dispose of.

The cons are that they might make you a little lazier. You may put off teaching your puppy to go outside because the pads make going inside so simple.

A fluffy puppy's head is visible behind an automatic feeding bowl

A fluffy Golden Retriever puppy is laying on a floor on a rug beside an automatic water dispenser with a red bowl

Setting Your Puppy Up for Success

Teaching your puppy basic skills will ensure that your training schedule stays on track. We recommend that when your dog arrives you start short sessions of training daily, using treats to form positive associations as they learn new commands.

Concentrate on teaching instructions you’ll get a lot of use out of in your lives together like Come, Sit, and Stay, and introduce leash walking early on.

To keep your pup safe, you’ll need to puppy-proof their surroundings:

Block Stairs

Don’t just install gates to cordon off areas of your house, keep your puppy safe by using them to make stairs inaccessible as well. Doing this will also help you speed up the puppy potty training process.

Electricity Kills

Make sure that there are no electrical cords in reach.

Get On Their Level

You may look a little strange while you do this step, but it’s the best way to keep your doggy safe. Get down on all fours so that you can see the house the same way they do and fix whatever problems you see from this level.

Keep All Trash Cans Out of Sight

Avoid the hassle of having to clear a stinking mess of garbage strewn all over the place by making sure your trash cans are out of reach.

Keep Human Food Out of Reach

Your new dog won’t know the difference between their food and yours, so remove the temptation! Controlling what goes into their little mouths is also the best way to potty train a puppy. They shouldn’t be eating anything you’re not supervising.

It’s important that you should not let your puppy anywhere near unknown dogs before they’re fully vaccinated. Let them get used to their new surroundings before they meet visitors—human and animal—and keep them away from badly behaved or unsocial dogs.

Dogs are quick learners (just think about how fast they learn where their treats are!) and you may find that they start mimicking behavior you don’t want if they’re exposed to it.

Place the Crate and Designate a Potty Spot

Put your puppy’s crate where your family spends a lot of time when they’re at home. The family room, living room, or TV room are all great options. Set it up nicely, too, with a soft blanket or bed inside and either remove the door completely or keep it propped open. This will allow your new doggy to explore the space in its own time.

Although some dogs will need a little training to get inside their crate, others may start sleeping in it right away.

Select a doggy potty area outside of the high traffic areas of your home and/or yard and remember to keep your dog’s size in mind. Smaller spaces will suit small or toy breeds, but larger dogs will need a bigger area.

Top tip: Housebreaking a puppy is an individual process every time, and any schedule must take your specific animal into account.

A poodle puppy in a blue flannel shirt

A white fluffy poodle puppy wearing a dark blue and black flannel shirt is sitting on bright green grass

Signs Your Puppy Needs to Potty

As much as you will be learning to communicate with your new pup, they’ll be trying to “talk” to you too. When they need to potty, the chances are they’ll try to tell you.

Stop accidents in their tracks by whisking them to where they need to poop and pee when you spot any of the following signs:

  • Barking at the door
  • General restlessness
  • Scratching at the door
  • Sniffing around
  • Squatting

Their reward for doing what you want them to can be food, affection, or verbal praise—or all 3— depending on which outcomes your puppy responds to best.

Recognize each of their achievements during your crate potty training processes and you’ll have a good dog going where it should in no time at all.

The Importance of the Right Vet

Nowadays, vets are the only doctors that possess the kind of know-how to protect both your human family’s health and that of your dog. They’re in the position to address the health and welfare needs of your pets and can play a critical role in helping you to set up a safe environment for your new dog, as well as provide you with tips and tricks regarding food and everything else.

Choose your vet carefully and be sure to get answers to questions like:

  • Are my dog’s shots up to date?
  • How much water should a puppy drink during potty training?
  • Is ... insert strange behavior... normal?
  • Is my pet a healthy weight?
  • Is the food I’m providing appropriate?

A puppy is laying down in a crate

An adorable hound puppy with large floppy ears is laying down on a soft and fluffy gray blanket in an open wire crate

An Introduction to Crate Training

Think of crate training as the way to teach your new pet to accept that specific space as a familiar, safe location. Dogs are traditionally den-dwelling animals and the idea is that their crates become a substitute for a real den.

Crate training uses your puppy’s natural instincts to seek out a comfortable, quiet place when their environment overwhelms them. They tend not to soil where they sleep either, so it’s good for housetraining, and you’ll have less of an issue with unwanted chewing because they’ll be contained.

You’ll find that learning how to potty train your puppy is much easier if you’ve got a crate for them from the start.

Quick Crate Training Dos and Don’ts

Don’t Force Your Dog Inside Their Crate

Doing this will make your animal anxious and scared. Their natural response to being pushed inside the crate will be to resist. What should be their safe space will soon be filled with unpleasant associations that they’ll want to avoid.

Don’t Use the Crate as Punishment

Following on from the first point, it’s not a good idea for your puppy to associate crate time with anything negative. If this happens, you’ll have a difficult time getting them to accept the space and enjoy being in it.

When you’re potty training your dog, reward-based teaching yields far better results than punishment does. Keep this in mind when crate training as well.

Do Create a Nice Space

Dogs generally feel safe in an enclosed environment that’s familiar to them. Speed up the process of your puppy getting comfortable by turning the crate into somewhere it’s nice to be. Put a bed inside the crate, add a plushy blanket, and a few toys.

Do Find the Right-Sized Crate

Purchase a crate according to the size of your puppy’s breed. Don’t get one that dwarfs them or squashes them in!

Do Use Praise and Treats

In the same way as you should use positive outcomes when you’re practicing how to potty train your dog, your goal is to get your puppy to associate their crate with good things too.

Kickstart this process by leading them into it with high value treats.

Nighttime Crate Training

There’s an important reason that so many experts advocate that puppies sleep in their crate instead of your bed until they’re potty trained and beyond. This is truly the best way to keep them safe.

Puppies can get into a world of trouble wandering around on their own. And, especially with bigger breeds, having them on your mattress can have a terrible impact on the quality of your sleep. Stick to your training schedule and keep them in their crates overnight, letting them out to do their business as their age and particular requirements dictate.

Creating a Potty Training Schedule

When should a puppy be potty trained? The process should start from the moment your dog arrives at your house!

You’ll then need to determine, according to your schedule, at what times you’ll take them to their potty spot, but this will have to include first thing in the morning and every 30 minutes to an hour thereafter. You’ll also need to take them to where they’re supposed to pee and poop after they’ve had anything to eat or drink, after they’ve played, and when they wake up from their naps.

Whatever schedule you end up going with, you’ll need to adjust it for each milestone your puppy reaches, both in age and training:

At 8 weeks or less your puppy should still be with their mother and litter. Take them out to potty at least every 45 minutes when they’re awake.

At between 8 and 10 weeks you can take them out to potty once every hour when they’re awake.

When they’re between 10 and 12 weeks old you can add 30 minutes to the clock, taking them out every hour and a half.

At 12 weeks and older take them out every 2 hours when they’re awake.

Common Mistakes Made During Potty Training

The number one mistake pawrents make during potty training is expecting too much from their puppy and getting frustrated with them for not learning quickly enough.

Patience is key and so is keeping a watchful eye on them. Watch your dog closely, keeping them confined either in their crates or next to you, and start leash introductions early to make this easier.

You should also not free-feed or provide water randomly. Both eating and drinking should be part of your potty training schedule because this helps you to work out when the next potty break is. Don’t leave your puppy in its crate for long periods and never get emotional, punish, or yell at your puppy if an accident occurs.

Clean up and move on. Poop happens!

If you keep this up consistently, you’ll soon start seeing results.

What to Do When There Are Accidents

Keep it simple. Clean up the mess quickly and without fuss using a high-quality cleaner and change puppy pads frequently if you’re using them. Don’t allow your little buddy to chew on these pads either. Playtime and potty time should be kept separate to avoid confusion.

What Age Are Puppies Potty Trained?

It typically takes between 4 and 6 months to fully housetrain a puppy, but it can take some dogs as long as a year. Smaller breeds have smaller bladders and higher metabolisms, so they’ll need to potty more frequently. Your dog’s previous living conditions will also be an indicator.

If accidents occur after the house training process is complete, rule out medical causes first. If nothing’s wrong, then you’ll need to do a housetraining refresher.

How to Be Successful at Potty Training

Give more praise than anything else and don’t ever punish your puppy for making a mistake. A schedule will get you to the point of adequate housetraining quicker than anything else, and you’ll need all the patience you can muster.

Consistency is key. So, stick to your guns and remember to spend time bonding with your good boy or girl!

To learn more about potty training your puppy, check out these articles:

A Schedule for Potty Training Your Puppy

10 Dog Potty Training Mistakes to Avoid

How to Train Your Puppy to Use a Puppy Pee Pad

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