How to Potty Train a Puppy 

Behavior
January 4, 2024
Author: 
Diana Bocco
Reviewed By: 
5 minute read

Welcome to the delightful yet daunting world of puppy parenting! It’s all fun, wagging tails, and lots of kisses — plus the difficulties of learning how to potty train a puppy!

Don’t worry — we know it’s a task that can test the patience of even the most seasoned pet owners. At Cola’s Kitchen, we believe in helping pups every step of the way, so we put together a guide to help you navigate the highs and lows of teaching your furry friend where and when to do their business. 

Understanding the Potty Training Process

Learning how to potty train a puppy is not so different from teaching a young child — it's a fundamental step in their early development. The process sits on two basic pillars: teaching your canine companion the appropriate places for elimination and establishing a clear, consistent routine that your puppy can understand and follow.  

Puppies thrive on repetition and clear expectations. Being patient means understanding that accidents are part of the learning curve and not reasons for punishment. Remember, successful potty training is not just about a well-trained puppy — it’s about creating a lasting bond of trust and understanding between you and your new companion.

How Long Does It Take to Potty Train a Puppy?  

The journey to a fully potty-trained puppy varies from dog to dog, and it can take anywhere from several weeks to a few months depending on the puppy's age, breed, and individual learning capacity. Typically, puppies begin to understand the concept of potty training concepts around 12 to 16 weeks of age. At this stage, their bladder control start to develop, enabling them to hold it for longer periods. Still, achieving full potty training might take up to six months or more.

Breed differences play a significant role in this timeframe. Smaller breeds, like Chihuahuas or Dachshunds, often take longer due to their smaller bladders and faster metabolisms, making frequent outings necessary. On the other hand, larger breeds, such as Labradors or German Shepherds, might learn quicker due to their ability to hold it in for longer durations. Some breeds are also naturally more eager to please and may pick up on training cues more rapidly, while independent breeds might require more patience and consistent reinforcement.

Other factors that can slow down the potty training process include: 

  • Inconsistent schedules that make it harder for them to understand what you want them to learn
  • Lack of consistency in timing, cueing, and location 
  • Lack of positive reinforcement. Puppies respond best to rewards and praise, helping them understand what behaviors are expected of them
  • Previous negative experiences, especially for rescue or shelter dogs. These puppies might need extra patience and positive reinforcement to overcome any past trauma associated with potty training
  • Medical issues, such as urinary tract infections, can also affect a puppy’s ability to control their bladder 

It's important to note that methods promising to teach you how to potty train a puppy in 7 days are usually exaggerated. While some initial progress can be made in a week, fully training your puppy typically requires a longer commitment to ensure lasting results and a solid understanding of potty routines.

The Step-by-Step Guide on How to Potty Train a Puppy

The key to success during potty training is a structured approach and understanding your puppy's needs. 

Preparation: Setting Up for Success  

Getting your home ready for potty training is just as important as the training itself. As a first step, you need to limit your puppy's access to the whole house. Use baby gates, a crate, or closed doors to restrict them to a specific area where you can keep an eye on them. This way, they won't sneak off to a corner of another room when you're not watching.

Next up, decide where you'll place the puppy pads, if you choose to use them. A good spot is usually in the bathroom or near a door leading outside. Keep in mind that many trainers don’t recommend using pee pads because they can sometimes make it harder to teach your puppy that going to the bathroom inside isn't okay. If you go the pee pad route, you might want to lay something on top of it, like a piece of fake grass, to mimic the outdoors. This can help make the eventual transition to going outside a bit smoother.

Establishing a Routine 

Routine is the backbone of effective potty training. Consistency in feeding, playing, and potty breaks helps your puppy understand what is expected. Set specific times for meals and avoid free-feeding, as this will regulate their digestion and consequently, their potty schedule. Post-meal, wait about 15 to 30 minutes before taking them to their potty spot. 

Young puppies generally need to relieve themselves frequently — usually after waking up, after playing, and after eating. In the beginning, be prepared for some late-night bathroom trips with your puppy too. Try to keep these outings calm and fuss-free to help maintain a peaceful atmosphere. Keeping a routine helps your puppy learn faster and reduces the likelihood of accidents. 

Supervision and Cue Recognition 

Keeping a close watch on your puppy is key during potty training. Look out for signs that they need a bathroom break, like a sudden pause in play, sniffing around more than usual, or even heading to a corner. Once you spot these cues, quickly but gently, guide your puppy to their designated potty spot. 

This is also the perfect moment to introduce specific cues like “go potty.” Consistency in using these words creates a linguistic link for your puppy, making the connection between the command and the action clearer with each repetition. 

Positive Reinforcement  

Each time your puppy successfully uses their potty spot, celebrate it like a mini festival! Shower them with treats, burst into praise, or engage in a brief play session. These joyful reactions create a strong association of good feelings with the act of using the potty spot correctly. 

This method is far more effective than any form of punishment, which can lead to fear or confusion. When accidents happen – and they will – stay calm and avoid displaying frustration or anger.

Handling Accidents  

When accidents happen, quietly clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate any lingering scents that could attract them back to the same spot. If you catch your puppy in the act, don’t yell — simply interrupt them with a gentle, “Oops!” and guide them to their potty area. Remember, every accident is a chance to reinforce the right behavior in a positive and supportive way. 

Progress and Patience 

Potty training is not a linear process, and there will be good days and challenging ones. More than anything, it’s important to understand that each puppy learns at their own pace, and setbacks are just part of the journey. Instead of getting discouraged, use these moments as cues to adjust your approach or schedule. 

Consistent encouragement and patience build a trusting relationship, making your puppy more eager to please and learn.

The Don’ts of Potty Training

Navigating the do's of potty training is crucial, but being aware of the don'ts is equally important. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Don’t Rely on Punishment: A major misconception in puppy training is the effectiveness of punishment. Scolding or punishing your puppy for accidents can lead to fear, anxiety, and even secrecy in their bathroom habits. It can also damage the trust between you and your puppy, making the training process longer and more challenging. Remember, positive reinforcement is the key to effective learning.
  • Don’t Skip Supervision: Leaving a puppy unsupervised during the early stages of potty training is asking for accidents. Puppies often need sudden bathroom breaks, and without supervision, they can’t communicate their needs. Always keep an eye on your puppy, or if that’s not possible, consider using a crate or a puppy-proofed area to limit their space.
  • Don’t Rush the Process: While you may come across methods claiming to teach how to toilet train a puppy in 7 days, it's important to understand that expecting your puppy to be fully potty trained within such a specific, short timeframe is unrealistic and can lead to frustration for both of you. 
  • Don’t Neglect a Schedule: Inconsistency in feeding and potty break schedules can confuse your puppy, making it harder for them to understand what’s expected. Stick to a regular routine to help them learn faster.
  • Don’t Ignore Medical Issues: Sometimes, frequent accidents can be a sign of underlying medical issues, such as a urinary tract infection. If you notice persistent problems, consult your vet to rule out any health concerns.
  • Don’t Forget to Clean Properly: Inadequate cleaning of accidents can leave scents that attract your puppy back to the same spot.  

Conclusion 

Remember, when it comes to how to potty train a puppy, there’s no set timeline because every pup is unique. 

Cola's Kitchen is here to support you through this journey, not just with our comprehensive potty training guide but also with our specially crafted puppy food, designed to keep your furry friend healthy and energetic for each new day of learning. As you go through the highs and lows of training, remember that your hard work now is creating a strong bond and understanding with your puppy for years to come. Happy training and happy feeding with Cola's Kitchen!

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