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A Guide To Puppy Potty Training for Dog Training Newbies

If you’ve just brought home a new puppy, you may be wondering when you should start potty training. The answer is that puppy potty training can and should start right away!

When it comes to puppy potty training, one of the most important things to remember is that they can’t hold their tiny little bladders for long!

The amount of time your new puppy can “hold it” will gradually increase with age, but bladder control is virtually non-existent for young puppies. 

This is super important information for pet parents to understand because we are setting them up for failure if we aren’t taking them outside or to their preferred potty spots often enough.

The Importance of Potty Training a Puppy

When it comes to puppy potty training, one of the most important first steps is to develop a solid potty training strategy.

Not only will potty training be MUCH easier with a step-by-step plan in mind, but it will also help your puppy understand his boundaries right away to avoid unwanted habits.

We all know that feeling of sweet relief that occurs when you FINALLY get to empty your bladder after a long road trip. That feeling is the same for puppies, too!

Any time a puppy eliminates, the behavior is intrinsically rewarding because it brings relief and feels good. 

The difference, of course, is that young puppies don’t (yet) understand that there are appropriate and inappropriate places to potty.

puppy potty training

So the bottom line is that any time your puppy pees, even if it is on your expensive carpet, they feel a sense of reward and relief.

Starting a potty training plan as soon as possible helps you set up an environment where your dog only goes where he’s told – and won’t make the mistake of using your dining room as a latrine!

Common Challenges of Potty Training

Puppy Potty Training Roadblock #1: “My Puppy Doesn’t Let Me Know When They Need To Go Outside”


If your puppy isn’t letting you know when they need to go outside, it’s because your puppy doesn’t yet understand that outside is where they must go to potty.

Why should they ask to go outside when the living room carpet is readily available?

As your puppy potty training journey begins, your primary goal should be teaching them WHERE to go potty. Only when they understand where they need to go to relieve themselves will they develop a signal. 

There are many different signals that you can train your dog to use, from ringing a bell to sitting quietly by the back door.

Whatever signal you prefer, just remember to be consistent with its use so that your pup understands its meaning!

However, just because your pup understands that ringing the bell = going outside doesn’t mean that they will understand that outside = bathroom.

A dog may ask to go outside for a variety of reasons, including the sheer fun of it!

Puppy Potty Training Roadblock #2: “I Can’t Catch My Puppy in the Act of Having An Accident – So I Can’t Teach My Puppy That Is Wrong”


The good news is that you do not have to teach your puppy that pottying in the house is wrong in order for them to be potty trained! 

In fact, when you catch your puppy “in the act,” reprimanding them can actually have unwanted consequences.

For some puppies, being scolded for pottying inside doesn’t teach them not to do it – but it does teach them to be sneakier about it!

When your puppy potties in front of you and is scolded for it, odds are that they won’t connect pottying inside with the punishment.

Instead, they learn that pottying in front of humans is a stressful experience for them, so they will start to sneak off to less frequented areas of the house where they can potty in peace.

Puppy Potty Training Roadblock #3: “My Puppy Was Outside For An Hour And Didn’t Pee – Then They Had An Accident As Soon As We Came Inside!”


The outside world is such a fun and exciting place for your new puppy to explore! But with so much to see, sniff, and taste, it’s really easy for them to get distracted from their mission: pottying outside.

Then, when your puppy gets back inside (where there are less distractions), they suddenly realize that they actually do have to “go” and defer to your living room rug as a latrine.

The good news is that a solid puppy potty training plan can resolve this issue. Let’s learn together how to create one!

Choosing A Puppy Potty Training Plan

There are many different tools and methods that you can use to house train your new puppy, but two of the biggest potty training staples are:

  1. Preventing your dog from having accidents anywhere you do not want your puppy to potty

  2. Teaching your puppy where you want him to go

Tools like bells or speech buttons can help your dog signal when they need to go outside, while crates, baby gates, and ex-pens can help you keep your dog from peeing in the house.

And there are also tools such as pee pads that can create appropriate indoor bathroom areas.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of some of these popular potty training tools.

Dog Crates for Puppy Potty Training

A dog crate can be a great way to prevent unwanted accidents on your living room rug while you’re away. But keep in mind that, like any training tool, there are some cons to be aware of too.

Baby Gates and Ex-Pens

Baby Gates and Ex-Pens can be super helpful when setting boundaries for your new pup. But before you add one to your Amazon shopping list, let’s take a look at some of the cons as well. 

Bells and Buttons

Bells and buttons provide a fun, fool-proof way for your puppy to signal when he needs to go outside, but be sure to consider the drawbacks as well!

Potty Pads

There are many different styles of potty pads out there, from traditional pee pads and reusables to grass pads.

If you live in the city or don’t have the means to take your pup outside, these products can help you create an acceptable indoor potty area. But don’t forget to research the cons, too!

Choosing the Best Puppy Potty Training Tools For Your Lifestyle

As you can see, there are a plethora of puppy potty training tools out there. To determine the best ones for your dog’s potty training program, consider your lifestyle and your personal preferences.

For instance, a potty pad is a tool I rarely use. While in the past, paper training a dog was standard (assuming that we could then transfer the behavior outside), we now know that using tools like a potty pad or grass pad trains the dog to go inside the house.

But for some people, this is a good alternative. For example,  if you live in an apartment where you can’t get your dog outside quickly. Or if you find that you are gone too long during the day, you have to provide a suitable potty area inside the house for your dog. 

Likewise, a crate is a great training tool, but you need to be sure that your dog gets enough time outside of the crate as well and is properly trained to it.

So if you plan on crating while you work, you want to be sure someone (you, a friend, or a dog walker) can get your dog out for mental and physical exercise throughout the work day.

Setting Your Puppy Up For Potty Training Success

In essence, puppy potty training boils down to one key decision: determining WHERE you want your dog to go and preventing them from going anywhere else.

When you’re first teaching your pup to take potty breaks in a particular area, always make sure to supervise them.

This means that your four-legged friend should either be on a leash with you or in a contained area.

I like crates at first for this because large contained spaces allow the dog to potty in one place and then go to sleep in another. So the dog has no reason to “hold it.” 

However, if your dog will not eliminate in specific rooms or play areas, these also fit the bill.

There will be other times too, but these are the big ones!

Here are the potty break steps to follow:

  1. Bring your dog to the “potty spot” on a leash.
  2. Stand quietly with them for 2-5 minutes. 
  3. If they begin to go potty, quietly praise them, and as soon as they finish, throw a puppy party (this can include treats, toys, or excited praise).
  4. If they do not go potty, take them back inside and put them in their place of prevention (like a crate) for 15 minutes. This builds their need to have to go. 
  5. Repeat the steps above.

If your puppy does potty in their spot, they can have a little freedom for a few minutes, but keep them in the same room with you since many puppies will pee more than once in a short time frame.

Keeping your dog on a leash with you will not only prevent them from sneaking off to go potty but it will also help you start to recognize the little things they do when they have to go out.

These behaviors can vary: some will start barking while others will get the “zoomies,” so be sure to take notice of little things they might do that indicate their need to “go.”

If you use potty pads, consider surrounding your puppy with something visual as well – an ex-pen works well for this.

If you are gone for long periods of time, I recommend setting up an ex-pen with a potty pad/grass pad inside of it for use while you are not there.

But this is also where you will bring your puppy when you are home with them to help set up the routine.

Accidents Happen!

Despite our best efforts, accidents will likely happen. But accidents offer a silver lining: they allow us to learn where we need to make adjustments, bringing us closer to success.

Does an accident mean that your puppy needs to go out more often? Or have they instead developed an affinity for your living room rug?

If the latter is true, remember to restrict your puppy’s access to this area of the home.

When accidents happen (and they will happen), the most important thing to do is to clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle.

Regular household cleaners leave behind scents our dogs can still smell that we cannot. This creates a scent post that they will want to urinate on again. An enzymatic cleaner will break these down.

And if you catch your dog in the act of an accident, you can interrupt them and get them to their potty spot to finish up. Just be careful about a scary reprimand which can cause other behavior issues that will further complicate potty training.

In Conclusion

Today we’ve learned that puppy potty training is all about teaching our dogs where to go and preventing all other accidents.

Remember: because the “where” is so important, be consistent. Changing the target area frequently will only confuse your dog and slow down the potty training process. 

We hope these training tips will be helpful in your potty training journey, but if you follow these steps and still struggle or are frustrated, be sure to contact a professional dog trainer to help get you back on the right track. 

Happy potty training!


  • Devene Godau, CPDT-KA

    Devene obtained a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University and spent several years working in marketing. However, when she adopted her first greyhound (who came with some behavior challenges), she began researching ways to modify her problem behavior and found help with a local dog trainer. She became a volunteer assistant to learn more, and eventually started teaching classes and conducting private lessons. She currently trains puppies full-time to become scent detection dogs. Devene lives in Michigan with her husband and kids, as well as 4 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise.

  • Morgan Messick

    Morgan Messick is a content creator for Dog Training Newbie, a website that is all about dog training tips, techniques, news, and more. Morgan has two dogs, three cats, and a lovely wife who support her passion for writing. Morgan loves reading murder mystery novels and listening to true crime podcasts in her spare time. She is also passionate about supporting small businesses by creating dynamic content that customers want to see.

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