Potty training is one of the more tiring experiences in a new dog owner's life. Every dog is different, and they all learn at different rates. If you're going through puppy blues right now, being frustrated with the young dog, the below puppy potty training hacks should help even with the most stubborn pups.
While these tips are effective, they aren't going to help if you aren't consistent and patient with your pet. House training a puppy won't happen overnight. For the most stubborn puppies, it may take months of training before they are 100% potty trained.
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 the pup does 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, puppies should always go straight to their pee pad (always located in the exact same area) or going outside 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 or to the pee pad. This gives your dog 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 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.
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 their puppy food meal, don’t waste any time getting them to the potty area – just do it.
5. Potty Outside Should Be Rewarded
After you've transitioned from using potty pads to going outside, a surefire way to reinforce that potty time is now always outdoors is to reward the puppy. Use both praise and treats 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.
6. Avoid Punishment
One of the essential puppy potty training hacks that cannot be stressed enough is not punishing the dog. 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 best 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 – dogs react similarly.
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 12 week old puppy would be able to hold their bladder for a maximum of four hours.
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 – it'll be 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 puppy crate to this size keeps your dog comfortable, but also keeps them from pooping 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 like this one 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 the 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
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. As Samantha discussed in her recent podcast, for some owners puppy potty training pads are life saviors, while for others they can create additional problems.
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 dog 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.
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 (because of puppy eyes). Undoubtedly, accidents ensue.
Don’t give up your control of a tight schedule. Schedule is crucial in reinforcing new behaviors in dogs. As previously mentioned, one of the best puppy potty training hacks to remember is to be consistent with your training efforts, have a routine and stick to it.
15. Keep Baking Soda and Vinegar on Hand
Accidents are going to happen and there are few odors that take hold like urine. Thankfully, you can either use a commercial pet stain and odor eliminator, or simply grab some baking soda and vinegar – they 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 the young dog to go again in the exact same spot. 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
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 dog has had all their puppy shots, try to keep their 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 the puppy is otherwise well, 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 pup'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 yourself a possible lifetime of pain.
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