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How to Potty Train a Puppy in 7 Simple Steps

July 23, 2019

How to Potty Train a Puppy in 7 Simple Steps

A stress-free guide to potty training your puppy 

Puppies are cuddly, cute, and adorable – and at times, extremely gross! You know what I am talking about – when your little darling suddenly presents you with a puddle or pile of urine or feces on your good carpet, it doesn't seem quite so darling then, does it?  

Don't feel guilty: It's tough to love a puppy that uses your entire house as its bathroom.  

But take heart, you don't have to live with such an individual. 

You can teach your puppy proper bathroom behavior: to do its business only at the times and only in the places that you want it to. 

Read on to find out how to toilet train a puppy in just 7 simple steps.


Step One: Buy A Crate 

The best way to potty train a puppy fast is with a crate.

Years ago, people didn't use crates to housetrain their puppies, and the process was a lot tougher than it is today. 

Crates tap into a dog's basic desire to keep its den clean. It'll do anything to avoid pooping or peeing there. 

That avoidance gives your pup the incentive to develop the bowel and bladder control that's essential to effective housetraining. 

In addition to housetraining, your puppy will learn to see the crate as a place to relax and sleep. 

Right now, though, all you need to know is this: Housetraining is much easier on you and your puppy if you use a crate. Don't try to do it without one. 

Here's a tip: In addition to a crate, baby gates can keep your puppy safely confined and help prevent housetraining accidents when you can't watch your puppy. 

Step Two: Pick A Potty Spot 

Another important element of housetraining your puppy is choosing an appropriate potty spot.

Before you can teach your dog to pee or poop in a specific area, you have to choose the right area best suited to your property. 

Generally, the best place for that spot is in the backyard near the house. That way, you and your pup won't have to go very far when it needs to poo. Make sure the area is easy to clean; dogs don't like using dirty potties any more than we do. 

Another important advantage to using your own property is that you can better protect your puppy from deadly diseases, such as distemper and canine parvovirus. 

Both diseases can be transmitted through contact with infected dog's vomit or bodily waste.  

Because other dogs – except those that already live with you – aren't likely to eliminate in your yard, your puppy won't come in contact with those potentially disease-transmitting agents.


Step Three: Make Scents  

If you want to know how to potty train a puppy fast, it’s vital you understand the role your puppy’s sense of smell has to play in the process.

His or her sense of smell is far better than yours. The canine snout has about 220 million cells designed specifically to detect scents, while we humans have only about 5 million such cells. 

Adding to that incredible scent-detecting capability is the moisture in and on your puppy's nose, which lets it collect large numbers of scent molecules that together amplify what it's already smelling. 

Another scent-detection enhancement your puppy has is their olfactory center (the area of the brain that identifies scents) and nasal membrane, both of which are larger than the corresponding areas in human beings. 

All of those physiological differences mean that your puppy can detect lots of scents that you cannot. 

So what does your puppy's super sniffing mean for your efforts to housetrain it? 

Quite simply, you can use the scent of a previous bathroom break to show your puppy where you want it to take its next one. 

The next time your puppy pees, wipe its bottom with a paper towel or soft cloth and save it. 

At the next bathroom break, take the cloth and your puppy to the outdoor potty spot, and place the cloth on the spot. In all likelihood, your puppy will sniff the cloth intently, then re-anoint it. 

Repeat this process a few times, and soon your puppy will do its business on the potty spot without the cloth or any other prompting from you. 

This simple trick can make toilet training your puppy so much easier.


Step Four: Make A Schedule 

Now that you've shown your puppy where you want it to do the doo, you need to show it when you want it to.

For a while, though, the timing of its trips to the outdoor potty isn't completely up to you. That's because a puppy can't hold its water – or anything else – for very long. 

In fact, puppies younger than 4 months of age may need 12 to 14 bathroom breaks each day. 

The best way to keep track of all those bathroom breaks is to establish pre-determined times when you'll feed your puppy, play with it, take it out, and put it in the crate for a nap. 

Such a schedule not only gives you some predictability during the housetraining process, but your puppy will also become housetrained more quickly. 

That's because if you take it out to eliminate at the same times every day, its body will become accustomed to the schedule, and it'll be conditioned to do its business when you want it to.

Are you ready to wrap up our easy and easy-to-follow 7-step housetraining guide? These last few steps are crucial, so pay attention. 


Step Five: Look For Cues, Give One Back 

Now that you know how to teach your puppy when and where to potty, you need to know what to do when it actually eliminates. 

Once you're at the potty spot, you'll see your little doggie sniff the ground intently, perhaps pace or circle, or maybe come to a sudden halt. All of these behaviors are cues that in just a few seconds, your puppy will either produce a puddle or make a deposit. 

No matter what your puppy's pre-potty signal is, you need to give it a cue in return as soon as it starts to eliminate. 

This cue, or potty prompt, should be something like “do your business” or “go potty now.” Use the same phrase each time your pup goes, and keep the following point in mind: Make sure you can say the phrase in public.  

(Sure, it might be amusing to teach your puppy to pee when you say “take a leak” or “take a whiz,” but do you really want to say that out loud in front of strangers? You be the judge.) 

It's important to limit your use of the potty cue only to the times you want your puppy to do its business. 

Some people use a more general phrase, such as “hurry up,” but such a choice can backfire. If, for example, your dog hears you tell your child to “hurry up” and get out the door to school, your dog may present you with a most unwelcome gift. 

Eventually, your puppy may associate the phrase with the deed, and potty exactly when you tell it to. Such skills come in handy on cold or rainy nights when you have to take your puppy out for a potty break, but you don't want to have to wait too long for it to unload. 

In any case, once your puppy finishes its business, praise the pup lavishly and give it a small treat. Then, bring it back inside. Potty time shouldn't turn into playtime. 


Step Six: Be Vigilant 

While your puppy is still learning the housetraining basics, your job is to make sure that it doesn't have the opportunity to make mistakes (or at least as few as possible). 

For this reason, when your pup is not in its crate, you must watch it carefully. In fact, don't take your eyes off it.  

If your pup shows any signs that it needs to potty, scoop it up into your arms and get it outside. Then, when your puppy eliminates, praise it enthusiastically. 

If you're too late, and your puppy graces your carpet with a puddle or deposit, put your puppy in its crate and clean up the mess without comment.  

Use an enzymatic cleaner designed specifically for pet stains to eliminate the odors that might encourage your dog to potty at that spot again. 

Then, promise yourself and your puppy that you'll keep a closer eye on it in the future to prevent such an accident from happening again. 


Step Seven: Be Patient 

And finally, have patience. 

Don't expect your puppy to learn its bathroom manners overnight. Housetraining takes time, patience, and understanding. 

Your puppy needs time not only to figure out what you want it to do but also to develop the physical ability to control its urges to poop or pee until it gets to the potty place.


We hope you’ve found this guide on how to housebreak a puppy helpful!

If you’ve got or are considering getting a puppy, we recommend you check out 'How to avoid the pitfalls of buying a puppy'.

For all your new puppy’s needs, explore our full range of premium grooming and pet care products here.

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