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Potty Training 101: Effective Ways to House Train Your Puppy

Madelene Hissom · Nov 9, 2020

Author: Alexandra Spensley

It’s always exciting to bring a new puppy home! From playing outside to introducing your new puppy to their new family, and days full of long-lasting memories. But they’re also a time to create healthy routines for your dog to thrive at home—and that includes effective potty training. Knowing how to potty train a puppy is an important part of welcoming your new family member 

Creating a Routine  

Experts agree that keeping an established routine is one of the best ways to house train a puppy. Keep a close eye on your new puppy when you’re first setting up a schedule. Young puppies don’t have fully developed digestive systems yet, so they need to be taken outside quite often—a standard puppy potty training schedule lets them know what to expect. Times to take your puppy out include first thing in the morning and last at night, as well as the times after they’ve eaten or drank, when they’ve napped or spent time playing, and—in general—whenever it’s been an hour or more since they last went.  

The importance of routine also applies to diet and exercise. Standard mealtimes are important. If you feed your dog all day, then they’ll probably be going to the bathroom all day, too! Instead, set up consistent times for your dog to eat, so they will use the potty regularly (and have more regular digestive events, too). Consistent exercise also helps to ensure that your puppy’s digestive system is healthy and that they are using the potty at regular intervals.  

Planning for When You’re Not Home  

Two key strategies for potty-training when no one’s home are crates and papers. Hiring a dog-walker or asking a neighbor is also a popular option.  

  • Crates: Crate training a puppy makes use of your dog’s natural desire to not use the potty in a small space where they’re also sleeping. Crates can certainly be used humanely—canines naturally seek a “den”-like place to curl up in, so they often gravitate toward small, comfortable spaces whether you choose to purchase a crate or not. Make sure to research the correct size crate for your dog’s comfort. Be sure to study your puppy’s habits ahead of time and always ensure that they won’t be kept in a crate more than for a maximum of 4 hours. But keep in mind that a young puppy may not be able to hold themself in the crate for more than an hour or two.  
  • Puppy pads: Other puppy owners opt for special papers or “pee pads” that dogs can use indoors when owners aren’t at home. Another alternative that works equally fine too, is to place old newspapers out on the floor.  
  • Dog-sitters or dog-walkers: Many puppy owners hire a dog-walker or ask a neighbor to check in on their puppy when they are at work all day. This is a great option for keeping up outdoor potty training, and for making sure your puppy is getting regular exercise and food during the day.  

Praise and Reinforcement  

Make sure to praise and reward your dog after they’ve successfully used the potty outside. Be warm and enthusiastic—cheer them on, pet or hug them, and reward them with a small treat, especially in the very beginning of potty-training. The timing of this praise is important—for example, when you take your dog out to go, wait to play or interact with them until they’ve taken care of business. That will create positive mental associations around successfully using the potty in a designated spot. Try associating a regular phrase or command with the act as well. “Time to potty” or “get busy!” are common example. (Puppy classes and puppy obedience training are useful programs that help you develop strategies for potty-training and learn how to make it work with the rest of your dog’s training.)  

You can also harness the power of scent when you’re potty-training your puppy. Dogs have a much-enhanced sense of smell, so it can be useful to bring them to the same spot in the yard each time they go—creating an identification between the smell of that place and potty time. Likewise, when your dog has an accident, the best way to deal is to interrupt them in action—and take them outside. That way, your puppy will associate elimination with the outdoors. But make sure to clean up the mess inside carefully, otherwise, your pup may continue to associate an indoor spot with the bathroom.  

Remember Consistency is Key  

Above all, remember that consistency—and a lot of patience—are the key factors for potty-training. Every dog is different, so you’ll come to understand the needs and habits of your own individual puppy better than anyone. Keeping up a regular schedule of reinforcement, praise, and routine will help ensure your puppy masters potty training quickly!