Puppy potty training is the bane of many new dog parents. That is why there are so many tutorials on how to housetrain a dog, 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 housebreak. My Shiba was housebroken when we first got him at 10 weeks old.
Shiba Sephy does not even like to eliminate in our backyard. Instead, he prefers to wait until we go for a walk. In contrast, my second dog (a Siberian Husky), was more difficult to housetrain because she did not mind frolicking close to her own waste products.
It took a few weeks to housetrain her.
Puppy potty training also depends a lot on us. If we are naturally calm, consistent, and patient, housebreaking will seem easier and require less work.
Whatever the case, always remember that we can successfully housetrain a physically healthy dog, at whatever age (after the weaning off process), no matter the history.
And that is a potty training fact!
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.
I observe my puppy closely, and try to identify patterns in her potty behavior. For example, she usually has to go when she wakes up, and after a bit of vigorous play. Therefore, I took her out after nap-time and after every 10-15 minutes of play. Different dogs may have different patterns depending on size, temperament, routine, and more.
I stop giving her 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 eliminating outside, the more she will repeat that behavior. When my puppy does her business in the backyard, I mark that behavior (Yes!). Once she finishes, I treat her with something special that she only gets for potty success, and give her some good affection. Then, I reward her more with play-time and her favorite activities.
Similarly, the more a puppy practices eliminating inside, on her own, the more she will go in the house. After all, it is convenient and nobody is teaching her that it is inappropriate behavior.
Therefore, we want to not only maximize the number of successes, but also minimize the number of mistakes. In this way, our puppy will learn that doing her business outside is extremely rewarding and fun. On the other hand, when she does it inside, she consistently gets interrupted and taken outside.
Myth – My dog cannot be housetrained 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 housetrained. The key to potty training is patience and consistency. Always be around to supervise our puppy when she is inside. If I do not have the time to supervise, then I crate my puppy 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 housebreak our puppy, is to remain calm, and consistently let her know that going inside is inappropriate (Ack, ack), and going outside is appropriate (Yes).
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 I do not catch my puppy in time and she starts to do her business, then I 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 true that a dog may look sheepish when we shout at her after the fact. This is because she knows that we are upset, so she uses 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, as well as create stress and fear. This can make things worse by causing submissive urination.
b) Crate train our dog.
Dogs do not generally like to soil where they sleep. Keeping our puppy in a crate can discourage her from pottying because she does not want to soil her sleeping area.
When I got my first dog, I was a bit concerned about crating him. Here is what the Humane Society of the United States and the American Dog Trainer’s Network have to say about crate training
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 eliminating, 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.
The maximum crate time is dependent on the age of our puppy.
|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.
Some puppies, e.g. pet store puppies, may already be conditioned to eliminate in their crate, because they are kept in there for overly long periods of time. In such cases, a crate will no longer be a deterrent to potty behavior.
c) Put our dog in a long-term enclosure.
If I will be away for a long period of time, I put my 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 may also use an indoor grass system. However, some dogs may not like standing on or eliminating on the indoor grass surface. Just using regular sod or grass did not work well for me 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 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 eliminate 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 potty on pads, as well as outside.
Reward a puppy for going on his pads, and reward a puppy a lot more for going outside.
3. Clean Away Mistakes Properly
During the housetraining process, there will be some mistakes. When that happens, I calmly no-mark my puppy (Ack, ack) and take her outside. Once we are outside, I praise and reward her if she continues with her business.
Then, I leave my puppy in our fully enclosed and puppy-safe 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.
4. Make Sure the Mistakes Are Potty Mistakes
Not all indoor urination is the result of housetraining 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.
Thank you for this nice article.
I have a question though. We got our puppy during winter time, he doesnt like to be out in the cold so we trained him to do his business in his potty pan. Hes been doing quite well until recently, he will pee two three times when he wakes up everywhere in the house and subsequently he will do it in his pan.
Can you please advise?
Glenn Osrin says
Hi I lve your site. Best I have ever seen. My nephew has two Shiba’s that we have babysat over the years so we are familiar with the breed. For our 20th wedding anniversary, I convinced her to adopt a 10-week old to celebrate. Puppy arrives Friday. After reading so many of your articles I didn’t feel guilty that my wife and I both work and have an ideal, long and wide tiled hallway to use a childgate to keep in that area while we are gone. He will have toys, bed, food and water access, and puppy pads. I have flexibility with my job that I can come home midday to walk him, but she is afraid he will never get properly trained if we aren’t with him 24/7. I remind her that 6 hours away M-F each day still leaves 18 hours in a day for us to be able to love nurture and train. The breeder has told me he has been exposed to kids and other dogs and rarely crated, so he may come here well on his way to being trained. Million dollar question: is it bad for the dog to confine him with lots of space for up to 6 hours most days while we are at work?
Anna Lauren says
We just got a resque dog -mixed breed- nearly a month ago. She is about 12 weeks old so she is stil a puppy. She had a realy good start at her 10 weeks she was able to understand the concept of poo and pee outside. We dont keep her in a crate at night she sleeps with us and she is perfectly fine -no pee or poo overnight- she eliminates in the morning when we get up outside. Lately for the past 1-1,5 week she has started going for potty inside and she goes outside to play and comes inside and does her business. We stopped praising her when she goes outside and dont supervise when she in out playing assuming that she goes for her poty time. (outside=backyard) We started taking her for small walks now but she refuses ti eliminate out. I dont get it. Any pointers?
Hi!! thank you for all the training tips and pearls!! Especially on Shiba Inu!!
I am having a 4 months old baby shiba girl. She is very active and smart. She learned new tricks e.g. sit, hand at 3 months of age. However, her potty training is a big issue and causing loads of stress to our family.
We have 4 dogs in total, 2 pekingnese and 1 siberian husky. The two pekingnese are able to properly urinate and defaecate at the designated place. The siberian husky will only excrete during her walks.
Shiba girl learned to urinate at the correct place in 3 weeks time, however, she still defaecate all over the house. We tried all sorts of conditioning, e.g. rewards when she defaecate at the right place (which only happened twice since she came) and punishment (put her back to crate and ignore her, hit/scold). We noticed that she usually poo after meal, we will keep her isolated in the designated area until she defaecate. She did not poo as expected, even for hours. However, once we let her out of the area, she poo right away at the living room.
I just cannot understand why she will not defaecate at that designated area while she already knew that’s the place to urinate and bad things will happen if she defaecate somewhere else?
I really need help on this issue…
Hi, i have a 14 wk old siberian male that is displaying coprophagia and will seem to do well with no potty accidents in crate or house, then will start going in his crate again every other hour. Vet says there’s nothing wrong with him, that he’s just testing myself and my husband. We are on the verge of rehoming him because he continues to revert to being defiant. The treat system and professional training has not helped at all. Any tips or suggestions? He has no separation issues and no illness/stress factors.
Chloé Mc' says
Hi, there. I got my pup when she was 5 weeks old because her owners did not want her. Due to circumstance, from the first night we got her, she’s kept on the veranda in a fence-like pen. She is now 9 weeks old and I cannot get her to use her puppy pads – UNLESS she is left alone in her pen and the pad is in one particular spot. She will rarely poop in the house, but she pees anywhere she pleases as she is let out of her pen. Every morning I take her for walks and she does her business effortlessly, but as we get back into house, it’s a huge mess all over again. I consistently give her treats as she does the right thing but she never indicates to me personally that she needs to go potty. Unfortunately, she is left most of the day in her pen (as I am at work) and at night well at bed time. I’m not sure what to do. Please help!
I have a 14 week old puppy that I’ve had since 8 weeks, and I am besides myself with her potty training. I have had puppies before with no problem, but I just can’t seem to get her trained. I have puppy pads, that she 90% of the time while in the house with poop on, but chooses to urinate when ever and where ever, even if she just went outside 10 minutes ago and urinated! She shows no signs “at the door”, and I am constantly on her in the house, grabbing her as she goes and placing her outside. She gets treats if goes outside, and just a verbal “good girl” nothing more if she goes on her pads. I bring her out after every wake up, everyplace time and in-between. Should I remove her pads completely? I have no idea what to do!!
My husband and I got our first puppy 2 months ago. A Cocker Spaniel we named Baxter. He was born Jan 5th. So far it’s been rather frustrating for us. He’s not doing well with potty training and we first attributed it to the fact my husband’s parent’s dogs constantly peed and pooped in the house. I did my best to take him out as much as possible and for the first month and a half, I never let him from my sight if possible. I even had him follow me to the bathroom and talked to him, held him, or sat there petting him while I was in there. He was fixed April 22nd.
We’ve since moved to an apartment (a bit over 2 weeks ago) and he still has about 1 accident every day. A few times he’s went 2 days without anything. It’s mostly peeing for now. He did have 3 poo accidents as well, but he’s been sick since he was fixed. We tried everything to calm his stomach, the vet gave him medicine he’s getting that’s supposed to help, but it’s still soft serve consistency and before he had good, firm poos. We spent hundreds of dollars already, just recently more because of his medicine and the special wet food he was given to supposedly help fix his stomach. They claim it was stress from the surgery, his poo test came back negative twice, and then also from moving stress.
I’m trying so hard to not get frustrated with him, but it’s just so difficult and I got the dog to help with emotional issues I have while my husband is at work. I had a dog before with my ex and he had only one accident in the house when we first got him, but he was so perfect with everything. It’s frustrating having Baxter be like this because my husband is now getting angry thinking Baxter will be like his parent’s dog and just potty all over for his whole life. I’ve tried setting schedules, walking frequently, I watch this dog like a hawk but he still manages to do something when he’s literally right next to me. Just this evening we were all cuddling together getting ready for bed and I went to get up and stepped in pee. He wasn’t off the bed more than 3 minutes and he had been outside for his nightly walk not even an hour before. (He did pee and poo while we were out there).
And what’s worse is that sometimes he comes to me and asks to go out, which I praise him for. He’s kennel trained since he came from the breeder, and only has accidents in the kennel if he’s not taken out first thing in the morning. (We once got held up somewhere and he was in the kennel for 7 hours and he had no accident.) Which was the first indication he was ill because he pooped all over the house, his crate, every half hour he was pooping really mucusy and you could tell he was hurting. I did boiled rice, chicken, and pumpkin with an added (tiny) bit of plain yogurt and after a few days of that he finally saw the vet for it. And it’s still not better.
We just moved so getting him to the vet once again will have to wait so I’ve just been giving him the medicine and just the past few days now he’s had his old food incorporated into the wet they gave me cus it’s almost gone. Between the sickness and his training he’s turning out to be quite difficult to the point that I’m second guessing the decision we made to get him, but I love him too much to let him go back to the breeder (which was the agreement if we couldn’t keep him). In all honesty, we paid too much money and put too much time into him to just toss him away. He’s my child and I love him so much. I just wish I could help him. I want him back to healthy, happy Baxter. And I’d like it without the accidents.
Am I asking too much from him at this young age? Is there something else I can try on him? I can’t give him any new treat or I risk setting off his diarrhea again, and now on these new carpets. I can’t just leave him outside because we live on the 2nd floor of an apartment complex. If there’s anything you can tell me to help, it’d be really appreciated.
How is it going with your dog?
Paul Henshaw says
Hi I have an 11 week old French bulldog puppy I have had for three weeks now. I am now taking to puppy classes once a week and he is developing quite well with his potty training and I am now able to take him outside for walks.
The problem we face is every time I go to clean up after him when he makes a mistake in the house, I use a specific pet odour & stain remover for the wooden floors, I clean his area up (a cordoned off part of the kitchen) and put a fresh potty mat down. When he goes back into his area, he seems to sniff around – I think because he’s trying to find his scent – which he then just pees or poops wherever he feels like. This ‘habit’ has actually been ongoing since I got him.
He knows where his area is in the house. I never let him out of the area unless he’s with me on a leash and I keep a close eye on exactly what he’s doing. I follow all of the rules that if he makes a mistake I pick him up and I put him on his mat – Which I now know I should start taking him outside – and I intend to!
Since he started puppy school last week he has become very naughty and not obeying my commands like he used to and just generally being a little rascal. (which I love and adore, but at the same time I thought we were both making really good progress quite quickly, however now it appears I’m going back to square one from the start).
Overall I think I’m doing a great job raising him and we have formed a really close and loving bond now – he’s my world and my boy who I love unconditionally – but this issue of doing his business wherever he feels like after I’ve cleaned his area is starting to get a little frustrating now!!
The trainer at his class has advised it’s just a phase he’s going through, however I’m not too convinced so I would like I would greatly appreciate a second opinion please!!!!
I have the exact same problem.. It’s driving me insane… Any advise form other pet owners?
I have a 7 week old poodle puppy I just bought, I’ve had him for 3 days and trying to train him to go potty outside. I live in a two story townhome so I even taking him outside to a grass area every morning and every night and of course in the afternoon and trying to catch him after every nap. He’s still having pee accidents in my room on the pee pads and sometimes outside the pads. I’m not sure if I’m doing it right or maybe I’m trying to rush the process since it’s only been 3 days. I will continue to take him outside hoping he will eventually get that outside is for potty and inside is a no no. He didn’t like the treats I bought him so the rewarding system doesn’t seem to work for me. I am a first time dog owner so this is also very new to me! Please let me know if I’m doing the right thing or if I need to change anything! I appreciate it.