How To Potty Train a Puppy

Are you having trouble teaching your puppy to do his business outside? Maybe you want to teach your puppy to go to the bathroom in a specific spot in your yard? This guide will take you through the process of how to potty train a puppy.

Pomeranian posing next to a fire hydrant on a white background


How Often Should I Take My Puppy Outside?

This is a very common question and really has no exact answer. We’ve all heard that small dogs cannot hold their urine as long as large dogs due to their smaller bladders. That is completely false. All dog’s bladders are proportional to their body size. The best rule of thumb I have found is that for puppies less than one year old, they can hold it for the number of hours equal to their age in months. For example, a three-month old puppy can hold it for roughly three hours straight before needing to go out.

Pee-Pad Training

I recommend pee-pad training for owners that need to leave their puppy home alone for a few hours at a time. Pee-pads are available at any pet store, and you can also get them online from Amazon. The pads contain a scent marker that helps to draw your dog to them, so training is actually fairly simple. You need to make sure you place the pad away from your dog’s nesting/sleeping area. Dogs naturally do not go to the bathroom where they sleep. If your puppy does not want to go on the pad by himself, you can lead him to it with a leash.Pee pad training

Training a Puppy to “Go” Outside

Since dogs respond well to routines, I recommend establishing a bathroom word(s) to indicate to your dog that it’s time to do his business. For my two girls, our bathroom words are “Potty time!” Every time I say those words, my girls immediately go and wait by the door while I grab their leashes. I suggest using a word or phrase that you don’t use in every day conversation, so you’re not “faking out” your dog.puppy pooping in yard

When you go outside, walk your puppy around your yard for 5-10 minutes and allow him to relieve himself. If you want to train him to go in a specific area of your yard, only allow him around that area until he goes. Starting out, you should bring training treats and a clicker. As soon as your dog finishes his business, click your clicker and reward him with a treat. Rewarding him after he goes will yield two helpful results: 1) it will reinforce the fact that the bathroom is outside, and 2) he will want to do his business more quickly to earn the treat. While potty training my girls, I would make a big show of letting them smell the treat and watch me put it in my pocket before we went outside, as a sort of reminder that they should be good and pee quickly.

What Should I Do If My Puppy Refuses To Go?

As tough as it will be, don’t get frustrated. Keep your cool and stay as relaxed as possible. If he doesn’t go in the first 5-10 minutes of being outside, bring him back inside and wait 15-20 minutes and try again. You may find that during the first couple weeks of potty training, it could be challenging to get your puppy to go quickly. He will get distracted by smells and sounds and people walking by and cars driving past; this is completely normal. The most important things to remember during potty training are to be consistent and to be patient.

My puppy had an accident in the house right after we were outside… What now??

Refer to the previous paragraph… This is a completely normal occurrence during potty training. Your dog has not quite made the connection yet that the only bathroom is outside. He’s accustomed to going immediately when nature calls. In this instance again, it is paramount to remain calm and not get upset with your puppy. It never helps to rub his nose in it. He will never make the connection that you are punishing him for peeing in the house. He will think you are just punishing him for no reason, and will lead to him being frightened of you.

If you are lucky enough to catch him in the act, you should say “No” loudly and firmly to interrupt him. Then immediately take him outside to finish.¬†take puppy outside immediately to pee

Thanks for the help, where can I get more information?

Please leave me a comment with your specific questions and if I cannot answer them myself, I will provide links to the best resources for you.



  1. Having trained many a pup over the years your hints and tips are spot on! Here is my question, we adopted 7 year old Bichon Frise and she has the most terrible potty habits. Can you teach an old dog good potty habits?

    Thanks for a great website, you cover so much! Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for visiting Diana! In answer to your question, yes it is possible to train an old dog good potty habits. However, the process is going to really test your patience. For example, we adopted our dog Molly in August of 2014. She had been an outdoor dog in her previous life, so we needed to house train her. She was about 3.5 years old when we got her, so she was pretty set in her habits. With lots of treats and lots of patience, we still cannot get her to poop in our yard consistently. Sometimes she needs a short walk, and other times she goes right away.

      I think the best thing you can do for your Bichon is to establish a very consistent bathroom schedule and monitor her closely when you are at home. If she has a specific spot in the house that she has accidents, watch for her to go to that spot and take her outside when she makes her move. I also recommend reserving her super yummy favorite treats for bathroom time only to offer extra incentive for her to go outside.

  2. Hey Nate,

    Really good post and advice for potty training a puppy. I had a laugh about the part where you say they may not want to go right away because of sounds and smells.

    I have a fully potty trained 2 year old yellow lab/beagle mix that still finds it fun to purposefully stay outside as long as possible before going.

    Anyway my family has a few small dogs and we’ve never had much success with the potty pads.

    From what I’ve found it’s better to make sure that doing business in the house at anytime is bad and the only time it’s good is outside. Just my opinion though.

    How do you recommend getting a dog trained with potty pads to switch to only going outside and not putting out the pads anymore?


    • Hey Brok thanks for visiting! As far as weaning off the potty pads, as the dog gets older they will naturally be able to hold it for longer periods of time. I would recommend that, when you are ready, you stop putting out the potty pads altogether. When you arrive home, immediately take your dog outside to go to the bathroom. That will establish a routine that your dog can count on. In his mind, he will know that when his humans arrive, he will get to go outside and potty. For the first couple tries you may end up with accidents in the house, but once your dog understands the routine, the accidents will stop. That is the exact process that we took with our two small dogs when we were potty training them.

  3. Hi Nate,

    this is really helpful information for both new and seasoned dog owners. I have 6 dogs that I have rescued and found your exact guidelines to be what worked well for us.

    We never used clicker training, but then that probably answers why it took a lot longer. Great tip so will keep that in mind.

    Was hoping you could help me on one of my older boys. We’ve never had a problem with him before but recently he has been pooing in his crate at night. Its been this way for the last week. He is generally quite good and lets us know when he needs to go and really hasn’t had a problem before. Is this something I should be checking out with the vet?


    • Hey Layne thanks for visiting! I would definitely take your older boy to the vet, especially when you notice anything that is atypical behavior. For instance, our 2 year old Honey started having accidents in the house a couple months ago after over a year of accident free days. We took her to the vet and found out she had a bladder infection. Antibiotics cleared it right up. Hopefully the vet diagnoses him with something that is easily reversed/cured.

  4. Good common sense instructions on how to house train your puppy. So many people seem to freak out if the puppy does a woopsy in the house but it does, as you say, take patience and never punishment. If going to the loo is a stressful experience for the dog, then it will take an age to get puppy relaxed.
    Having a new puppy in the house is a big commitment and much time and effort is required during house training, basic commands and getting past the innoculation period so your pup can be walked outside the home environment.
    I have known many owners obtain a puppy whilst working during the day or when they are about to go on holiday. Timing IMHO is of the essence too. Great post. Ches

    • I agree on the timing of things, but sometimes that cannot be helped. Speaking from personal experience when we adopted our dog Honey when she was just 4 months old. One of the rescue groups to which we had submitted an application called us out of the blue offering us to meet her. We adopted her the next day amidst family coming into town to visit and a busy schedule. Biggest thing for potential owners is to do their research and understand the responsibilities involved.

  5. Hi Nate,

    You have a very nice site. I liked your post on potty training puppies and didn’t know not to put pads by a dogs bed. I don’t have puppies, but will keep this all in mind for when I do get one. Thanks for the info. I see you haven’t in a while. I hope you make more posts.

  6. First let me say, I came across your site at the right time! We just recently got a 8 week old Irish Wolfhound puppy and we are going through potty training her. Your article has a lot of great tips that i am going to put to use.

    You pretty much covered all the topics that have been running through my head! One thing that you might want to touch on is vaccinations and when it is ok to bring a puppy to a dog park. Thanks for all the info.

    • Hi Jen thanks for visiting. When taking your dog to the park, I have heard of people taking their dogs as early as 4 months old. Personally, we didn’t take our puppy until she was 10 months old. When you go, I would make sure your puppy has a reliable “Come” command, unless you want to be chasing her all over the place when it’s time to go home.

      With vaccinations, I specifically stay away from covering that because I am not a veterinarian and I don’t play one on TV lol. I recommend following your vet’s instructions, and with any vaccination, monitor your dog for any signs of adverse reaction.

  7. Hi

    Thanks for your post on potty training. I read about crate training when we had to potty train our puppy and was not comfortable with it at all. We followed a method very similar to yours (except we did not use a clicker). We also used puppy pads, which worked well, especially when we had to leave her inside. It did however create the problem that she later used all rugs as pee spots. With patience she finally learned that outside is the only acceptable spot. The word association works well. We say “let’s go make a wee-wee”. We adopted a second adult dog from the NSPCA and had to put him through potty training too, but he learned very quickly. So this method works, and I agree accidents will happen, you just have to be patient.

    • Agreed. Good point about the puppy pads. We used them for a bit with our first dog and she did the same thing using rugs and carpets as potty spots, so we abandoned the puppy pads. It’s easier to deal with a couple accidents rather than confusing the dog telling her it’s not okay to go inside the house when you put down the pads for that reason.

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