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How to potty train a puppy? 15 actionable tips

potty train a puppy

Are you wondering how to potty train a puppy? Potty training is a learning curve required with any new puppy in your home. While it can appear to be a complicated process, house training does not have to be as bad as it may seem initially.

It is essential to potty train properly when your puppy is young, or else it becomes challenging to remedy down the line. Overall, potty training your puppy can seem to be a long process, but it is crucial.

Here are 15 actionable tips on how to potty train a puppy.

1. Understand your puppy’s requirements

This is probably the easiest potty training tip as it can be done before you even bring your puppy home. The size, gender, and breed all play a part in how often a puppy needs to urinate and some research will help you understand specific training requirements. 

Smaller dogs, such as tiny chihuahuas, have smaller bladders, which means they will need to urinate more frequently than larger breeds.

A male will attempt to mark its territory more often; however, when it lifts its hind leg, you know that it’s about to go, allowing you to take corrective action.

2. Make your puppy feel at home

Though you generally cannot begin potty training a puppy until they are around 12 weeks old, this tip will help you in those early days when you are figuring out how to potty train puppy.

It may seem surprising to those who have had puppies, but dogs are naturally against soiling their home, and this is why older dogs tend to act guilty when they soil indoors.

This reluctance towards soiling their homes is deep-seated in all dogs, so by following this tip and making your dog feel at home, you can skip that first potty training hurdle with ease. 

3. Keep a watchful eye 

The easiest way for puppies to understand that they should not soil their house is never to give them the opportunity.  You can achieve this effortlessly even if you are busy by putting up a baby gate or tethering your puppy to furniture near you. By keeping an eye on your puppy, you can efficiently implement the next tip, which is to interrupt accidents. 

4. Prevent accidents 

While you are keeping an eye on your puppy, the best way to passively potty train is to prevent accidents from happening.

Dogs almost always show signs before they have to go; some of these signs include circling, scratching, sniffing, whining, or barking. As soon as you see these signs, bring your puppy outside, as this will help it associate the outdoors with its toilet space. 

5. Work around your pup’s schedule

When you are first starting out with potty training your puppy, it is extremely important to work around your pup’s schedule. Most puppies would not have still figured out how to hold their bladder, so they will likely go whenever they need to, wherever they are. 

If your puppy wakes you up in the morning, whining to go outdoors, try not to show that you are upset, instead reward them for waking you up. Rising up early may be one of the challenging items on the list of how to potty train a puppy. However, you can take comfort in knowing that things will get better once the training is complete.

While it may be challenging to work your schedule around the puppy’s, in the first few weeks of potty training, it is vital to show your commitment to taking the puppy outdoors to do its business, no matter the time. 

6. Create a routine of going outdoors

Though you have to work around the puppy’s schedule, it will be helpful to start introducing a routine of going out during potty training. You can begin by letting the puppy out every 2 hours or so, while this isn’t a sure-fire method, it will probably prefer to do its business outdoors anyway.

As the puppy starts to learn some control, try and work in a schedule, you would like it to follow even when fully grown. Take the puppy outdoors first thing in the morning, when it wakes up from a nap, before you leave, as soon as you get home and immediately after it eats, drinks or plays. 

7. Follow a feeding schedule  

The next tip on how to potty train a puppy is related to setting a schedule. A straightforward way to get your puppy on a routine of sorts is to follow a regular feeding schedule. Please do not leave out a big bowl of food for it to eat during the day; instead, make sure your puppy has two to four meals at the same time every day. This way, your puppy’s bathroom breaks will be consistent as well.

Right after a meal, the puppy may feel the urge to poop, so make a habit of bringing it outdoors immediately to make housetraining easier. 

8. Do not scold your puppy for accidents

If your puppy ends up having an accident indoors, it is essential to show your disapproval without being too harsh.

Dogs are incredibly attentive to their owner’s moods, so even a loud “no” will usually do the job. Just make sure it is consistent, and the puppy will associate the word of disapproval with an unwanted action on its part.

Do not scold your puppy during or after an accident as this could do more damage than good.

If you punish your puppy for an accident, it may instead associate the bad behavior with the action of having to go itself. As a result, it may do its business in secret and in a spot that is hard for you to reach so that you cannot catch it in the act. 

9. Clean up immediately 

When you were wondering on how to potty train a puppy, did you picture yourself having to clean up accidents? I’m sure you did. Cleaning up accidents goes with the training process, but you may not have known that this was to be done immediately.

If your puppy does have an accident indoors, you should clean up right away. While this may seem strange, this is not a hygiene tip, cleaning up immediately will actually prevent your dog from going in the same spot again. 

As urine has a strong ammonia smell, the puppy will sniff its way back to the same spot and mark its territory again. If you use an enzymatic cleaner or even white vinegar, you can counteract the ammonia smell, preventing future accidents. 

10. Use ammonia to your advantage

While this isn’t applicable to everyone, for owners trying to potty train a puppy with a potty pad, ammonia may be your friend.

Potty pads, similar to a litter box, are indoor spots for your puppy to relieve itself but with a goal of an eventual transition outdoors. Using a cleaning product containing ammonia may actually encourage your pup to use the potty pad, as explained in the last tip. 

11. Pick a spot

How to potty train a puppy - pick a spot

For all those not using a potty pad, the strategy of dedicating a specific spot for your puppy to go is very effective as well. Most owners do this in some way, by making the backyard the principal place for your puppy’s bathroom break. 

You can make this even more effective by bringing your puppy on a leash to a particular section of your yard every time. This way, your puppy will start to associate relieving itself with your yard, but more specifically, with a spot, it can remember is only for this purpose. 

12. Connect it to a word or phrase

Potty training your puppy is all about routine and repetition, which is why connecting the act with a word or phrase is so effective. As mentioned in tip 8, you should have a word that you say sternly without getting angry for those occasions when the puppy has an accident indoors. This can be as simple as the word “wrong”. With dogs, it is all about staying consistent with the word and the way you say it. 

This is especially true for the opposite, which are rewarding words and cue words. Connect the act of going outside and the act of relieving itself to a cue word. A word like “outside” is perfect to repeat every time you bring the puppy outdoors for potty breaks. 

13. Reward your puppy afterwards

If you have ever heard of the scientific experiment: “Pavlov’s Dog,” you would know how effective positive reinforcements are for dogs. Reward your puppy every single time it relieves itself outdoors, even if you had to lead it outside. It will definitely help you achieve faster results as you implement these tips on how to potty train puppy.

You must reward the puppy immediately after it does its business outside, as the puppy can get distracted and forget the reason for the positive reinforcement.  Giving a treat is a great way to reward your puppy; however, something as simple as praise in a cheerful voice can also do the trick. 

14. Go out for walks

A great way to encourage your puppy to wait until it’s outdoors is to turn potty time into a walk. This will make relieving itself a relaxing and rewarding experience for the puppy. 

When walk time coincides with housetraining, your pup has something to look forward to and is more likely to wait patiently if it can hold it in. When out for the walk, allow the puppy to loosen up and do not interrupt or pull the leash while it is trying to go. 

15. Be Patient

The most important tip on how to potty train a puppy is to be patient. Of course, this is easier said than done, as accidents can be extremely frustrating and inconvenient.

While repetition and routine can be tiresome, it is the most effective way to potty train your puppy. Overall, just remember that mistakes happen and you are doing this because of your love for dogs. 


Potty training your puppy is an essential step that can’t be wished away once your puppy is of the right age. Typically potty training is done while a dog is between the age of 12 and 16 weeks. If it’s any younger, it will almost be impossible for the puppy to hold its bladder.

To calculate the maximum time, a puppy can hold its bladder, take the puppy’s age in months, and add one. For training purposes, this is helpful as it means a 12-week puppy (3 months old) can hold its bladder for 4 hours maximum, though do not expect this at the beginning.

The key points on how to potty train a puppy are patience, positive reinforcements, and routine, so continue implementing these tips to get your puppy to its maximum bladder holding capacity eventually.