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How To Potty Train a Puppy

How to Potty Train a Puppy

Getting a puppy can have many perks. Besides an adorable buddy to hang with, a furever cuddle buddy, and the unconditional affection you’re sure to be awarded, dogs have been proven to help lower stress, anxiety, fear, and depression. Yet bringing a brand new addition into your home can have challenges, too. In many ways, a puppy can be just like a baby. They need structure, constant attention, and don’t come potty trained. Yet babies wear diapers, and most canines don’t. In fact, they need to go outside, regardless of the weather or the time of night. So what are all the ins and outs when it comes to helping and teaching your fur child good bathroom etiquette (barring an emergency)? If you find yourself asking these questions, rest assured, you aren’t alone. Read below for answers to many things new puppy owners often want to know. 

Table of Contents

Training 101

When house training your puppy, three things are important to always keep in mind: 

  • Consistency is key. Disruptions in routines will happen, but staying on a schedule can make all the difference and limit or prevent the number of accidents puppies may have. 

  • Patience is important. Not every dog is the same. Your promise to provide them with a loving and stable furever home means helping through all their milestone moments, even if it means you have to adjust your schedule or make appropriate arrangements for times when you may be away. 

  • Reinforcement should be positive. When a puppy has an accident, try to determine the why. What could you have done that maybe would have prevented that outcome? If you figure out the reason, adjust your plan for training. If you can’t, don’t sweat it, though. They shouldn’t be punished for setbacks, and should be rewarded each time they succeed. 
How To Potty Train a Puppy

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How Long Does It Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

While most puppies typically take 4-6 months to be completely house trained, some may take up to a year. Results will vary, and are partly dependent on your diligence with the bullet points above. Other contributing factors include the size and breed of puppy, the environment they came from, and whether they developed bad habits prior to adoption. 

At What Age Should You Start Potty Training Puppies?

Now that we’ve gone over how long house training your puppy should take, let’s discuss when you should start. Many experts recommend that owners begin once their fur kids are 12 weeks – 16 weeks old. At this age, most pups have more control over their bodily functions and can be taught to hold them until the appropriate time.

There will always be exceptions, and some puppies may need more time. This is especially true if you’re raising a pup born with birth defects or disabilities. If your puppy doesn’t seem to be able to pick up on training techniques, they may need a little more time before continuing the lessons. Depending on breed, some dogs may just be more stubborn too! Remember to have grace and patience during the process. Short encouragement can go a long way.

How To Potty Train a Puppy

What is the 3-3-3 Rule?

In canine speak, the 3-3-3 rule stands for the phases a puppy or new dog may go through when they first come home.  It represents 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 month scenarios, the rule is also sometimes called the “rescue dog honeymoon period.” The notion behind is that your fur baby should reach significant milestones during those time frames, as they become more acclimated in their new environment.  

  • Within the first 3 days, your puppy (or rescue) may feel extra anxious, stressed, confused, and skittish in their new surroundings. They might refuse to eat or drink, stick to one spot in the home, or even test their boundaries. When we brought my pup home, he refused to leave the guest bed without coaxing, was nervous any fast movements, and even ripped a pillow up the first time he stayed home alone.
  • At around 3 weeks, your puppy (or rescue) should start to settle in a bit. They’ll show signs of feeling more comfortable, broaden their range for exploring, and show more of their true personality. During this time, they may also reveal some behavioral issues; issues they repressed or hid until they felt less vulnerable.  

  • After 3 months, your puppy (or rescue) should finally be settled into their new home. They’ll start to build trust and to bond with the family, show you their normal behavior patterns, and adjust to their routine. 
How To Potty Train a Puppy

These are loose timelines, however. It’s important to stress that not all pups improve or advance within these time frames. If your paw pal works slower or comes from abuse, don’t give up hope or become overwhelmed with the potty and house training process. 

What Are the Best Cue Words to Use for Potty Training?

When choosing a word or a phrase to use when asking or instructing your puppy to go potty, you can either get creative or stick with a basic command. Remember the point we used earlier: consistency is key. Sticking to the same verbal commands every time is of more importance than the words themselves. 

How Long After a Dog Eats Does It Poop?

Puppies tend to need more food than a full-grown dog. As such, they often require three to four meals every day. Although after eating, food usually takes 6 to 8 hours to fully digest, many dogs need to go out shortly after mealtime. Naturally, this tends to be confusing when planning their potty breaks. So how should you proceed?

How To Potty Train a Puppy

It’s recommended puppies be let out within 20 minutes of eating. If they don’t do their business, they should be let out within the next 4 hours. The rationale is since they’re smaller, full digestion tends to happen in half the time of full grown dogs. So what about the puppies who tend to poop right after eating? Explanations indicate they’re simply making room, and voiding whatever is still in their system from the meal you fed them prior to their most recent consumption. 

If you’re still having trouble pinning down their patterns, watch their body language each time you realize they need to go out. Lots of puppies sniff the ground, circle, or bark near the door. Each pooch is different, however. My dog, for example, came from past abuse. He isn’t one to bark or go to the door to alert us. Sometimes he stares us down, stands right next to us, or even stands up on the bed and keeps on inching closer. Being in our bedroom or even at the door in the middle of the night always tells us he needs to pee or poop. Otherwise, he’s happy to sleep alone in the guest bedroom, where he gets the whole bed to himself! 

How Do I Train My Dog to Poop in One Spot?

Teaching your puppy to do all his doo-ty in a designated spot involves these simple steps:

  • Pick a designated yard spot or let them pick their own. It could be a spot that they’re drawn to, sniff all the time, or feel comfortable in.

  • Until they’re fully trained to go straight to that spot on their own, make sure to pay attention and supervise their actions. Watch for the nonverbal cues they may give you, then lead them to where they should go. Don’t just automatically expect them to go there unleashed, or to seek out that spot on their own.

  • Use the command to go potty, saying it calmly and waiting it out. If they need some more encouragement, it’s okay to repeat yourself, but experts warn saying it over and over or excitedly could send your dog mixed signals.

  • Once they finish up, make sure your pooch is given both praise and rewards! We always tell our dog that he’s a good boy, then give him a treat when he comes back inside.  
How To Potty Train a Puppy

If your puppy still seems to be having some trouble, keep your composure and don’t act in anger. There are many tools to help them out, such as using something called a potty hot-spot spray. Just be careful choosing brands. Make sure to read the labels and check out all ingredients. 

Should I Use Puppy Pads?

Using puppy pads to train is one of those topics that’s still controversial. Some believe puppy pads teach them bad habits, and even confuse them at times. Yet not all families have yards, and not all breeds of dogs feel safe going potty outside. Many chihuahuas I know (half a dozen) outright refuse, despite training! For overly skittish or elderly dogs, those with disabilities or living in apartments, or for working families who don’t always keep the same schedule, puppy pads have their advantages. 

If you plan to use them short-term, make sure you don’t let your puppy get too dependent on them, take them outside every time that you’re able, and keep the pads in areas separate from their sleeping space. Watch for signs of chewing, shredding, or ripping the puppy pads up (ingesting can be dangerous). In addition, take proper precautions to ensure your puppy is able to distinguish the pad from other squares that may be in your home, such as rugs or doormats. Just like the hot-spot spray mentioned above, places like Chewy and PetSmart also sell potty deterrent spray. The same rules apply: check ingredient labels for the product’s safety and the proper way to use it. 

How To Potty Train a Puppy

Should I Punish My Puppy For Having Accidents Inside the House?

No matter the puppy or rescue dog, accidents are bound to happen! Just like humans, dogs get ill or can’t always hold it as long as they’d like. If an accident occurs, don’t be too ruff on your fur kid. Punishing them may instill fear, both of you and being somewhere without constant access to an outdoor area. Simply take them right outside, and make sure to praise them for finishing there, or going there correctly the next time around. Finally, be sure to clean the site of the accident thoroughly. Puppies will tend to keep soiling areas that smell like their urine or feces. 

More Info

There’s certainly a lot to learn when it comes to housetraining a puppy. We hope you found our potty guide useful and informative. If you have any other tips, please email us. We’d love to hear more about reader experiences! 

Also, if you’re a new dog owner or looking for more paw-some tips, check out these related American Service Pets articles!

What’s the Most Eco-Friendly Way to Pick up Dog Poop?

How to Be A Responsible Dog Owner

10 Pet Supply Savings Hacks

7 Simple Steps To Prevent Lost Pets

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