How to Potty Train Your Dog

Potty training a dog is a necessity, and you’ll need to start doing it as soon as you get your new dog. It might not be fun, but there’s no way to get around it. But using the right potty training techniques can make the process a lot easier for both you and your dog. In fact, potty training a dog is simple if you do it the right way.

You can use several methods for potty training a dog, but the most successful techniques all incorporate the following four key elements: confinement, training, timing and praise. Of course, you’ll also need a large dash of patience and persistence. You’re trying to develop a habit, and that takes time.

Use a Dog Crate

Although you can begin potty training a dog by using newspapers or puppy training pads (sometimes called “puppy piddle pads”), that method is short-term at best, and it can really confuse your dog when it’s time to re-train him to go potty outside instead. Skip the newspapers and teach your dog to relieve himself outdoors right from the beginning. It’s quicker, simpler and less confusing for your dog.

Confinement in a crate is a tried-and-true, effective technique for potty training a dog. No dog wants to do his “business” where he sleeps. Keeping him in a crate facilitates the house training process because it’s natural for your dog to want to “hold it” while he’s inside. The crate should be just large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lay down. A larger crate might tempt him to relieve himself at one end and sleep in the other end of the crate. Make sure you take your dog outside frequently (every hour or two at first) so he can relieve himself and stretch his legs. After he eliminates outside, praise him immediately. Then let him have thirty minutes or so of free play time inside the house (closely supervised, of course) before returning him to the crate. Over time he’ll come to understand that you want him to go potty outside.

Anticipate Your Dog’s Needs

You can prevent some potential accidents by anticipating when your dog needs to go potty. Take a young pup outside at least every two hours, because he’s not able to control his bladder very well. You can slowly increase the intervals between taking him out as he gets older. A pup should also go out right after he wakes up, eats, drinks or finishes playing, because that’s when he’s most likely to eliminate. This is the reason that feeding and giving water to your dog on a set schedule can be so important when you’re potty training a dog. You can pretty much count on your dog needing to eliminate within 15 to 30 minutes after he eats or drinks, so you’ll know when you need to take him outside.

You probably won’t get many nights of uninterrupted sleep during the early stages of potty training a dog. Although things should get better fairly quickly, you might need to take a young pup outside two or three times during the night. By the time he’s nine or ten weeks old, a puppy should only need to go out once a night. You can do yourself a big favor by removing your dog’s food and water immediately after dinner.

Over time, you’ll learn that certain warning signs mean your dog needs to go potty. Some dogs circle around while sniffing the floor, others get a certain “look” on their face, and others suddenly stop playing. Take your dog outside as soon as you see any of these signs. Praise him lavishly as soon as he does his business.

If you take your dog outside and nothing happens within a few minutes, he’s probably not quite ready. Take him back inside, put him back in his crate and try again in twenty minutes.

Close Supervision

You’ll need to monitor your dog closely whenever he’s not inside his crate. This close supervision will allow you to prevent some potential “accidents” by quickly whisking him outside as soon as he starts looking for somewhere to go potty. Your goal here is to prevent accidents and build the habit of going potty outside. Accidents will happen, though, because sometimes you’ll react too slowly. And, if you happen to catch your dog “in the act,” you can use it as a teaching opportunity.

Dealing with Accidents

If you catch your dog in the act of going potty, clap your hands or make some other sharp, abrupt noise that will startle him. Use a firm, low voice to tell him he’s a “bad dog” and then take him outside immediately. Praise him enthusiastically if he goes potty outside. Dealing with an accident properly can be a great teaching tool when you’re potty training a dog.

Never Punish Your Dog

Never strike or shout at your dog if he has an accident, and never rub his nose in it. Physical punishment is inhumane, and it’s simply not an option. Striking your dog will only teach him to fear you.

Always thoroughly clean up any mistakes. Use a pet-specific odor neutralizer to eliminate any scents that might linger and make a repeat “performance” more tempting. Once the mess is cleaned up, forget about it.

Although it’s not necessary, some people teach their dogs to associate certain words with relieving themselves. “Go potty,” “go poop” and “hurry up” seem to be among the most frequently-used commands, but you could pick anything as long as you’re consistent. Always remember to praise your dog as soon as he goes potty in the proper place.

Potty training a dog takes time and patience, but you’ll know your dog is “getting it” when you see a few tell-tale signs:

The number of “accidents” he has in the house decreases, gradually going down to very few and then none

You need to take him out less frequently because he’s developing better control over his bladder

He starts telling you he needs to go outside. He might run to the door, look at his leash, stare at you or tell you by barking.