Puppy potty training, dog house training, puppy house breaking, or whatever else we choose to call it, is the bane of most new dog owners. That is why there are so many tutorials on how to potty train a puppy, with promises of how it can be simple and effortless.
The fact though is that potty training requires time, patience, and consistency. How simple or difficult it is, will depend on our dog’s temperament, and our own temperament.
Some dog breeds such as the Shiba Inu, are naturally clean, and are relatively easy to house-break. My Shiba was potty trained when we first got him, at 10 weeks old.
Shiba Inu Sephy does not even like to potty in our backyard. Instead, he prefers to wait until we go for a dog walk. In contrast, my second dog (a Siberian Husky) was more difficult to house-train because she did not mind frolicking close to her own waste products.
It took a few weeks to potty train her.
Puppy potty training also depends a lot on us. If we are naturally calm, consistent, and patient, house breaking will seem easier and require less work.
Whatever the case, always remember that we can successfully potty train a physically healthy dog, at whatever age, no matter the history.
And that is a dog potty training fact!
Puppy Potty Training 1
Set Up a Schedule
Puppy potty training begins by setting up a schedule. Initially, we want to bring our dog out often, and reduce the chances of her making mistakes inside the house.
When my Siberian Husky puppy was 8 weeks old, I took her out about once every hour (if she was awake), and after every 10-15 minutes of play.
I stop giving puppy water about 2-3 hours before sleep time, and take her out right before I crate her for the night. If I need to reward her during that time, I only use moist dog treats such as boiled chicken, so that she does not get thirsty from them.
Fact – Dogs learn through a process called conditioning. They repeat behaviors that get them good results and stop behaviors that get them bad results.
The more we reward a puppy for pottying outside, the more she will potty outside. When my puppy does her business in the backyard, I mark that behavior (Yes!). Once puppy finishes, I treat her and give her some good affection. Afterward, I reward her with play-time or a brief walk.
The more a puppy practices pottying inside, on her own, the more she will just go in the house. After all, it is convenient and nobody is teaching her that it is inappropriate behavior.
What we want to do is not only maximize the number of successes, but also minimize the number of mistakes.
Myth – My dog cannot be house trained because she comes from a stubborn breed, she is too stupid, she is too dominant, she doesn’t listen to me, she is too old, etc.
Any physically healthy dog can be house trained. The key to potty training is patience and consistency. Always be around to supervise our puppy when she is inside. If we do not have the time to supervise, then crate her, or put her in a long term enclosure with puppy pads.
Myth: Screaming and hitting the dog will show her that I am boss and make her stop pottying inside the house.
Screaming and hitting a dog does not work well, and usually makes things worse. How well do you learn when somebody is screaming at you, or hitting you? It is the same way for a dog, especially a puppy.
The fastest way to potty train our puppy, is to remain calm, and consistently let her know that going inside is inappropriate (Ack, ack), and going outside is appropriate (Yes).
Puppy Potty Training 2
Prevent Potty Mistakes
There are three ways to prevent mistakes inside the house:
a) Be there to supervise.
When our puppy shows signs that she has to go potty, take her outside right away. If we do not catch it on time and she starts to do her business, then interrupt her with a no-mark (Ack, ack), and take her outside.
Myth – I can potty train my puppy by rubbing her nose in it after the fact. She always looks sheepish and puts her head down when I shout at her. She knows she has done something wrong.
Dogs will only learn when we catch them in the act.
If we are not around and our dog makes a mistake, then we have missed a learning opportunity. All we can do is clean up the mess and move on. It is important to prevent mistakes by always supervising puppy, and using a crate or long-term enclosure when we are not around, or too busy to supervise.
Note that a dog may look sheepish when we shout at her after the fact. This is because she knows that we are upset. Therefore, she is using submissive gestures (e.g. putting her head down) to try and appease us.
The dog does not know what particular event has caused our anger, but just that we are angry. Shouting and rubbing a dog’s nose in her own waste does not teach her anything. All it does is confuse our dog, and cause her to get stressed and fearful. This can actually make things worse by causing her to do submissive urination.
b) Crate train our dog.
Dogs do not generally like to soil where they sleep. Keeping our puppy in a crate will discourage her from pottying because she does not want to soil her sleeping area.
Myth – A crate will magically keep my dog from pottying for any period of time.
The crate is not some magical cure. A crate discourages a dog from pottying, but if a dog absolutely has to go, she has to go.
Keeping a puppy for too long in a crate, will force her to potty in the crate, possibly traumatize her, and greatly set back our potty training program.
|Age||Maximum time in crate|
|8–10 weeks||30–60 minutes|
|11–14 weeks||1–3 hours|
|15–16 weeks||3–4 hours|
|17+ weeks||4–5 hours|
Maximum crate time from ASPCA Weekend Crate Training.
Note – this is just a general guideline for the maximum crate time. I usually take my puppy outside more frequently than that. I take her out as soon as she wakes up, and right after any heavy activity.
At night, I crate my dogs in the bedroom. Keeping our dogs with us in the bedroom will help with the bonding process, and show them that they are part of the pack.
When puppies are really young, they may not be able to hold their bladder throughout the night. It may be necessary to make an extra trip outside at night, or really early in the morning. Once they get a bit older though, this will no longer be necessary.
If we will be away for a long period of time, put puppy in a long-term enclosure. This can be a secure puppy pen, or a secure and safe room (e.g. kitchen).
Make sure there is nothing dangerous in the enclosure that our puppy can destroy and swallow. Put bedding, a water bowl, some puppy pads, safe chew toys, and safe food toys in the enclosure. Put the pads in a corner as far away from the bedding as possible.
Instead of puppy pads, we can also consider using an indoor grass system. However, some dogs may not like standing on or going on the indoor grass surface. Just using regular sod or grass does not work well because of drainage issues. The sod gets smelly very quickly because there isn’t anywhere for the pee to go.
When I tried using sod, I had to change it every other day, or my puppy refused to go onto it. This ended up being a lot more work than just using puppy pads.
Myth – We cannot train a dog to potty outside, as well as potty on puppy pads. She will get confused and not know what to do.
Yes, it is true that if we can be around most of the time to supervise, it is better not to let a puppy do her business in the house at all.
However, if we will be away for long periods of time, if our dog has separation anxiety issues (which may cause her to need to go potty when we leave), or if there are other medical issues (surgery) that make frequent trips outside unfeasible, then it is perfectly fine to train a dog to both go potty on pads, as well as go potty outside.
Reward a puppy for going on his pads, and reward a puppy a lot more for going outside.
Puppy Potty Training 3
Clean Away Mistakes Properly
During the potty training process, there will be some mistakes. When that happens, calmly no-mark our puppy (Ack, ack), and take her outside.
Once we are outside, praise and reward puppy if she continues with her business.
Then leave puppy in the backyard, come in, and clean up the mess. Cleaning up messes in front of a puppy may sometimes cause her to mimic our behavior, and engage in eating her own poop. In her mind, she is only helping to clean out the den.
Use a cleaner that is made especially for pets. A popular pet odor cleaner is Nature’s Miracle.
Do not use ammonia based cleaners as the ammonia odor, which resembles urine, may attract our dog to urinate in the area.
Puppy Potty Training 4
Make Sure the Mistakes Are Potty Mistakes
Not all indoor urination is the result of potty training mistakes. Other reasons for indoor urination include:
- Submissive or excitement urination.
- Medical issues, e.g. urinary tract infection.
- Marking objects or territory.
- Stress or anxiety, which results from being alone, or other psychological issues.