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Become an expert: Potty training a puppy

Pug hiding behind a sofa advice
© Pixabay

Little in life is simultaneously as cute and as stinky as potty training a puppy. It comes as a shock to some first time dog-owners that their pup is does not come potty-trained ‘out of the box’.

By G. John Cole

Unless you want your home to be a constant minefield of puppy poop and pee puddles, you need to learn how to potty train a puppy.

Principles of potty training a puppy

So you’ve decided to teach your puppy where and when it is appropriate to poo and pee. The main principle to remember is that you’re teaching him to be an adult. 

The responsibility is on you. You know what rules you want to have. And you must also be sure to give your puppy plenty of exercise if you want to keep his digestive system in order.

Your puppy is never wrong. He’s a puppy. Don’t punish him for making a mistake. He will likely fail to connect the punishment to the mishap. This is confusing and upsetting for him.
You need to be patient and responsible.

The reward for this is lovely walks, fine cuddles, and the best friend you’ll ever have. You will just have to clear up his poo. That’s the deal.

Learning how to potty train a puppy

So what should you do if your puppy insists on making a mess indoors? If you catch him doing it in the wrong place (e.g. indoor), you should pick him up and put him outside as he goes. 

But prevention is better than the cure. You can learn to tell when your puppy is about to do his business on your carpet. Keep an eye on him after he’s just woken up, had a drink, or food and after play. And if he starts drifting around, sniffing the floor, and pacing or whining, it’s probably a good moment to dispatch your puppy to the garden.

Steps for potty training a puppy

Let’s look at the steps for teaching your pup how to do it in the right place.
The key is timing: that discipline we mentioned above. Start by setting a routine for taking your puppy out for walks or putting him in the garden.

Begin with six-eight regular times a day, in addition to following the ‘warning signs’ mentioned above. First thing in the morning, after breakfast, after lunch, mid-afternoon, after dinner, before bed. You will need to adapt this to your routine and adjust it to your puppy’s development. Some can hold it longer than others. Some want to go at different times to others.

When he poos or pees indoors, don’t give him any special attention (apart from moving him outside if you catch him while doing it). But when he saves it for outdoors, you can congratulate him with praise and treats as soon as he’s finished. Yes, it truly is a blessed existence to be praised every time you toilet in the right place. But it seems to keep dogs on the straight and narrow.

Problems potty training a puppy

It really is that simple to toilet train your puppy. But it can take longer for some puppies than others, depending on how old they are, their personal history, and their body.


  • Set regular times to go outside for the bathroom.
  • Watch out for signs that he needs to go outside of these times.
  • Reward him for good elimination behaviour and ignore his accidents.

However easy it can be, it always feels difficult (and stinky) at the time. Additionally, other problems may arise.

If he keeps peeing in the same indoor spot, it could be because you didn’t clean it thoroughly enough – so now he smells that it is a legitimate toilet spot. You should be using enzymatic cleaners.

And if he doesn’t seem to be ‘getting’ your schedule, try adding a cue to your routine. It can be a single instruction word (a toilet equivalent to ‘walkies’). Just think of Pavlov’s dog. That pupper really knew what was going on around him.

Finally, be patient. It might take a few weeks, or a few months, to get things right. Your puppy might seem to have learned, only to make another unexpected mistake. Patience. Relief will come in time.