Potty Training 101: How to Housebreak Your Puppy

Puppy Potty Training 101

Potty training a puppy can seem difficult, but with patience and consistency, you can teach your furry friend good bathroom habits. Housebreaking a puppy requires understanding canine behavior, setting up an appropriate potty spot, using positive reinforcement techniques, and sticking to a schedule.

With the right approach, your puppy can be accident-free in no time. In this blog post, we will share practical steps and techniques for potty training to help you with your beloved puppy training.

1. Start early.

It’s best to begin house training as soon as you bring your puppy home, usually around 8-12 weeks of age. Puppies have small bladders and less control at this young age.

Getting a head start on training allows you to instill good bathroom habits early. Have everything ready before your pup comes home like proper cleaning supplies, potty spot choice, crate, leash, and treats.

2. Be consistent.

Consistency is crucial when potty training a puppy. Take your pup to their designated bathroom spot according to a fixed schedule, especially first thing in the morning, after meals, after naps, after play, and last thing at night.

Frequent bathroom breaks establish a predictable routine and reduce accidents. Stay patient and stick to the schedule.

3. Use positive reinforcement.

Cheer, give treats, or offer praise when your puppy eliminates in their proper potty place. Positive reinforcement helps strengthen the desired behavior quickly. Respond calmly to any accidents to avoid creating stress or fear. Never scold or punish puppies for indoor accidents while training.

Step-by-step Guide to Potty Training Your Puppy:

1. Establishing a Routine

Puppies do best on a predictable schedule. Take your puppy outside frequently, at least every two hours, as well as first thing in the morning, after naps, playtime, feeding time, and last thing before bedtime. Keep the puppy on a leash so you can immediately reward successful potties outside with praise and treats.

2. Choose a Potty Spot

Pick a spot close to the door that you’ll use consistently for potty breaks. Always take the pup to the spot using a leash or carry them. Give a cue like “Go potty” as they eliminate. The smell helps remind pups that this area is for bathroom needs.

3. Take your puppy to their potty spot on a leash.

The leash allows you to immediately reward successful potties and interrupts accidents. Keeping the puppy on a leash when taking them to their potty area allows you to immediately praise and reward correct eliminations.

If the puppy starts to go potty inside, the leash lets you promptly guide them to the approved spot outside. Leashes give control during the training process.

4. Use a cue word or phrase.

Say “Go Potty” as your pup eliminates so they associate the cue with the action. As your puppy is relieving themselves in their designated spot, say a trigger phrase like “Go potty” in an upbeat, encouraging tone.

Use this cue every time you take them to their bathroom area. With repeated use, the puppy will learn to associate this phrase with going to the bathroom.

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5. Crate Training

Crate training utilizes a dog’s natural instinct to stay clean and avoid soiling their sleeping area. The crate should be just big enough for the puppy to stand up and turn around. Close off access to larger spaces until housebroken. Pups won’t want to potty where they sleep.

6. Limit Access

When you can’t monitor your puppy closely, restrict access to areas of the home using baby gates or closing doors. Allow access to only one or two rooms so accidents can be cleaned promptly. Watch for signs they need to go like circling, sniffing, or squatting.

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7. Reward the Wins

Celebrate successes throughout potty training even if there are occasional setbacks. Progress may be gradual, but stay positive. Regular outdoor potties and periods of accident-free time indoors should be met with over-the-top praise, treats, and playtime to reinforce the habits.

8. Signs of Progress

You’ll know your puppy is understanding when they start going immediately in their potty spot, wait by the door when they need to go out, or vocalize to let you know it’s potty time. Keep up the praise and rewards as these signs emerge. It may take a couple of months for a puppy to be fully housebroken.

9. Supervise Closely

The key is constant supervision whenever the puppy is loose in the house. Keep the leash on inside if needed so you can immediately guide them outside. Confine the pup if you’re unable to pay close attention. Frequent bathroom breaks will help instill good habits.

10. Use Positive Reinforcement

Cheer, give treats, and shower your pup with affection when they potty in the approved spot. Positive reinforcement helps cement the desired behavior. Negative reactions to accidents can cause stress and subdue elimination cues making training even harder.

11. Allow Freedom Gradually

Once your puppy is consistently going potty outside, slowly allow access to more spaces while supervised. Keep doors closed whenever you can’t watch them directly. If accidents start up again, scale back access until their habits are solid. This gradual expansion helps prevent regression.

12. Patience and Consistency

Accidents will happen during training. Stick to your schedule, provide ample opportunities to potty appropriately, and respond calmly to any mistakes. Be patient and consistent, and your puppy will quickly learn good bathroom manners. Never punish or scold for accidents.

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Additional tips:

  • Keep a potty training log.

    Keeping a log of your puppy’s activities can help you identify patterns and see when they need to go. Note down the timing of meals, water intake, naps, playtime, potties outside, and any accidents. Review the log to adjust schedules and identify triggers.

  • Limit your puppy’s water intake before bedtime.

    Restrict access to water 2-3 hours before bedtime to help avoid overnight accidents. However, don’t restrict water during the day or withhold it as punishment. Puppies need frequent hydration. Just limit intake right before being confined overnight.

  • Consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter.

    If you have a long work day, hire someone to give potty breaks while you’re gone. Young puppies under 6 months especially can’t wait 8+ hours without eliminating. A dog walker or pet sitter can take your pup outside every few hours. This provides potty opportunities and supervision until the puppy is housetrained.

  • Use baby gates to restrict access.

    Close off rooms or block doorways with baby gates when you can’t watch your puppy closely. Allow access to only one or two rooms at first to better notice potty cues and prevent accidents.

  • Expand freedom gradually.

    As your puppy shows consistent potty habits, slowly allow more supervised access to additional areas of your home. If accidents resume, scale back freedom until their skills strengthen.

If your puppy has an accident inside:

  • Clean up the mess immediately. Use an enzymatic cleaner and paper towels to remove all traces of urine or feces. Residual odors can attract dogs back to the same spots.
  • Respond calmly to accidents. When mistakes happen, calmly redirect your puppy outside without scolding or punishment. Clean up accidents with an enzymatic pet odor neutralizer. Harsh responses can delay house training progress.

  • Take your puppy outside to their potty spot. If you catch them in the act, immediately interrupt and escort them outside to reinforce that potty time is out there.
  • Don’t punish your puppy for the accident. Harsh scolding can be counterproductive and undermine training. Stay calm and upbeat.


With time, consistency, and positive reinforcement, your puppy will get the idea that potty time belongs outside. Patience through the inevitable messes, repetition of good habits, confinement when you can’t supervise, and always taking pups out after meals, naps, play, and overnight will set your dog up for potty training success.

Stay positive and be consistent, and you’ll have a housebroken canine companion. Learn here more about animal and pet training tips.