Puppy Potty Training 101


Housetraining a new puppy requires commitment, patience and consistency/routine. Your puppy will do best on a schedule.  She will soon learn when it is time to eat, sleep play and potty.  The following are a few tips that I followed to successfully train my four-week old great pyrenees/border collie mix.  It was trial and error with a few mishaps along the way.

Free Roam

I opted for housing training rather than puppy wee wee pads.  The latter was just not an option for me. Housetraining  fit my lifestyle.  Also, I just couldn’t stand the thought of having soiled wee wee pads scattered throughout the house. However, if you do not have a flexible work schedule outside of the home, this method may not be the best method for you.  Another option may be to  hire a dog walker or ask a neighbor to extend a helping hand.  Since my puppy was just 4 lbs. when she came into my world, I figured it would be just fine to leave her in the great room at night; free to roam even though she had a crate. That was my first error.  You WILL wake up to mishaps, no ifs ands or buts if you go this route.

Nighttime Kennel Training

By far, this proved to be the best method for me to potty train my pup.  The first few nights in a new home, a puppy will whimper and cry when left alone in a kennel.   This is normal. I admit, I succumbed the first few nights and put her in the bed with me.  I don’t recommend continuing this practice for more than a couple of nights.   After a few minutes in the crate, a puppy will become calm and go to sleep.   Place in the kennel, a comfy bed or blankets for her to nest along with her favorite toy; one with no choking hazard when left alone. Do not place a wee wee pad in the kennel or food.  Remember, we want to instill in her that this is her sleeping place, not her potty or eating place. You want to make this her sanctuary; a safe place that she will associate with good things.

Frequency – Nighttime

According to the Humane Society of the United States,  a puppy can control her bladder for appx. one hour for every month of age. That proved to be accurate for my puppy. So, be prepared to wake up multiple times during the night to escort puppy outside for potty breaks.  It didn’t take but a couple of weeks for my little one to realize potty is  for outdoors in the grass and not inside the house.  You can liken the experience to having a newborn. You will be exhausted for the first month or so.  Many nights, I found myself looking up at the stars in the backyard while my neighbors slept.  Make sure you don’t make a big deal of her needing to go or, otherwise, she’ll misconstrue this time as play time and you have created a playtime rather than a potty time at 3:00 a.m.

Frequency – Daytime

Frequency for potty breaks during the day is similar.  When a puppy wakes up, she has to potty whether it is during the nighttime hours or daytime.  I also noticed that she needed to potty after play as well.  To avoid mishaps, take your puppy out to potty within an hour or so after meals.  Scheduled feeding can minimize the need for elimination.  If you free feed your puppy, be prepared for numerous potty breaks.  I opted for feeding my puppy four small meals a day.  As she has gotten older, I have adjusted that schedule and the amount. Consult your veterinarian for the proper feeding schedule for your breed.

Command and Reward

Make sure that you give a command to your puppy when you take her outdoors to potty during the early puppy stages and reward her when the deed is complete. I always use the words “go potty” as she steps out the back door.  The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you take your dog on a leash and encourage her to go to the same general location each time. Since I have a large, fenced backyard, I allow my pup to go on her own without a leash.  Of course, I do have to scout the yard the next day for poop removal.  When she has completed her deed, I always verbally reward her with a “good girl”.

Final Stages – Bliss

Within four-five months of age, your puppy should be able to last most of the night without requiring a potty break.  I found that the earlier I put my pup in her kennel at night, the earlier she will awaken me to let me know she needs a potty break. Now at five months of age, we have it down to a science.  She knows the routine. She usually lets me know by whimpering and stirring about in her kennel which is placed within hearing distance of the master bedroom.  If I put her in at 11:00 p.m., she will more than likely wake me up around 5:00 a.m. for a potty break.  I now stand at the back door, she does her business and then returns to her kennel on command so I can catch another hour or so of sleep.  When I am at home with her indoors, she will go to the door and bark to let me know she needs to go out.  The Humane Society of the United States recommends that  you “take your puppy outside frequently—at least every two hours—and immediately after he wakes up, during and after playing, and after eating or drinking. The more consistent you are in following the basic housetraining procedures, the faster your puppy will learn acceptable behavior. It may take several weeks to housetrain your puppy, and with some of the smaller breeds, it might take longer”.

Footnote: Crating philosophy by the Humane Society of the United States

“Crate training uses a dog’s natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog’s den is his home, a place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise a family. The crate becomes your dog’s den, an ideal spot to snooze or take refuge during a thunderstorm.

  • The primary use for a crate is housetraining.  Dogs don’t like to soil their dens.
  • The crate can limit access to the rest of the house while he learns other rules, like not to chew on furniture.
  • Crates are a safe way to transport your dog in the car.

Crating caution!

A crate isn’t a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated.

  • Never use the crate as a punishment. Your dog will come to fear it and refuse to enter it.
  • Don’t leave your dog in the crate too long.  A   dog that’s crated day and night doesn’t get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed or anxious. You may have to change  your schedule, hire a pet sitter, or take your dog to a doggie daycare      facility to reduce the amount of time he must spend in his crate every day.
  • Puppies under six months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can’t control their bladders and bowels for that long. The same goes for adult  dogs that are being housetrained. Physically, they can hold it, but they  don’t know they’re supposed to.
  • Crate your dog only until you can trust him  not to destroy the house. After that, it should be a place he goes voluntarily. “

  • barb merchant

    Good tips, Malia! I know Baylie appreciates the work you have put into being such a good mom to her! Great photos, too.