6 House Training Tips to Help Potty Train Your Puppy

hourglass next to a golden retriever puppy

One of the biggest obstacles when bringing a new puppy into your home can be house training. Some dog breeds are easier to potty train than others. Puppies in general, and especially those that are small dog breeds, will need to go potty more often. It may take a couple of months for some puppies to be potty trained. Their size, their trainability, and whether or not they have a stubborn streak will all determine how quickly you can house train your puppy. Successful house training also depends on you – as with any training, it’s important for you to be consistent, patient, and focused on praise and positive training methods. Along with plenty of patience, here are some house training tips to help potty train your puppy:

1. Know Your Puppy’s Limitations and Work With Them

Larger adult dogs may be able to hold it for hours, but puppies have smaller bladders and will need to go to the bathroom more often. Plan to take your puppy outside or to the training pad every one or two hours, even during the night. You may be sleep-deprived, but a puppy should not be expected to make it longer than 1-2 hours until they are around 3 months old. So, although you may be cranky due to lack of sleep, try not to get irritated with your puppy; it’s not their fault and directing frustration at them can potentially make house training more difficult.

Try to keep them on a consistent schedule and start to create a routine for going outside. This will help establish the connection between the training pad or going outside with needing to go to the bathroom. Plus, puppies tend to return to an area they’ve urinated before when they have to use the bathroom, so keeping the areas consistent during potty training can also help. Knowing your puppy’s limitations and working with them can help you get them house trained faster.

2. Be Patient with Accidents

You have a puppy, so accidents are going to happen as they learn. It’s important for you to be patient and keep your frustration minimized. Harsh tones or corrections usually damage the bond you’re building with your puppy and don’t reinforce that what they’ve done is wrong. They’ll associate the correction with you being unhappy with them, but they won’t make the connection that going inside the house is why you’re unhappy. They’ll just learn to hide from you when you’re unhappy, which can result in more accidents and a tougher time house training or training for anything else.

The best approach with training your puppy, in general, is to stay patient, be consistent, and reward good behavior. Dogs tend to respond best to praise and rewards and many tend to be eager to please their owners. They are more likely to continue doing behavior that gets a good reaction from you than they are to stop undesirable behavior that gets a harsh correction.

3. Spend More Time Outside With Your Puppy and Avoid Coming Back Inside Immediately

If you find your puppy having accidents inside, especially shortly after coming back inside, it could be a sign that you need to spend more time outside with them. Make sure you are rewarding them with a treat and/or praise when they do go to the bathroom outside. You can also reward them with some playtime outside after they’ve gone to the bathroom. When you bring them back inside immediately, it can sometimes teach them to take their time going to the bathroom so they can spend more time outside.

By adding some playtime after they’ve eliminated instead of immediately going back inside, you help encourage them to go faster, so they can get to playtime. Plus, this helps them get rid of some extra energy. This can help solidify the association between going outside and going to the bathroom, shorten the time it takes for them to eliminate when they are outside, and help reduce accidents inside.

4. Clean Up Messes Immediately and Thoroughly

Because puppies are likely to return to places they have urinated before, it’s important to clean up messes immediately and thoroughly. If there is any trace left of their accident, even if you can’t see it or smell it, they might associate that place with going to the bathroom and return to it the next time they have to go.

It’s often recommended to use an enzymatic cleaner instead of an ammonia-based cleaner as this helps minimize odors that may attract the puppy back to that spot. Thoroughly and quickly cleaning up messes removes that potential connection and allows you to keep building a connection between going to the bathroom and where you actually want them to go, whether it’s training pads or outside.

5. Limit Your Puppy’s Space at First

A puppy will tend to get into anything and everything as they explore their surroundings and learn. If they can reach it, they’ll grab it and probably try to chew on it. By monitoring your puppy and creating a limited space just for them, at least at first when they are learning, they can’t wreak havoc on their surroundings. Plus, providing limits reduces the potential areas in your home that will be exposed to accidents.

Crate training can be a great tool for house training. Also, when it’s done right, the crate becomes a safe haven for your dog. Dogs enjoy having a nest and a comfortable space that is theirs. Crate training can help your dog pick up potty training faster, get used to a routine and a schedule, and also can become a space they can retreat to when they want to be left alone and need to relax away from others.

The crate needs to be large enough for your puppy to stand up in it, lie down, and turn around easily without giving them enough space to use one of the corners as an impromptu bathroom. Since you’re trying to create a safe space, the crate should not be used as a punishment and you certainly don’t want to leave your dog in there for long periods of time. If they choose to go in and stay there when the door is open, that’s up to them. But you shouldn’t be locking them in their crates for too long.

6. Monitor Food and Water Intake

Potty training and mealtimes go hand-in-hand. When you’re house training your puppy, keep them on a consistent feeding schedule and remove access to food between meals. Then, make sure you take them outside after they’ve eaten to go to the bathroom. You also want to monitor your puppy’s water intake. They have small bladders and tummies. So, they may fill up on the water quickly and then have to go even more often.

You want to make sure your puppy stays hydrated, but you may want to limit their access to water right before bedtime. Getting through the night without needing to go or having an accident will take some time, but you can help your puppy get there by not letting them down a ton of water right before bed. It’s also a good idea to take your puppy out right before bedtime as well as any time they wake up from a nap.

As your puppy picks up on potty training and gets better at doing their business outside, you can start leaving food and water out more often for them. You’ll still want to monitor intake, especially when they’re young, but you can start giving them more freedom and independence as they start becoming more consistent with house training.

House training and potty training a puppy can sometimes seem like a neverending, difficult process when you’re going through it. These house training tips to help potty train your puppy can help you set up the structure needed to get through it with your puppy. Once your puppy is fully potty-trained and housebroken, it will all be well worth it.