How to Potty Train Your Puppy

Most dogs are trained to relieve themselves outdoors. However if you live in an area that is affected by cold weather, then house training makes more sense.

Similarly, small dog owners that are frail or infirm may also wish to train their puppy to use an indoor potty. Those living in a high-rise building or working long hours often do this too. Dogs normally need to relive themselves several times a day. Therefore, teaching them how to use an indoor potty area is very important and best started on as soon as possible.

Two basic methods are available for teaching dogs how to use an indoor toilet area:

Method 1: Using a Small Area for Confinement

Find a Small Space in Your Home/Apartment

confine puppy to small area

The most stress-free indoor method to potty train a puppy is to confine them to a small area/room of the house.

The space that you create in your house can have a gate with several panels which can be arranged in different sizes as well as shapes. It is important to note that the space that you have created should be big enough to only hold the puppy’s bed, food and water bowls and potty area. No empty floor space should be visible.

Many dog owners are surprised as to how small the confinement area is, however if you give the puppy additional space, this will confuse them and make the training process take much longer.

Introduce The Dog Pee Pad

dog pee pad

Now that you have carved out an area in your home/apartment for your dog, the next critical step is to place an unused doggy pee pad in the area, preferably where you want your dog to do their business.

Dog pee pads are moisture-absorbing pads that are used to help train young puppies or dogs. Just like diapers, they:

  • Are made from sponge-like material that absorbs urine, and prevent waste from leaking onto the floor.
  • Are leak-proof, and provide scented options for odor control.

Encourage Your Puppy to Use the Pee Pad

encourage dog to use pee pad

You want to encourage your puppy to use the pee pad to relieve herself. Of course, the puppy will not want to potty in its bed or where it will eat. Therefore, it is most likely for them to use the training pad, since it is the only other space available.

How to Use Dog Pee Pads

  • Step 1: When your dog hasn’t used the bathroom in a while, start getting your dog to move to the pee pad. You can let him/her move on their own, or you can place the puppy on the mat yourself.
    • Tip: Many owners like to simulate the outside experience, when trying to get their dogs to use the training pads. Before they move to the pad, try putting your puppy in a collar, harness, or leash. This way, the feeling of going to the bathroom will always be associated with going outside for them.
  • Step 2: When your puppy starts to pee on the pee pads, be sure to give them tons of good feedback. Let them know that their doing something good, and it makes you happy. This will encourage them to continue peeing on the pee pad.
    • Tip: You may be struggling to get your puppy to actually use the pee pad. If so, it’s possible he/she may be having problems recognizing the pee pad as the bathroom. To assist with this, we recommend purchasing a training spray, and marking the pee pad with the spray. The spray has similar attractants to urine, and smelling the spray will help your dog feel comfortable about using an area that already smells like urine.
  • Step 3: Treat your puppy with treats! You can’t potty train a puppy without food, so be sure to give them treats each time they repeat the process in the same spot. Eventually, going to the pee pad will become routine for them.

Keep Your Puppy Area Clean

Certainly, it is up to you, the owner, to keep the potty area clean and quickly remove any fouling whether it be liquid or solid. By doing this you prevent your puppy from stepping in its own pee or poo and spreading it throughout the confinement area. You don’t need to leave the potty area dirty for the puppy to recognize it as their potty area. While there is some truth to the old wives tale that a trace of scent is needed so that the dog can recognize it’s potty area it is not necessary for you to leave piles of poo to create a trace of scent.

Some owners simply leave a piece of paper that has a splash of urine on it under a freshly placed paper, however, you may find that you have a puppy that is a “clean freak” and will not use a dirty litter area. It is at this stage that you may begin to have an issue.

Always Supervise Your Puppy

Once your puppy is out of the area and in your presence, you should ensure that the puppy is supervised closely at all times, this will ensure that the puppy does not have any accidents. Ensure that you take your puppy to their confinement area once you believe that it needs to relive it’s self.

When you are away from home, it is best to leave your puppy in the confinement area.

You may be able to tell that it is your puppy’s potty time because you have her on a schedule, she shows signs of wanting to go or you recently gave her something to eat or drink.

If your puppy is very young or new to potty training then, you may want to carry her to the paper for the first couple of times; this will prevent them from having accidents and to know where the confinement and potty area is.

The more mature the puppy becomes, the more likely it is that they will know what to do; you will just need to let her walk with you to the paper so she knows the path and can go there anytime the need arises. Once you recognize that your puppy is going to the potty area and using it correctly then you should praise her and reward her. This will let her know that she has done something good and encourage her to continue.

Reward Your Puppy with More Space

When your puppy reliably uses the restricted potty area for at least a month, then you can begin to increase the size of the confinement area.

For those puppy owners that use an exercise pen as their confinement area then they can possibly enlarge it by simply adding an additional panel or even another whole exercise pen creating a huge pen. Once your puppy is reliable in the enlarged pen you can enclose a potty area within the pen for the puppy by using a puppy gate or closed door.

If you see that your puppy has started to have accidents, then it could be that you have enlarged the area too quickly. All that you need to do to address this problem is revert to the smaller confinement area and after a month, if the behavior is good, slowly increase the area once more.

Method 2 – Use a Crate to Potty Train Your Puppy

how to potty train a dog

The crate training technique is an excellent choice for owners that do not have sufficient space to create confinement areas. This approach is also helpful for people that have dogs that are not responding well to the small area method. Often these dogs either have destructive tendencies when in the small confinement area or simply decide to potty in the bed or bowls instead of the area provided. The crate training technique will only work if the owners can take the puppy out often for potty breaks.

See the chart beneath for guidelines:

Day schedule

  • 6 – 12 weeks old – every hour.
  • 12 – 16 weeks old – every 2 hours.
  • 4 – 5 months old – 3 hours.
  • 6 – 7 months old – 4 hours.
  • 8 – 11 months old – 5 – 6 hours.
  • 12 months and older – 8 hours.

Night schedule

  • 6 – 12 weeks old – every 3 – 4 hours.
  • 12 – 16 weeks old – every 4 – 8 hours.
  • 4 – 12 months old – every 8 hours.
  • 12 months and older – every 8-10 hours.

The night schedule is on the assumption that the puppy was not fed or given liquid three hours prior to bed. Also these are only guidelines and your dog may require a different schedule or a different pace of schedule.

Instead of leaving the puppy with access to his confinement area, you will leave her in a crate. It is at this stage that the puppy will wait until you take them out of the create to the potty area.

In order to train your puppy using this technique it is important that you, as the owner, train the puppy using the crate and trips to his indoor potty area instead of trips outdoors.

Keep your Puppy Safe

Safety note, never leave a collar on your puppy when you are leaving them unsupervised in their crate. You should be completely sure that the crate you have for your puppy is safe, as the puppy could seriously injure or kill itself in a bid to escape.

As with the confinement area technique, you may also find it helpful to carry the puppy to his papers for the first few weeks, as this may prevent any accidents from taking place on the way.

Also, remember once the puppy starts to have accidents it will need for you to go back to a smaller space and gradually increase it’s space in accordance with its response to the potty training. Never do anything too quickly as you want your puppy to grasp the correct approach and have access to the house as well as understand where the potty area is.