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How to Quickly Potty Train Your Puppy

Kate is a former veterinarian's assistant of five years. She maintains a passion for training and caring for dogs of all types.


After starting my family my heart was full but something was missing. Or rather, someone. A massive, curly-haired flop of a pup who has to be brushed daily to keep the kids' toys from getting lost in her fur.

She loves to ride along when we go out for ice cream, to the park and to run free at the dog park. But as fun as that all is, between work and running errands where I have to leave my car, we can't bring our pup with us everywhere we go, at every hour of the day. This of course meant that potty-training her quickly became a priority when it became clear that to her, "shag rug" is synonymous with "nice grassy lawn".

Cue deep groans of horror.

It took a little trial and error but eventually we figured out the right balance when it came to potty training our puppy.

If this sounds like you and your dog, read on for what I learned about how to quickly housebreak your dog. With lots of patience and some adjustments to your routine your pup will be peeing and pooping outside so successfully that you'll be awkwardly holding her paw up for a high-five in no time!

Troubleshooting When Your Dog Keeps Having Accidents in the House

Before you take any drastic steps, assess a few aspects of your puppy’s life to make sure these common training issues aren’t the problem. Sometimes adjusting your dog’s diet or outdoor schedule is all it takes to get that potty training in line.

• Check You Dog's Diet
Sometimes what your dog is eating can contribute to his trouble in controlling his elimination. Try breaking up his meal into 3-4 smaller portions that he is fed throughout the day rather than at one big meal. Also, make sure you're not giving your puppy more food than is suggested for their size and breed. I figured out pretty quickly that I was giving our puppy too much food, too quickly. Check the side of the dog food bag where there'll be a guide according to your dog's current weight and final weight. So, for our dog, at the stage she's at, she get's between 2.5 and 3 cups of dry dog food per day. Instead of giving her all 3 cups in the morning we'll spread it out throughout her meals and if I'm going to be gone for a long time I'll give her the first two cups in the morning and the last cup when I get home so she doesn't have a hungry tummy while I'm away.

• Keep a Consistent Schedule
The biggest reason that puppies have accidents is an inconsistent schedule. As frustrating as it was, I realized pretty quickly that a lot of what was causing my puppy to go take a big poop in the kids' room every morning is that she needed to be taken out as soon as my feet hit the floor, not after my first cup of coffee. If your puppy doesn’t know the next time he will get to go outside, he may become anxious and unload wherever is convenient. Like the H&M rug you just bought.

The American Kennel Club advises puppy owners to be aware of their dog’s limits for bladder control. For every month of your puppy’s age up to nine months, he can hold his pee for that many hours. So if you have a four-month old puppy at home, he will need regularly scheduled potty breaks at least every four hours. Set your dog up for success by planning these breaks within 15 minutes of mealtimes.

• Use Positive Reinforcement Only
Check your language and attitudes towards your puppy’s trouble with potty training. Yelling at your dog or using regressive strategies like rubbing her nose in her urine will only make your puppy more anxious and less able to control her bladder. If she pees or poops in the house, clean it up quickly and calmly. Every time she pees outside, reward her with generous compliments or a healthy doggy treat.

Don't give your pup all of her food at once! Spread the servings out throughout the day that way her tummy isn't getting overfilled, which can make it a lot harder for her to avoid accidents.

Don't give your pup all of her food at once! Spread the servings out throughout the day that way her tummy isn't getting overfilled, which can make it a lot harder for her to avoid accidents.

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Crate Training

If you’ve tried other training methods and they don’t seem to be working, it’s time to try crate training. While you might worry that crate training is hard on your puppy, if done properly, it’s actually a gentle and effective way to get your puppy on track quickly with going to the bathroom outside. I was really nervous about crate training our puppy and felt like she would feel punished but honestly, as I'm writing this, she's playing in her kennel (which we hardly even have to use anymore).

How to Crate Train a Puppy

1. Select a crate that is large enough for your dog to sit, stand, and lie down comfortably, but no larger than that. Slowly introduce your puppy to the crate and associate it with a happy tone of voice, meals, and lots of affection.

2. Begin by crating your puppy for very short periods of time. Eventually work up to an hour or so of time in the crate. If she cries when in the crate, you have probably put her in for too long too soon.

3. When your dog is comfortable in her crate for a few hours at a time, you can begin having her start out her night in the crate. Keep the crate close to your bed so that she will know you're nearby. When she lets you know that she has to go, let her outside to do her business. Leave her out of the crate for the remainder of the night.

4. You should begin to see results with just a few nights of crate training. Not only will your dog learn to let you know when she needs to eliminate, you will learn the ways your dog is communicating her need for a trip outside.

Don't Lose Your Mind

No one wants to live in a house that stinks like animal and no would should. Something I learned pretty fast about having a puppy is that much like a baby (I mean, they are babies after all), your puppy needs boundaries. If I'm leaving the house for more than an hour or our baby girl isn't into sleeping in our room on a particular night, I'll gate off the areas of my home that are carpeted or that have a big area rug so that she has a sense of freedom.

I just use a few of those wooden pressure gates. That way I don't have to stress too much if she has an accident since it's on tile or laminate for an easy cleanup.

Immediate Interventions

While crate training is probably the fastest way to see long term results, there are a few things you can do right away to alleviate the problem of your puppy having accidents in your home while you change his long-term habits.

• Doggy diapers: these are exactly what they sound like! Especially designed to be comfortable and effective for dogs, doggy diapers can help contain the mess when a puppy is having trouble with potty training. Just like you would with a human baby, check your puppy’s diaper every hour or so to make sure that she isn’t spending time in a wet diaper. I never used these on my dog because she's always had a lot of long, fuzzy fur and I don't know what kind of cleanup that would entail, but I have friends who've used them on their short haired dogs (like Beagles and Dachsunds).

• Puppy pads: designed as safe indoor pee spaces for dogs, puppy pads give your dog a place to eliminate inside while she is working on letting you know she needs to be outside. Puppy pads are not recommended for long term use though because they can communicate to your dog that it’s acceptable to go potty in the house.

• Urine removal products: buy cleaning products especially formulated for removing the smell of pet urine from your floors or furniture. If a dog can smell remnants of his urine in a particular spot in the house, it will make potty training that much harder because he'll probably return to the same places to pee. Plus, I learned the hard way that you may think you've cleaned up a urine mess properly but the smell will return if you don't use a designated pet stain or pet urine removal product.

Keeping your dog on a consistent schedule is really important when you're potty training. For our dog, that meant taking her out as soon as we got up in the morning, after every meal, and once before bedtime.

Keeping your dog on a consistent schedule is really important when you're potty training. For our dog, that meant taking her out as soon as we got up in the morning, after every meal, and once before bedtime.

So, What if My Adult Dog is Suddenly Having Accidents?

Puppies having accidents in the house is typical - no one should expect that they won't. But if your adult dog is going potty in the house, the issue is going to require some exploration.

• If you're adopting an adult dog, she may simply never have been trained, lived indoors, or had the opportunity to go to the bathroom outside. In these cases, it'll be necessary to start from scratch with potty training. Fortunately, adult dogs have more control over =bodily functions and are able to be house trained quicker than pups.

• If your dog was previously potty trained and has recently begun eliminating indoors, then there's a good chance he's sick. Check for loose stools, which can be a sign of a digestive issue. Regardless of whether or not he is exhibiting other symptoms, you should take your dog to the veterinarian if his regular potty behaviors change. Bladder stones, kidney disease, or doggie diabetes are all potential culprits and should be addressed as soon as possible.

• Take an inventory of recent changes in your dog’s home environment. Have you adopted a new pet? Added new members to your household? Has loud construction started across the street? Are you gone more often? Any major change in a living environment could cause your dog anxiety which, in turn, can alter his bathroom behaviors. If his potty regression is a result of anxiety, focus on spending more time with your dog and providing enthusiastic positive reinforcement for eliminating outdoors. Consider doing a refresher potty training course using the same techniques you did when he was a puppy or, if it's a matter of just getting your dog out more often, hire a pet sitter to stop in while you're at work and let your puppy out. You're not holding your pee the whole time you're at work (I hope) so you can't expect your pet to either.

Adopting a puppy that takes extra time to potty train can be frustrating, especially when you don't feel you have time to help her succeed. Every dog is different, and some just need a little extra patience and training. Staying consistent and positive are the best tools for helping your puppy get there.

My Top Tips for Fast Potty Training

 HowWhat You Need

Be patient.

Take into consideration your puppy's age and remember that every new dog parent goes through the woes of potty training. This too shall pass.

To take a few deep breaths.

Adjust your schedule.

Make sure you're giving your new puppy a fair chance to succeed. Adopting a new dog and then leaving her for eight hours a day isn't a great start to successful potty training. Make sure you take off the right amount of time or adjust your schedule so that you can return to let your dog out halfway through your workday.

Flexible hours at work or to hire a dog-walker to let your pup out once or twice while you're at work.

Regulate meals and water.

Don't dump a day's worth of food in your pup's dish. Read the directions on her bag of dog food and then split up the recommended amount of food into three separate meals. Likewise, make sure your dog is hydrated but don't give her a bunch of water in one sitting.

To find out how much food and water is recommended for your dog and split her meals up accordingly.

Be prepared for messes.

Have the right supplies for pet mess cleanup.

Stock up on paper towels, trash bags, cleaning spray and a designated dog urine removal product.

Create a safe space for your puppy.

Block off a section of your house that won't be totally destroyed if she has an accident.

A comfortable crate and adjustable baby gates.

Be in tune with your puppy.

Take note of her "I have to go NOW" cues. For our dog it's when she paces back and forth across the house panting or brings me her leash (ummm, yeah, hard to misinterpret that).

To be around your dog enough to know how she acts right before she's about to go potty.

© 2018 Kate Stroud

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