Your tiny puppy is cute as a button … and has a tiny bladder too! So it’s likely your puppy will have accidents just about everywhere (maybe even while sitting on your lap) her first few days. But potty training doesn’t have to be a frustrating part of bringing home a new puppy. So here’s how to potty train a puppy, in two easy steps.
This puppy potty training process is from Dog Scouts of America founder Lonnie Olson. Using her simple two-step method, you’ll learn how to potty train a puppy … and this is one of the easiest ways to do it.
Potty Training Step 1: Watch Closely
The old adage by Ben Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” still holds true to this day. Start by watching your puppy to help avoid indoor accidents.
Puppies have small bladders. The younger they are, the more often they have to go. And puppies don’t understand that it isn’t okay to potty anywhere in your house. So it’s up to you to keep a close eye on your puppy.
When she’s loose in your home, watch her. If she leaves the room, follow her. It’s great to give her freedom to explore, but to keep her (and your home) safe, she should never be out of your sight. Being proactive can help you avoid that suspicious puppy silence that means she’s doing something she shouldn’t.
Give Regular Potty Breaks
Give your puppy a potty break every 20 minutes at first. Setting a cell phone timer is a great way to make sure she has these regular opportunities to pee and poop. As she gets older, you can extend the timing to a half hour, then slowly keep adding more time between potty breaks.
A great rule of thumb is to give your puppy a potty break every time she …
- Has been eating or drinking
- Wakes up from a nap
- Has been playing
This will create a pattern. It’ll reduce accidents in the house because your puppy’s getting plenty of potty opportunities. Remember, that as a puppy, her life is going to be: eat, potty, play, potty, sleep, potty … and repeat.
By keeping her bladder empty, you can give her more freedom in the house without fear of accidents. If your puppy hasn’t ”emptied,” it’s best to keep her in her crate or X-pen between activities.
But accidents will happen, so if she’s exploring your home and has an accident, make a sharp noise like “hey!” Then pick her up her up and take her outside, even if she’s mid-potty.
The accident is your fault, not hers. Never spank or lecture your puppy after an accident, and don’t show her the mess. She won’t understand, and you’ll only frighten her. These are normal bodily functions, so don’t turn them into something scary.
Go Out With Your Puppy
Always go outside with your puppy. There are several reasons for this. You can see what your puppy’s poop looks like, so you’ll get an early warning of any digestive or other health issues. It’s also a great idea to keep track of the times she pees and poops. And watching where she goes in your yard will also help you know if she’s chosen her “spot.”
The other essential reason to accompany your puppy outside is so you can reward her for pottying outside! This is Step 2 of how to potty train a puppy … communication.
Potty Training Step 2: Communication
Communication is key with potty training your pup. As you two get to know each other, she’s going to learn the words you’re using and what they mean.
As she goes potty outside, use a clicker to mark the behavior, and as she finishes, immediately reward her with a treat. (The clicker is best, but you can also mark the behavior with a word like “yes” or “good”). This will teach her that peeing or pooping outside is what you want …and she’s getting rewarded for it. The timing is important. Use the clicker while she’s going, then give her the treat right as she’s finishing peeing or pooping – as she stands up or starts to move away.
You can also start introducing some words that’ll be useful later when you want to ask her to potty for you. As you give her the reward, you can say something like “good potty outside” or if she poops, “good poop.”
Treats and prizes are a great way to teach your puppy what you want, as well as clicking and “good potty” words. By using these together, your pup will learn that she gets good stuff for going potty outside.
Quickly, she’ll figure out she doesn’t get a reward for going potty inside … but that outside, she gets a delicious treat.
When Your Puppy Needs To Go Out
Once your puppy understands that peeing or pooping outdoors is good, it’s time to teach her how to let you know she needs to go out. Jingle bells by the door are a great way for her to tell you that it’s time to go.
By training your dog with jingle bells, you’re actually training her to train you.
- Have your puppy sit.
- Offer her a really good treat, just out of reach.
- When she tries to take it, close your fist around it, not letting her have it.
- She’ll likely then paw at your fist. When she does, give her the treat.
- Once she gets the hang of it, give the pawing a name – like “wave” or “smack.”
Once she’s doing this reliably, move on to the next stage … the same training but holding up the bells. Your puppy will probably catch on quickly and start pawing at the bells. Then you can move on to hanging the bells by the door. Every time you go out, have her paw the bells.
Those bells mean going outside to potty. Going outside to potty means a treat. And treats are what she wants! Within just a few days, your puppy will let you know when she has to go outside to go potty.
And the bells are really helpful for you, too. Chances are, you can be anywhere in the house, and hear those bells and know it’s time. (If you stay somewhere else with your puppy, bring the bells as well, and give her a training refresh. The skills will transfer!)
With careful monitoring, communication and patience, you’ll quickly have your puppy potty trained, with little frustration on your part, and fewer accidents.