The Four Key Elements of Successful Dog Potty Training

photoPuppies make wonderful companions, but they’re not so cute when they do their business in the middle of your living room. Accidents are certainly frustrating, but you need to understand how your pet thinks. “If I have to do it, then I’ll do it!” is what’s in your pup’s head, and this applies to eating, playing, exploring, sleeping, and of course, eliminating. Since your puppy does not understand anything more than that, it’s your job to teach him where and when it is appropriate to pee and poop. Remember, they’re not the ones with the requirements – we are!

There are four key components in most effective housebreaking methods:

* Confinement
* Training
* Praise
* Timing


The easiest way to potty train a puppy (or a dog that has yet to be housebroken) is to confine him in a crate or cage. At the start of toilet training, don’t place anything on the bottom of the crate (e.g. newspaper, blanket, etc.); your puppy will only destroy it. Most dogs do not want to eliminate where they live, so the crate should just be large enough for your pup to turn around and lay down. If it’s too big, your puppy will do his business at one end and sleep at the other. For puppies that will grow considerably in size, get an adult sized crate and partition it with an divider.

Training and Praise

Personally, I always use a leash when potty training. This allows me to keep my dog close to me so I can watch him and control everything that happens. Puppies in particular get distracted easily, and a gentle tug on the leash can get their attention back. Leashes are also good for teaching an area to eliminate; with a leash, you simply take your pup there each time.

I use verbal cues as well, so once the puppy understands what the words mean, he will know what I want when I want it to happen. I say “go potty” for peeing and “go poop” for defecation. You can choose any word or phrase you want, just remember that you will be repeating it a lot.

Whenever you take your dog out, say the word “outside” again and again. “Do you want to go outside? Let’s go outside! Outside, outside!” Eventually, he will learn that the word “outside” is connected to going to the bathroom. You will be able to ask him if he has to go outside and receive a response such as tail wagging, barking, or running to the door.

When he goes to the bathroom properly, praise him in a happy voice. I prefer to use words because treats or petting can interrupt the act. Remember, you should praise your puppy while he’s peeing or pooping, not after.

Reward your pup with freedom when he does a good job. The best time for him to be out of his crate is after he has eliminated properly outside, but this free time still has to be supervised. You can use baby gates to restrict your pup’s area of freedom or a leash to quickly catch him (without grabbing him, which can make him fearful) when he is about to do something inappropriate.


It is best to always anticipate your pet’s need to eliminate. As a general rule, the length of time that a puppy can be left in his crate without going outside is more or less equivalent to his age in months:

* 2 months old – 2 hours of confinement without a bathroom break
* 3 months old – 3 hours of confinement without a bathroom break
* And so on, up to around 6 to 8 months old.

Your puppy must be taken outside anytime there is a change in activity. He will also give signs whenever he has to do his business. It can be sniffing, circling, suddenly stopping in the middle of play, running out of a room, or a certain look on his face. You will learn how to read these hints sooner or later.

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