One of the most trying experiences in any dog parent’s life is potty training. No matter how many dogs you have potty trained in the past, it never stops being a frustrating experience. Every dog is different, and they all learn at different rates. Having some puppy potty training hacks up your sleeve will help you to train even the most stubborn pups.
These hacks are designed to make your and your dog’s potty training experience easier. When it comes down to it, though, your dog’s success depends on you – your ability to follow a routine, to pay attention to your dog and to understand their behavioral cues.
Puppy potty training hacks are great, but they aren't going to help you if you aren't consistent and patient with your pet. House training your puppy won't happen overnight. For the most stubborn dogs, it may take months of training before they are 100% potty trained.
WATCH THIS: Best Puppy Training Pads Comparison and Testing
20 Puppy Potty Training Hacks
1. Every Hour on the Hour
When your puppy first comes home, make it a habit to take them out every hour to two hours when they are awake. This regularity helps to ensure that when your pup has to go, they go outside.
When they do go, lots of praise and a treat will create a positive association with outside potty time. Repetition of this will solidify that association. As your puppy gets the hang of going outside, you can gradually lessen the frequency of your outdoor visits.
2. Potty Time After Naps
Just like young children, your puppy should always go straight to the potty after waking up. They won’t always have to go, but nine times out of ten, they will.
Don’t wait five minutes or even two! As soon as your puppy wakes up, pick them up, grab the leash, and head outside to your potty area. This gives them no chance to sniff around the house and have accidents!
3. Potty Time After Play
Again, just like toddlers, puppies can get caught up in playtime and forget that they have to “go”. If your puppy has been playing for a while, take a break and head outside to the potty area.
If you notice your puppy sniffing around intently or walking in circles during playtime, pick them up, get the leash, and go outside. Sniffing the floor, walking in circles or looking for a “secret” place are all signals that your pup may have to go, so remember this as one of the best puppy potty training hacks.
4. Potty Time After Food and Drink
Puppies will have to go potty after eating and drinking. As your dog gets older they will wait longer before they have to go, but young puppies don’t wait. As soon as your puppy has finished his meal, don’t waste any time getting him out to the potty area.
5. Potty Outside Should Be Rewarded
A surefire way to reinforce that potty time should always be outside, is to reward your puppy! You can use praise and treats (although treats tend to be more enticing) to let your puppy know that you like what they are doing.
Soon they will learn that they get a reward every time they potty outside and will want to repeat this behavior.
FULL RANKINGS: Top 25 Best Puppy Food Brands (2018)
6. Avoid Punishment
This is one of the best puppy potty training hacks that cannot be stressed enough. It used to be that people would tell puppy owners to “rub their dog's nose in it” if they had accidents inside. Not only is this cruel, but research shows that it does little to teach your dog what you wanted them to do instead.
Dogs learn from positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement only teaches them what not to do and that you can’t be trusted. Think how difficult it would be for you to know what I wanted from you if I only punished you for doing the wrong thing…
7. Remember the Rule of Thumb
The general rule of thumb is that a puppy can hold their bladder for as many hours as months they are old plus one. So, a twelve-week-old puppy would be able to hold their bladder for a maximum of four hours.
Although it’s not a good idea to repeatedly push this limit. Continuously full bladders can contribute to urinary tract infections. The maximum time any dog should be asked to hold their bladder is eight hours – this is, of course, a shorter time for sick, elderly, and young dogs.
8. Use a Dog Crate
When your puppy is left to their own devices, the chances are that they will get into trouble. This is particularly true at bedtime. Use a crate to secure your puppy while you sleep so that they do not have the opportunity to have accidents when you’re not looking!
A dog’s crate should be tall enough for them to stand and large enough for them to turn around. Keeping a crate to this size keeps your dog comfortable, but also keeps them from going to the potty in their crate. Unless a dog has a medical concern or an upset tummy, they will NEVER go to the potty where they sleep. Larger crates allow your dog a sleeping area AND an area where they can potty and should be avoided.
9. Potty Bells
More recently, “potty bells” have become popular. These long strands of bells hang from the door handle so that when your puppy does go to the door, you don’t miss it! This helps to reinforce that every time your puppy goes to the door, that you will take them out to potty.
Potty bells are designed more for you than for your dog. They make sure that you hear when your puppy sneaks off to the front door!
10. Potty Doorbells
This is one of the best puppy potty training hacks, but you may think it sounds a little silly. Like potty bells, potty doorbells are designed to make a noise so that you don’t miss when your puppy goes to the door. A small pad-like device, this sits by the front door and when your puppy goes to the door, stepping on the pad sounds a doorbell.
Potty doorbells reinforce for your puppy that anytime they go to the door, you will respond immediately by taking them out. This also helps to eliminate confusion caused by your puppy going to the door and you not responding.
11. Never Get Distracted
Many accidents (potty and otherwise) happen when a puppy is not being monitored. Even leaving your puppy alone for five minutes can result in trouble. If you can’t keep a close eye on your new puppy, put them in their crate, contain them in a pen, or put them on their leash and take them with you.
Caring for a new puppy is no different than caring for a new baby – they simply cannot be left unsupervised. This is why it’s recommended to bring your new puppy home when you can spend a week or two at home with them, showing them the ropes.
12. Consider Skipping Puppy Pad Training
This one is not best for every dog, and you'll have to consider your personal situation and your dog's behavior. For some, puppy potty training pads are life saviors, while for others they can create additional problems. Nevertheless, I consider this an important and best puppy potty training hacks on this list.
Although many people use newspaper and puppy pad training, I personally find it causes more confusion. You train your puppy to go on a piece of newspaper and what do you think will happen the next time you put the paper down or leave the mail on the floor?
Newspaper and puppy pad training also tells your puppy that it is okay to potty indoors – the exact thing you are trying to avoid during potty training!
13. Monitor Water Intake
Parents of toddlers will tell you that one way to stop night time accidents is to monitor your child’s water intake. The same thing goes for your puppy.
Never withhold water from your puppy completely, but try giving water only when your puppy eats, exercises in some way or when they show signs of being thirsty. If your puppy is constantly seeking water or constantly drinking, they may have a health condition of concern. In this case, give your vet a call ASAP.
14. Stay in Control
A cute puppy tends to steal your better judgment and before you know it, you’re letting your puppy call the shots. For example, it’s time to go out to potty, but your puppy wants to play a little longer…and you let them. Undoubtedly, accidents ensue.
Don’t give up your control of a tight schedule! Schedule is crucial in reinforcing new behaviors. As previously mentioned, one of the best puppy potty training hacks to remember is to be consistent with your training efforts.
15. Keep Baking Soda and Vinegar on Hand
Accidents are going to happen and there are few odors that take hold like urine. Thankfully, baking soda and vinegar are great natural odor removers.
Get rid of urine odor and stains by soaking up the stain as much as possible, then generously sprinkling it with baking soda. Take a spray bottle and combine equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Spray the baking soda thoroughly (making a volcano). Let the solution work for five minutes, then blot the stain again
16. Designate a Potty Spot
Take your puppy to the same spot outdoors when you take them out to potty. The smell of urine in the area will prompt your puppy to go again.
Taking your puppy to the same potty spot each time will also help to contain any “urine burning” of your grass.
17. Keep Baby Wipes on Hand
Potty accidents don’t only happen indoors. There are going to be times when your puppy steps in their own poop or needs a wipe. Keep baby wipes or special dog wipes by your front door so that you can easily reach them without tracking accidents indoors! It’s best to use scent free wipes to avoid irritation.
Baby wipes are also helpful for cleaning muddy feet on rainy days!
18. Avoid Unclean Potty Areas
This is one of the best puppy potty training hacks that will keep your dog healthy and safe. When you take your puppy out regularly to reinforce potty training, avoid areas that many dogs frequent. Many diseases and parasites are passed on through feces, visiting unclean or commonly used potty areas can risk your puppy’s health.
Until your puppy has had all their puppy shots, try to keep your puppy’s potty area to a small isolated place.
19. Address Diarrhea Immediately
If you notice that your puppy has diarrhea, it’s important to address it as soon as possible. On the first incident, if your puppy is otherwise well, just keep an eye on them and feed a bland diet for the rest of the day. If diarrhea continues, pay your vet a visit ASAP.
Puppies become dehydrated very quickly so ongoing diarrhea can lead to serious side effects. Even if the reason behind your puppy’s upset tummy is something they have eaten, it’s important to get fluids and electrolytes replaced.
20. NEVER Take Your Puppy Out Without a Leash
Puppies often don’t give much warning when they have to go out. This makes it tempting to grab the puppy and run outside for a quick potty break. Never do this without grabbing your puppy’s leash as well.
All it takes is a second for your unleashed puppy to dart out into the road or nip at an impatient dog, and their life is at risk. Take two seconds to put the leash on your pup EVERY time you go out and save a possible lifetime of pain.
WATCH NEXT: How To Train Your Dog To Poop On A Leash