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How to Potty Train a Puppy: Tips for New Pet Parents

When deciding how to potty train a puppy, or a newly adopted dog, you have two options— train them to relieve themselves outdoors, or inside your home on a pee pad and then transition them to the outdoors. We’ll take you through both options and give you tips to incorporate crate potty training into your plan.

How to Train a Puppy to Pee Outside

Your puppy can’t tell you they have to relieve themselves, or can they? They can if you teach them a “potty cue.” Potty cues begin by showing your pet how to signal they want to go outdoors. From there, your puppy will associate the feeling of peeing with being outside of your home. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Teach your puppy the potty cue

Have your puppy sit by the back door. When your pet barks, open the back door and let them out. Rather not teach your pup to bark? Try a bell. When your pet rings the bell, open the door and take them outside. Remember, the potty cue is just for going potty, don’t let your puppy play too much outside after doing their business - otherwise, they will associate the cue with getting to play outside, not just going potty.

What to do if you need to change the potty cue

So you taught your puppy to bark when they need to go to the bathroom, but now they bark nonstop. You can try teaching them a new cue like sitting at the door. You could even place a rug by the door, and train your puppy to know that when they sit on the rug, you open the door. From here, repeat steps two and three to complete your pet’s retraining.

Step 2: Determine a set potty area

Put your puppy on a leash and walk them out to the part of the yard you want your dog to relieve themselves at. Don’t continue walking. Instead, wait for your pet to relieve themselves. When your puppy does, reward them with treats and verbal praise. This will make peeing outside a positive experience. If they don’t go, take your puppy back in the house and repeat. They will catch on fast.

Step 3: Use a crate when you’re not home

When you aren’t home with your pet, confine them to an area, such as a crate. This helps limit accidents in your bedroom, living room, or any other areas when you aren’t there to hear or see the cue.

The Indoors-to-Outdoors Method

If you don’t have a yard, or your puppy is in the process of completing their shots, it may be best to begin potty training indoors and then transition your pet to the outdoors. To begin training your dog to relieve themselves in the correct place indoors, you’ll need to learn how to potty train a puppy on pads, or how to get started with crate potty training.

How to potty train a puppy on pads

Determine a confined area to begin house training—like the bathroom or the laundry room (ideally somewhere with easy to clean floors in case of accidents!). Whichever area you decide, make sure it’s puppy-proofed and remove any harmful products. Next, set up the space by covering the floor with pee pads and placing your pet’s bed in a corner of the room.

To help you get started with a routine, here are some steps you can follow:

STEP 1: Change pee pads often but place a small piece of the soiled pad on top of the clean pad in the area you want your puppy to pee. The scent reminds your puppy that this area is the bathroom.

STEP 2: Remove the pee pads closest to your pet’s bed once your puppy is peeing in the same area.

STEP 3: Continue removing the pee pads until you have removed all but one or two sheets.

When you have consistent success with your puppy only using one or two pee pads, you can gradually expand the area they have access to. If accidents begin to occur, reduce the area. For pet parents who plan to transition their puppy to an indoor or patio grass “potty,” migrate the papers near this spot. Now, you’re ready to teach your puppy a potty cue so they can relieve themselves outdoors.

Crate potty training

Before you begin crate potty training, you need the right size containment. Keep in mind your pet only needs enough space to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Any more room will encourage them to relieve themselves in one corner and sleep in another. Some crates come with dividers so you can adjust the size as they grow.

To get your puppy used to their crate, toss a treat in and allow them to go inside and come back out. Praise your puppy each time they enter. Work your way up to your pet spending 10 minutes in their crate and then longer once they’re comfortable. When your puppy associates their crate as their living space, crate potty training begins.

Instead of soiling the area where they sleep and eat, they’ll let you know they need to go. Like other potty training methods, developing a routine is key. Within fifteen minutes of eating, drinking or playing, your puppy should have the opportunity to relieve themselves. For more tips on crate potty training, check out our crate training guide.

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

There is no defined timeframe when it comes to how to potty train a puppy. There are many factors that come into play, with consistency being the most important. Be sure to reward your puppy when they follow their training plan.

Dealing with accidents

Accidents will happen no matter how much you try to prevent them. It’s a matter of determining the cause and reinforcing positive behavior. Recognizing when your pet is stressed or what continually triggers accidents will help you come up with corrective measures. For cleaning up messes, be sure to give the soiled area a good cleaning. Pet-safe stain removers and odor removers are good cleaning products to have on hand.

Keep in mind that even a house trained puppy will have accidents when out and about. To limit this behavior, keep your puppy’s schedule as consistent as possible. If you’re going on a trip or visiting friends, take your puppy on a long walk with lots of opportunities to empty their bladder beforehand. Bringing toys is another useful technique, as they can help keep your pet focused on an activity.

Potty training a puppy takes time and commitment, so don’t lose your patience. When you feel your pet is straying off course, return to the basics. Whichever method you choose, stick to it and develop a routine. With positive reinforcement, your pet will begin to recognize when they are showing good behavior. Stay prepared by shopping all the potty training supplies you’ll need!