puppy on grass with toilet paper

House training 101: potty training your pup

Anyone raising a puppy knows it is hard work. But is there anything more rewarding than having a sweet puppy around? If you have never potty trained a dog, and are considering getting a puppy for the first time, you are not alone. You can house train your dog in no time with a few tips and tricks!

Establish a defined space

If you are crate training your puppy, always start with the crate. We won’t get into too many details about crate training here but you can learn more from the Humane Society. Once your puppy is comfortable and not peeing in the crate you can slowly move to a room. Depending on the layout of your house, you may want to consider using a bedroom at this stage. Or, you can start with a room and work on crate training in the future. 

Starting with a smaller area plays to dogs denning instincts while you house train your dog. This makes it more comfortable for them as they adjust to their home. Like us, puppies don’t want to live in a soiled home. They are neat creatures. Keeping a defined space will teach your pup to only pee outside of this space. Slowly work your way up to the whole house.

puppy on blanket with ball

Establish a routine

Routine bathroom breaks are a must. As a rule, all dogs should pee first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and after meals. I still do this with Thor, my four-year-old lab mix. For house training your puppy, include a pee break any time after drinking water, naps, or exciting playtime. They will get to know their schedule but may still need to pee outside of this. Make sure that you reward them with praise or treats immediately after. Don’t wait until you are back inside. Dog’s can’t understand rewards if they do not occur right away.


Our dogs need a solid bedtime routine to ensure a good night’s rest. Stop giving them water a couple of hours beforehand. Turn the lights down for some quiet time. Go through your usual routine, and walk your puppy right before you intend to sleep. Most dogs are comfortable for 6-8 hours at night without a pee break. Your puppy will need to work up to that since their bladder is not fully grown. This is easier with a crate and pee pads or paper training. Realize they may wake up and ask you to go outside. By acting on their request, you are showing them that it’s okay to ask to go out. From my point of view, it is much better to get up at night to go out with them. The alternative is to wake up to clean up an accident!

puppy husky in grass

Outdoor Living

Many dog lovers are also outdoor enthusiasts. Your pup will love being outside as much as possible! Weather providing, whenever you can, spend extended amounts of time with them outdoors. If you can bring them out in the backyard, use a long leash or a tie out. A hands-free leash can be helpful too, if you don’t want them to roam much. 

Every time the pee or take a poop, reward your dog with treats and praise. Encourage them to pee in the same place. They will smell their own scent and over time realize that this is a spot they can pee in.

Know the signs that your puppy needs to go outside. Pacing, whining, and looking towards the door are all good indicators. They may have their own way of asking too. My dog Thor looks out the window, then makes eye contact while he walks towards the door. He doesn’t do this unless he is asking to go out. That’s how I know he needs a bathroom break.  Size and age will determine how frequent this should be but a general rule is one hour per month of age at most. Arrange for someone else to take care of your puppy if you need to be away from them for a few hours or more.

puppy golden retriever walks on sidewalk

Accidents happen

If you catch your furry friend in the act interrupt them. You can clap or say their name, but do not ever punish your pup. Redirect their action by leading them outside to finish their business. Have patience showing them the appropriate way to take their bathroom break. Don’t forget to praise them or give a treat after. Yes, they still deserve it!

Dog’s don’t understand punishment, nor do they pee to upset you. They can’t make the association between their action and punishment. So, all you are teaching them is to be afraid of you. How would you like living with someone who was mean to you at random? It makes them view you as unpredictable.

Nothing makes me more upset then the idea that you should rub your dog’s nose in their accident. This is by far the worst approach. It has no place in potty training your dog. Want proof? Check out this psychologist’s article.

Keep an eye on your pup indoors and out. Don’t give them the chance to pee unintended inside, and don’t miss a chance to reward an appropriate outdoor pee. Clean up any accidents right away. If they smell their pee after the fact, they may think this is an acceptable area to pee in. If your dog seems to be having a lot of accidents, visit the vet to make sure it is not a medical issue.

puppy eyes


Like a child in potty training, dogs need patience and rewards to become house trained. Establish a designated space and routine to ensure their success. Having a dog is a part of your lifestyle, and this may change your activities to focus more on the outdoors. You will also need to change your bedtime routine to include your pup. Always reward good behavior, and do not punish accidents. House training your dog will take hard work, but having a loyal addition to your family is always worthwhile.

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