How to house train a puppy

To potty train your puppy can be a challenge...Here’s our ultimate guide from which you can pick and choose to set you and your puppy up for potty training success fast. Read more at @KaufmannsPuppy #dogtraining #puppytraining #pottytraining

Learning how to potty train a puppy can be a challenge. But there is a way to train dogs with great success. This way accidents will be few and your new puppy will know what to do within only a few days of housetraining. Training puppies to stop using the floor to relieve themselves is important. Teaching your puppy good potty habits is the basis for a trusting and loving relationship between you and your new family member.

Ignoring potty training, on the other hand, is one of the major reasons that people return, sell or even put their dogs down. As you can see, it’s important to understand how to get it right. It’s not a walk in the park – actually, it’ll be a lot of walks in the park. And accidents will happen. That’s just part of the game and you must be ready to deal with them, as well.

But when you and your puppy master this, it will make your life much easier. Your puppy will be happy and confident, which will give your relationship a great start. Here’s my ultimate potty training guide which will support your training program. It may even set you and your puppy up for potty training success fast.


One of the main issues that confuses owners is whether or not to use puppy pads for potty training. Many people believe this is a necessary first step in training a young puppy, but in most cases it can (and should!) be avoided. I recommend training your puppy to pee on a potty pad in the house ONLY in the following cases:

  1. If you intend to permanently have an indoor potty area (pee pads, turf patch, litterbox, newspapers, etc.) for your dog.  Many people with small breeds like to have the option of allowing their dog to use a potty area indoors, especially in cases where the owners work long hours or travel with the dog, or when the owner or dog have mobility problems that make it difficult to get the dog outside to go potty on a regular schedule.
  2. If your puppy is having bladder or digestive issues that make it impossible for her to hold it in between potty trips.  When a pup has a bladder infection or any condition that causes them to have diarrhea or soft stools, temporarily offering them an indoor potty training option may be necessary.  Taking a break from crate training and moving your pup to a pen or small room (with enough space for a puppy pad or turf patch until your puppy is back in good health) is typically the best way to keep your potty training on track.  Even though doing this may slow your potty training progress a bit, it’s much better than forging ahead with crate training your puppy and having the poor little beastie get in the habit of having accidents in her crate.  Once the pup is feeling 100%, you can go right back to your regular housebreaking plan.
  3. If you have a very young puppy who needs to be left alone for longer periods of time than she could reasonably be expected to hold it if confined to a crate as part of a puppy crate training program.  The general rule of thumb is that puppies can be crated during daytime hours for an hour longer than their age in months.  So if your pup is 8 weeks old, 3 hours in the crate, if your pup is 4 months old, 5 hours in the crate.  Of course, these rules apply only to young puppies… you can’t leave your 18-month-old puppy in the crate for 19 hours!

If you need to leave your pup for longer periods and can’t have a dog walker, neighbor or friend come in to take your pup out for a quick potty in the middle of the day, temporarily training your puppy to use puppy pads or a turf patch in the house may be the best approach.  If you think potty pad training is right for your pup, learn more about how to potty train your puppy using puppy pads or a turf patch in our Indoor Potty Training section.


The following articles will provide you with additional instructions to help you figure out the best way to potty train your puppy:

Good luck with your pup’s training!!

Midwest Life Stages Crate

This is a good all-purpose crate that’s an especially good choice for young puppies, since it comes with a divider that allows you to expand the crate as your puppy grows so it’s always just the right size.

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel Crate

These sturdy Vari-Kennel plastic crates are an excellent choice for dogs that like a cozy place to hang out. You can use them for travel, too, so they’re perfect for pups who want to join you when you go on vacation!

Extra Large Potty Pads

These BIG potty pads are essential if you’re pad training a larger dog, but they’re also nice for smaller dogs, since they give them more room to sniff around and choose a spot and the pads won’t get “full” as quickly!

Porch Potty

The Porch Potty is a nice-looking potty area for indoor or outdoor use. It’s a nice size for bigger dogs, but I recommend it for smaller dogs, too, if you have the space. Can be used with the included fake grass, or even better, replacement REAL grass… or sod from the home-improvement store!

Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odor Remover

Nature’s Miracle is everyone’s favorite stain and odor neutralizer. Be sure to use this product to clean up all accidents… regular floor cleaner won’t fully eliminate the odor!

Leather Leash

These high-quality leather leashes are waaay cheaper online than in most pet stores!

How to Potty Train a Puppy: Consistency is the Key

Consistency is the key to success in puppy and dog training. You need to be very aware that how you behave will determine if your puppy succeeds. So be sure to be consistent when you train in order to help your puppy understand what you expect from her. 

This is also true when you walk your puppy. Often we just concentrate on how often to walk the dog and assumes that the dog will take care of all her business just because she is outside.

Of course, most dogs will. However, some puppies are so overwhelmed by all the smells outside and the possibility to play or go for a walk that they totally forget to pee and poo.  So here are some additional tips on how to potty train a puppy:

  • Always go to the same area. The scent will make your puppy want to go and this will create a strong habit – and we all love good habits.
  • Do not play with or talk to your puppy until she has done her business. Instead, cue her to pee using the same word or words. Could just be “go pee” or something like this
  • Do not go for a walk. Walk around on the same spot so she does not get distracted by new smells, things to see, noises etc all the time.
  • Be patient and if it does not go the way you want it to, take her out again as soon as you come inside
  • Always go to the same surface. If your dog prefers to pee on grass, go for that, even when you’re away from home and the usual spot.
  • Make it the last thing you do before going to bed. Remember to be patient here as well, even though you just want to go to bed.
  • If she needs to go in the middle of the night. Just keep it silent and quick. She might think it’s time to play after having relieved herself, but you must show her it’s not. Do so by being silent and returning to bed immediately to show this is not the case.
  • Establish regular eating habits. Do this by controlling what your puppy eats and drinks. Remove her bowl of food when she is no longer interested, even if she has not eaten it all. This is important because you must take your puppy out five to 30 minutes after she has eaten. If you let your puppy graze and eat all the time, you won’t know when to bring her out. And don’t worry, she’ll eat again later in the day and won’t starve.
  • Consider removing her water bowl an hour before going to bed unless it is very warm where you live. (and always let her drink 1-2 hours after her last meal) This will help your puppy form the habit of sleeping through at night without needing to go outside to pee. Most puppies can sleep for about seven hours without having to relieve themselves if you get the conditions right. That sounds good, right? 
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By following the simple steps outlined above, you will be well on your way to having a successful potty training method on your hands – and it works.

Identifying When Your Puppy Needs to Go

To potty train your puppy can be a challenge...Here’s our ultimate guide from which you can pick and choose to set you and your puppy up for potty training success fast. Read more at @KaufmannsPuppy #dogtraining #puppytraining #pottytraining

Even though you get all the routines right, your puppy is a lovely living creature – not a machine. So she might want to relieve herself at other times, as well.

As a consequence, you must always watch out for the signs she needs to go out. If your puppy looks restless, is barking or scratching at the door, there might be a reason to take her outside.

If your puppy starts sniffing around and/or circling you have to hurry. Take her outside right away, because this is a sign, that she wants to trample the grass down to have a poo. She does this to avoid having grass in the butt.

Remember, Accidents Will Happen

Unless you’re Superman or Super Woman, or your puppy is a unicorn, accidents will happen. This is just the way it is, but the important thing is how you deal with it. Here’s what you need to remember how to potty train a puppy with love:

  • Be Patient: Don’t punish your puppy when she pees or poops inside.
  • Watch for Signs: If you don’t catch her in the act, just clean it up and keep a closer eye on your dog the next time. To be brutally honest: it’s your fault, not hers. You didn’t recognize the signs.
  • Avoid Being Angry: You don’t want your puppy to be afraid of you or afraid to relieve herself in your presence. That will happen if you punish your puppy for doing something it needs to do by nature. Punishing will potentially do a lot of damage to your dog’s mental health, so don’t go down that road.
  • Use Distraction: If you catch her in the act, you must interrupt her. Make a noise so you distract your pup, but avoid scaring her. Next, take her outside.
  • Praise her: When you take the puppy out, be patient and wait for your pup to finish what she started inside, and praise her for doing so in the right place.

Limit Where Your Puppy Can Go Freely Inside

To potty train your puppy can be a challenge...Here’s our ultimate guide from which you can pick and choose to set you and your puppy up for potty training success fast. Read more at @KaufmannsPuppy #dogtraining #puppytraining #pottytraining

It is vital to the success of your puppy’s potty training that you keep an eye on her at all times. Limiting the area where you leave your puppy to run free can help. To do so close the doors to rooms you are not in. Also, use a child’s safety gate or grid to create a smaller space if you are in a big room. You can do this in every room you are in yourself.

Give your puppy the opportunity to get to a door to show you when she needs to relieve herself. Remember to give your puppy the chance to make eye contact with you, even when you create a limited area. You want to encourage her to learn to let you know when she wants you to take her out.

If you do not have a gate or grid, or if you prefer, you can tie your puppy to your waist or leg with a string. This will remind you that your puppy is “on your tail.” It also makes it quite clear you’re the responsible party. You must make sure to always keep an eye on your puppy. It will also prevent your puppy from sneaking away to do whatever she feels like, which can be very helpful in potty training.

Crate Training and Your Pup

In reality, it’s almost impossible to keep an eye on your puppy at all times, even during the first critical days. You need to take a break once in a while and give your pup one, as well.

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But you must not let your puppy roam alone in your house, and that’s why a crate is a good solution. If you introduce your puppy to her crate in the right way, she’ll see it as her den. All dogs instinctively will not want to soil their den, so here nature helps again.

So, what’s important to know about crates? Size matters. It’s important to use a crate large enough for your puppy to stand, lie down and turn around without any problems. But, it must not be so big your puppy can divide the crate in a sleeping area and a place to relieve herself.

Also, you must consider how long to leave your puppy in the crate. Never leave your puppy in a crate for longer than two hours. If your puppy is a small breed, then leave her in the crate for an even shorter time. Remember, a small dog has a small bladder.

As a rule, puppies can be left alone depending on their age. To calculate it, take their age in terms of months and add one to determine the hours. Never leave your dog in her crate for hours at a time without water, though. Even when you know how long your puppy can stay in her crate don’t push it, or she may come to hate it.

However, most puppies will love their crate. The crate will provide a safe place for your puppy that will be useful for many years, even long after your dog is potty trained.

It is crucial to never use the crate as a punishment. It’s important that your puppy sees the crate as her den, so she’ll enjoy it and she won’t want to soil it. 

Now, you might think this as punishing, but if your puppy views her crate as a safe shelter, it’s much different in your puppy’s mind. Want to learn how to crate train your puppy the best way? Click here for inspiration.

Dogs Smell Odors You Can’t

To potty train your puppy can be a challenge...Here’s our ultimate guide from which you can pick and choose to set you and your puppy up for potty training success fast. Read more at @KaufmannsPuppy #dogtraining #puppytraining #pottytraining

A dog’s nose is about one million times stronger than ours. And this is good to have in mind as they prefer to go to the same spots to relieve themselves. This will help your training – or spoil it. So to help you and your puppy choose a specific spot to relieve herself, the scent will remind her to pee or poop right there.

This is also true if your puppy has had an accident inside. So, it’s important to clean up any accidents right away. Remember to use enzymatic cleanser rather than an ammonia-based cleaner to minimize odors.

Warning: Some cleansers can be lethal to the puppy if she gets a taste for it. Rodalon is an example, so do your homework to protect your pet.

Tips for Indoor Dogs or Leaving Your Puppy Alone for a Time

Until your puppy is old enough to wait for you to come home before she relieves herself, you must set the right conditions for her. This way you can make it possible for your puppy to achieve success. But, if you are not home to keep an eye on your puppy, what should you do? Here are some ideas to try :

  • Use a Kennel: If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to put your puppy in a kennel, this is a wise solution. Remember, your puppy will see this area as a kind of crate. So, when you come home and take her out, you must give her the opportunity to relieve herself outside, as weird as that might sound.
  • Find a Responsible Person: If you don’t have an outdoor kennel area, find a responsible person to check up on your puppy and take her for a walk to let her relieve herself. Consider your neighbor or perhaps even a professional dog walker.
  • Set Up Designated Spaces: If neither of the above is an option, or if your dog is a designated indoor dog, you must give her the opportunity to relieve herself inside. Keep your puppy in an area with enough room for a sleeping space, a playing space and a separate place to relieve herself. In the designated elimination area, use either several layers of newspaper or a sod box. You can make one yourself or you can buy one. Using a sod box will make it easier for your puppy to learn to go outside when it grows older.
  • Potty Pads: Potty-pads enable you to teach your dog to relieve herself indoor on the potty pad in the same way you teach a dog to relieve herself outside. Should you later choose to bring your dog outside to potty, you can teach her by gradually bringing the potty pads outside. Be aware that it takes more time and requires more patience to go from potty pads to using the great outdoors. Also, potty pads can smell a bit like towels and freshly washed clothes, so using potty pads can make it more difficult for your puppy to know where it is ok to go.
  • Limit Accidents: If you find an accident in the house, clean it up and place some of the soiled rags in the designated elimination area. The smell will help your puppy recognize this is the place to relieve herself. You can also buy training aids that will do the same with a drop or two.
  • Create an Elimination Area: If your puppy is not to become a designated indoor dog, place the elimination area near the door to the outside. This is because you want your puppy to get out every time she needs to go, but should you fail, you want your dog to seek the door to give you a heads up.

Be aware that allowing your puppy to relieve herself inside can prolong the learning process because it confuses the puppy. She will be wondering if she can go outside or inside – or both. If you want your puppy to eventually relieve herself outside, don’t allow her to relieve herself inside. Seek other possibilities. For more tips go to the AKC blog on this topic.

Puppy Potty Punchlines

To potty train your puppy can be a challenge...Here’s our ultimate guide from which you can pick and choose to set you and your puppy up for potty training success fast. Read more at @KaufmannsPuppy #dogtraining #puppytraining #pottytraining

You may be reeling from all the information you’ve received on potty training, so here it is in a nutshell:

  • Be patient.
  • Be quick and consistent to get your puppy out from the first day.
  • Set up a good routine with your puppy.
  • Praise your puppy when she does what you want – let her know she’s a superstar.
  • Never punish your puppy for having accidents. They will happen, but you can use them as a teaching moment by staying calm.
  • Set your puppy up for success by keeping an eye on her always. Do this by restraining her area and using a crate to give both of you a break once in a while. You’ll only have to keep this close eye on her in a very short period of time and it will be time well invested. Soon she’ll be a grown calm and confident dog and be able to hold it for hours and hours.
  • Accept that this, like all training, is a process. Look for what’s working and keep building on your wins and focus on getting better over time
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Once your puppy is potty trained, you might want to work on training other behaviors. You may be interested in this post on puppy biting, this post on getting your dog to come every time you call or this post on getting and maintaining your dog’s attention, which is the most fundamental aspect of all obedience training. It is also helpful to practice with your dog before you take them to socialization or training classes.

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If you answered yes, feel free to share this post with others. If you answered no, help improve this guide by sharing your best potty training trick. You can post questions in the Q&A section below, too.

How to Potty Train a Puppy Fast: Helpful FAQs

At what age is it optimal to do house training? It starts with the breeder. As soon as the puppies start eating solid food, their mom will stop cleaning their den and they’ll be ready to start learning. So, if you start between seven and eight weeks, your puppy will learn everything faster than in seven days – if you follow this guide. The older your puppy is before potty training starts, the longer it will take because your puppy will have to change their habits – and that takes a little longer.

How do I make a sod box? To make a sod box, place sod in a large plastic container. It could be a drawer from under a bed – anything that is waterproof and easy to clean. 

Why choose crate training? Crate training uses a dog’s natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog’s den is his home. It is a place to sleep, to hide from danger and to raise a family. The crate becomes an ideal spot to snooze or take refuge. Puppies prefer their own den where they can go to relax and get away from other dogs or people. Make it a happy place, reward your dog for choosing the crate and it’ll love it. Look here for inspiration on how to crate train your puppy the best way.

What is the best time to crate train? Crate training begins as soon as you get your puppy home or when you can’t or won’t be able to keep an eye on them. At the beginning, reward your puppy for going inside, while not closing the door. After a while, close the door and praise the puppy inside for just a few minutes. If you do this regularly, your puppy will choose it on its own. Look here for inspiration on how to crate train your puppy the best way.

How often do I have to go outside with my puppy? It depends on the size of the breed. With a young puppy from a small breed, start with every 15 minutes and watch your pup. If there are still accidents, you have to go more often. And if not, you can try to increase to 45 minutes and so on, but you won’t be able to avoid accidents altogether. You’ll learn from your puppy and you’ll grow together.

How often do I have to take my puppy out at night? Most puppies can wait in six to seven hours before they have to relieve themselves, but again, the breed matters. You need to take your puppy out as the last thing you do before bedtime. Unless it is extremely hot and humid, it is wise to remove the water bowl two hours before bedtime.

How can I tell if my puppy needs to go? The sure signs that it’s time, is when your puppy is restless and sniffing and/or circling around. If you see these signs, you have missed out on taking them out often enough. You need to go outside with your puppy every time they wake up from a nap, after they eat and when they are playing or just done playing.

How do I potty train my new dog when they are older? Make sure you know as much as possible about how your new dog has been trained before. This is important, as it is your way to know what to expect. For example, if they were trained on a potty pad, you can’t expect your new dog to suddenly start going out to pee. If you don’t know about their history, try crate training, but be patient. You are changing a habit, which can be hard but not impossible. It will just take more time, observation, rewards, praise and patience on your part.

There are 4 basic steps to follow:

  1. Keep your puppy with you at all times during toilet training. If you can’t watch closely and attentively, consider crate training or using a playpen, the laundry or the bathroom as a safe den. More on this to follow.
  2. Use appropriate and motivating rewards. This is usually a treat, as most dogs aren’t motivated enough just by praise or a game. Keep your treats on you at all times so you can reward within a few seconds. We have some training tips for those who are new to it.
  3. Take your puppy out every hour. Repetition and consistency is key. The more occasions you have that you can reward the appropriate behavior, the quicker your puppy will ‘get it’. If it has been 24 hours since your puppy last got a reward for toileting in the correct place, it will take much longer to learn.
  4. Be patient and consistent and avoid punishment. Punishing your dog after an accident will not teach him anything, except that you are to be feared. If an accident happens, move on and try to take your puppy out more frequently.
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