How to Potty Train a Puppy

Updated Apr. 10, 2024
A puppy sits on a pee pad.

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One of the most important first steps when you adopt a puppy is house training them.

The process of training a puppy to learn the appropriate time and place to eliminate takes determination and patience. The key is to remember that successful potty training is based on repetition and positive reinforcement instead of punishment.

So, how do you potty train a puppy? And what if you have adopted an adult dog that is not potty trained? Here’s how to save your floors.

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How to Potty Train a Puppy

Potty training should begin with developing a schedule that both you and your puppy can follow. You may also wish to use a repeatable phrase, such as “bathroom,” or “potty,” each time you take your dog to the elimination area, so they learn to associate that word with the action.

Follow these tips, and you’ll have your puppy or dog potty trained before you know it!

Tips for Potty Training Puppies

1. Take Your Puppy Out Often

New puppies, especially those under 12 weeks of age, should be taken outside every one to two hours. This high frequency is because puppies 12 weeks and younger are still developing their bladder control and are more likely to have accidents in the house. It’s also a good habit to take your puppy out after sleeping, playing, eating, or drinking.

2. Stick to a Feeding Schedule

Typically, it’s recommended to feed your puppy three meals a day. Feed your dog each meal at the same time each day. They will naturally eliminate shortly after eating, so developing a consistent feeding schedule can avoid confusion and accidents in the house.

3. Use Crate Training as an Aid to Potty Training

Crate training is a very effective tool to help not only with potty training your puppy, but also with creating a safe place for your puppy to call home. Dogs are naturally den animals, so their instincts will tell them to find a quiet place to eat and rest.

Dogs do not like to eliminate where they sleep or eat, so training your puppy to be comfortable in a crate is a great way to prevent them from having accidents inside. The crate should never be used as punishment, but it should be used whenever your puppy cannot be directly supervised, and for naptime and bedtime.

Choosing the correct crate size is extremely important, especially for large-breed dogs that grow rapidly during puppyhood. Keep in mind that your puppy should only have enough room to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably—any more room will give your dog room to rest in one corner and pee or poop in the other. Many crates come with a divider that can be moved as your puppy grows.

4. Always Practice Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement teaches your puppy that they get rewarded for going to the bathroom outside, and it’s the key to successful potty training.

Each time your puppy eliminates outside, immediately reward them with verbal praise, treats, or a favorite toy. The reward should immediately follow the event so that your puppy makes a positive association with eliminating outside.

5. Recognize When Your Puppy Needs to Go Out

Constant supervision is another important part of successful potty training a puppy. Learning the clues or signals that indicate your puppy needs to eliminate will prevent unnecessary accidents in the house. Most dogs will sniff, make circles, wander off, whine, or sit by the door to indicate they need to go to the bathroom.

6. Put Your Puppy on a Leash for Potty Breaks

You should always put your puppy on a leash when you go outside for a potty break. This will not only help get them comfortable with being on a leash, but you will also be right there to reward the good behavior. After giving a positive reward, play with your puppy outside for a few minutes to avoid creating a negative connection with returning inside.

What Not To Do When Potty Training a Puppy

You may have heard some conflicting advice on house training a puppy. Here’s what you shouldn’t do.

1. Use Potty Pads

Puppy pee pads should not be used as a substitute for going outside, unless you have a special situation such as living in a high-rise apartment or have limited mobility. Allowing puppies to eliminate on potty pads inside the house can confuse them about where they’re allowed to eliminate. This may slow down the potty-training process and should be avoided, if possible.

2. Use Punishment Instead of Positive Reinforcement

Punishment is never an acceptable or successful training method. Dogs do not associate these behaviors with doing something wrong. Instead, punishment teaches your puppy to become fearful of their human parents or other people who try to punish them.

Remember that potty training takes patience and kindness!

3. Keep Inconsistent Schedules

Failing to adhere to a consistent potty break and feeding schedule can create confusion for your puppy, therefore leading to more accidents in the house.

Having a puppy is a big responsibility, and it’s your job to stick with the schedule and constant supervision—just as you would with a child. The more frequent trips outside, the better! The more often your puppy is allowed to successfully eliminate outside, the more quickly they will become potty trained.

How Long Does It Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

Every puppy is different, and some understand potty training faster than others. 

However, with consistency and following all the steps listed above, most dogs will be nearly fully house trained within one to two weeks.

How To Potty Train a Puppy FAQs

How long can puppies hold their pee?

Puppies can reliably hold their urine one more hour than they are months old. So, a 6-week-old puppy can hold two and a half hours, and an 8-week-old puppy can hold for three hours.

Are some dogs easier to potty train than others?

Absolutely!  Some dogs—and some breeds—catch on to the expectations faster than others. Even though your Golden Retriever might have trained in two weeks, your Beagle pup might take twice that long. 

This isn’t a bad thing—it’s just natural variation. If your pup is taking longer than you expect, however, read back over the steps above and see if you are skipping any, or not being consistent. Most of the time, failure to potty train means the humans are doing something that confuses the pup.

Can you potty train a puppy in seven days?

Yes! In fact, with attention to details and careful consistency, most puppies will be reliably house trained in seven to 14 days.

Heather Hoffmann, DVM


Heather Hoffmann, DVM


Dr. Heather Hoffmann is a 2018 graduate from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a certificate in...

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