We cannot count how many times we get the question “how long does it take to potty train a puppy?”. New and experienced dog owners will agree that potty training is one of the most difficult tasks when you get a new puppy. Even with rescue adult dogs, potty training can be stressful. How long it takes depends on a variety of factors, such as how obedient, smart, and active your puppy is.
Just remember, a puppy that isn’t house trained as quickly as another doesn’t mean he is stubborn or disobedient – it just takes time. Even a puppy that seems to be fully potty trained at 6 months can have bouts of regression. Then there is the problem of male puppies and marking tendencies. Potty training a puppy involves so many X factors that make it difficult to give a precise answer for how long it takes.
Since most owners, experts, vets, breeders, and trainers can agree that dog potty training is one of the toughest things to do, it could make you hesitant to welcome a new puppy. Rest assured that we have created a comprehensive guide on puppy potty training that encompasses what to look out for, what to do and what not to do, and even some tips and answers to frequently asked questions.
Table of Contents
When Should I Start House Training my Puppy?
One of the biggest questions is not how long, but when. When can I start to potty train a puppy? In general, potty training can begin as early as 3 months. You can technically potty train a dog at any stage in its life, but the difficulty will increase with age and habit. It’s tougher to train a puppy when he hasn’t reached at least 3 months because his bladder will not have developed enough to hold it until he reaches the potty area.
Another reason why it’s good to start at 3 months and not before is due to the vet shots. You want to make sure your puppy is fully vaccinated before taking him out to potty train. If you plan on letting your puppy go indoors, then this is less of an issue. However, we recommend a puppy get all his shots before stepping out, which is usually around 3 months of age.
How Long Does it Take to Housebreak a Puppy?
Here is the million-dollar question, how long does it take to potty train a puppy? While it’s nearly impossible to give a sure answer, we can give a generalization. From all the puppies we have seen, most puppies require around 4 to 6 months to fully house train. During this time you should still expect accidents and even once you feel your dog is fully potty trained, mishaps may still occur.
Try not to force your dog to be completely potty trained within this time frame, because every puppy will go at its own pace. There are ways to shorten the potty training period, and that is with a strict routine, plenty of patience, encouragement, love, and rewards. Try not to go into potty training with a mindset of fully potty training your puppy within a certain amount of time.
That being said, we have seen cases where the dog instinctively knows where to go and will seem to be fully potty trained within a week or two. However, accidents may still happen after.
How Do I Potty Train My Puppy?
So your puppy is at the right age to potty train, and you have all the tools and equipment ready, how do you begin to tackle this enormous task? Don’t worry, we are right by our side and have prepared a potty training step-by-step game plan outline that will make sure most puppies are house trained by 6 months – but not without the occasional accident.
Inside, Outside, or Both?
Before you potty train a puppy, you should think about where you want him to go. Will his potty spot be indoors, outside in the yard, or will you allow him to do his business in and out of the house? Only limiting your dog to do his deed outdoors will be difficult for you in the sense that you need to get up in the middle of the night to let him eliminate, and during the day as well.
A schedule like this could be a hassle for those that have full-time jobs. It will be especially arduous when it’s storming outside. But you can ensure that your house will remain clean and fresh, unlike if you only potty train a puppy to go inside the house.
You can also get the best of both worlds by letting your puppy go inside and outside the house. We do this with some of our dogs. There is a special area where we lay out puppy pads for our puppy and adult dog, and they know that is where they need to go when nature calls. When we take them for a walk, they will also poop and urinate freely, but we pick up after them of course.
For dogs like these, you may notice that they start to prefer pooping outside and will only use the puppy pads to urinate. You will also enjoy the benefit of not having to put on your rain or snow gear just to take your pup out to poop. Even if you have a fenced-off yard and your dog can come and go as he pleases, the amount of mud and dirt he can potentially track into the house can be a huge headache and an even bigger cleanup.
Where you permit your dog to do his business is up to you, so think about your schedule, your preference, and the layout of your house to decide which way is the most convenient for you.
General Guidelines Before you Begin
We do have some tips before you begin just to make things easier when you potty train a puppy. We will go into each point in more detail later on, but we’re going to outline them here first as a quick checklist to get you started.
Keep a regular feeding schedule
Build a daily routine
Take them to the same spot each time
Use a cue or prompt (if preferred)
Puppies thrive on structure and giving them a set schedule will make it easier to potty train them. This is why a regular feeding schedule, which can help you predict when they need to go, building a daily routine, and heading to the same spot each time is so important.
Whether or not you incorporate a signal or cue into your potty training routine is up to you. Some owners allow their puppies to paw at the door, others use a bell for the dog to ring, and others just install an automatic dog door to give the pup more freedom.
Using a Cage to Potty Train a Puppy
Whether it’s a crate or a cage, having tools like these are great to limit the areas of the house your dog has access to and to keep them safe when you are not at home. It also does wonders for potty training because you won’t have to chase your dog around the house and clean up surprise messes in all the rooms in your house. The crate or cage should be a place of security, comfort, and solace for your dog, and not used as a tool for punishment.
Confining your puppy during potty training is just a temporary solution until he is completely accident-free. If you are thinking about using a cage or a crate, one of the key indicators of success is the size you pick. Crates and cages come in many sizes. We wouldn’t recommend picking one that can accommodate your pup at his full size.
There is a chance you will have to shell out more money down the line to replace the crate as your pup grows, but a way around that is to buy a large crate that is big enough for a puppy when he becomes an adult dog but makes sure it has a divider you can install to only utilize half of the crate. When your puppy grows, you can move the divider and eventually discard it altogether when he reaches his full size.
The right size crate will be one that allows your dog to stand up and sit down, turn a full circle and lie down without any hindrance. Your dog should not be able to take more than 2 steps in either direction in the crate. This is to prevent them from having enough room to go in the corner. Dogs don’t usually go where they sleep, which will prompt your puppy to hold it.
When you potty train a puppy, don’t keep him in the crate for over 2 hours. If you need to, make sure your pup has access to food and water. You can easily find attachable dispensers that can hook onto the side of the crate.
It’s still entirely possible that your puppy will still soil the crate during puppy potty training. If he does, you should assess why. Is the crate too big? Did he not get a potty break beforehand? Is your pup still too young to be potty trained?
Potty Training Outside
For potty training outside, the process is pretty simple on the surface: Take puppy outside, wait for him to go, clean up, go back inside.
It’s the details and the minute actions involved and the unpredictable elements that can throw something seemingly simple off.
It’s more than likely that your puppy will not go right away. This is especially common if it’s during a midnight potty break. Your little pooch will be sleepy, and he may need some time to orient himself before going. Many puppies are curious and often get distracted by what’s going on around the yard.
It’s less likely to happen in the middle of the night but if it’s during the day after your puppies eat, gear up for spending at least 15 min outdoors just waiting for your pup to do his business. If he does get distracted, just gently guide your puppy back to his spot and wait patiently.
It’s really a battle of will. There are so many instances when people say they wait outside and their pup just won’t go. They then proceed to bring them inside and their little fur baby goes right away on the kitchen floor. This can be very frustrating, and we completely sympathize with that, which is why we say it’s a battle of will. You have to remain steadfast in your determination and not bring your puppy inside until he goes.
If this is the very first time you’re taking your puppy out to potty train, then make sure to reward him handsomely with tons of treats, words of encouragement, and belly rubs so he knows what to do. This will also make the second, third, fourth times, and so on more successful.
Potty Training without a Crate
How do you potty train a puppy without a crate if you plan on doing it indoors and get the dog accustomed to indoor potty? You don’t necessarily need a create if you spend a lot of time at home or work from home. Instead of a crate, you can use a doggy pen. It is also an important accessory to have to cordon off your pup. It keeps them contained in one spot and is an immense help when puppy owners need a break too.
The crate will be accompanied by puppy pee pads. Place one in the crate with your dog. We see lots of dog owners make the mistake of putting potty pads everywhere. This is a no-no because you are trying to teach your dog to go in one specific location and not an entire area. This is why you don’t need more than one pee pad.
The rest of the process is similar to the other methods above. Encourage your dog to go to that one specific area to go, and reward him with treats after.
Praise and Rewards!
Speaking of rewards, we cared out an entire section just to remind owners that accidents happen, but it shouldn’t take away from the successes. Every time your puppy does well, he gets a treat. Positive reinforcement has been said to be much more effective than punishment, which is something we never recommend. Positive reinforcement doesn’t always have to be treats. It could be a few happy words of encouragement followed by a head or belly rub.
The bottom line is, use positivity to teach and potty train your pooch rather than fostering an association to something negative when he doesn’t perform.
Signs that Your Puppy Needs to Eliminate
One of the most important aspects when you potty train a puppy is to know the signs of when your young puppies need to go. So, what are the common indicators that your pooch needs to go? We’re going to preface this by saying that the younger you try to potty train a puppy, the less these signals will apply.
Since puppies under 3 months old don’t have much control over their underdeveloped bladders, he may just go at any time. Dogs that are over 3 months will exhibit some if not all of the tells below to signal the need for bathroom breaks.
Circling a spot and whining
Sniffing or licking their groin area
Going to their potty spots or the door
When you notice these signs, definitely encourage your puppy to eliminate before leaving them alone or continuing with an activity.
Potty Training Setbacks and Regression
Accidents happen, and you will most likely be faced with setbacks and even regression at times. A seemingly fully potty trained puppy could still accidentally go where he isn’t supposed to, so how do you deal with accidents when they happen? How you handle it will dictate how quickly or slowly your pup proceeds.
Do not show frustration and definitely do not rub their noses in it. If you do not catch your puppy in the act, he won’t know why he is being reprimanded, which won’t do anything but confuse him. If you catch him in the act, use your code work to tell him to stop or make a noise to distract him from the act. Halfway through, take your pup to the designated spot and wait for him to finish.
When he’s done, give him a good pat on the head and plenty of encouragement even if he messed up during the first half. If you do not catch him in the act or immediately after, then you can’t do anything but clean it up and hope to catch him next time. You must clean up the area thoroughly because a puppy is prompted by scent to relieve himself.
If he catches a whiff of his urine or stool in that area, he may very likely head there to go again. We would recommend keeping enzymatic cleaners handy that work to break down the stain at a molecular level before your pooch is completely potty trained.
General Puppy Potty Training Schedule
So, what does a day look like when you want to potty train a puppy? You better make sure to have plenty of puppy pee pads, treats, his leash and collar or harness ready as well as a pooper scooper or poo bags, learn more about how often your puppies poop here. Below are the crucial times at which to give your dog a potty break. You will notice that puppies are very similar to babies and toddlers.
When You Wake Up
When you and your pup wake up, the first thing to do is to take him out for a potty break, even if he has gone throughout the night. Once he goes, the day will have started out on a good note. Whether it’s heading outside or going on potty pads, letting your puppy eliminate first thing in the morning is your number one task.
Even at 3 months old, a puppy won’t be able to hold his waste for too long, which is why the second most crucial time is giving him potty breaks after meals. Keep to a regular feeding schedule, around 3 to 4 times a day for puppies, and wait for anywhere between 5 to 30 min before taking a potty break.
Waking Up from Nap Time
Young puppies will take plenty of naps throughout the day. Make sure to take your pup for a potty right when he gets up, just like you would first thing in the morning.
Puppies are easily distracted, so he may very well forget to go during playtime and sometimes even eliminate suddenly halfway through a game of fetch. All that running and jumping will definitely make your pup need to go. You can even think about taking your puppy to the potty pad or outside for a quick break in between.
Before a Trip
Before a long trip or car ride outside of the house, the last thing you should do before heading out is to make sure your pup has had a bathroom break.
Lastly, before putting your puppy down for the night, make sure he has had a chance to eliminate his bladder and bowels.
How Long Can a Puppy Hold It?
How often should you make sure your puppy gets to go, especially during the night? In order to potty train your pooch successfully, you need to have some semblance of a schedule.
In general, a puppy can hold it for however old they are plus 1 until they are 6 months old. After half a year, your pup should be to hold it for as long as 8 hours. Many dogs can hold it for longer, but we do not recommend allowing your pups to hold it for so long as it can lead to UTIs and other urinary issues.
So if you are potty training a pup at 3 months, he will be able to hold it for 4 hours. A puppy at 4 months can hold it for 5 and so on. We don’t recommend pushing their bladders to the limit each time, so if you have the chance to get your pup to go every 2 or 3 hours, then feel free to do so.
Puppy Potty Training Tips
At the end of our comprehensive guide, we also have some extra tips just to help you potty train your pup more successfully with fewer mishaps. Some of the points below are reminders of items we have already talked about, but we felt it was useful to compile everything to make note of into one checklist.
Some Do’s and Don’ts of House Training Your Puppy
- Always use positive reinforcement to show your pup that he is doing the right thing, rather than using punishment to show him when he does something wrong.
- Accidents happen, and it’s okay.
- Always come at the situation from a place with plenty of patience and love.
- Acknowledge that getting to a fully potty-trained pup is a process and it will take time.
- Don’t correct your puppy if you didn’t catch him in the act or immediately after.
- Make sure to clean up the mess thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner.
- Always pick up after your pup when he goes in public spaces.
- Replace potty pads as necessary because your dog doesn’t like to go again in his own mess.
- Pay attention to your dog’s waste. Take a look at it each time because the state of their urine and stool can speak volumes about their health.
- Do not punish them. Especially do not do it by force such as rubbing their noses in the mess.
- Do not lose patience when you potty train your pup. He can sense your frustration, which will he will then most likely mirror.
- Do not let your puppy hold it for an unreasonable length of time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can an 8-week old puppy be potty trained?
Yes, an 8-week old puppy can be potty trained, but we still feel that it is a bit too young, especially if you want to train him outside. If you’re enlisting the help of potty pads, then it’s safer for a pup that is still not yet fully vaccinated. At 8 weeks old, your puppy will have a hard time holding it in, let alone for over 2 hours. You shouldn’t expect a puppy at this age to notify you when he needs to go.
In general, 8 weeks is an optimal time for puppies to go to their new owners. It is when bonds are formed and when your puppy will adjust most easily to his new home. Although it’s difficult to start potty training at such a young age, you can start to establish a routine that will make it easier for you when the time comes.
Related: Best Dogs for First-Time Owners
How do I stop my dog from marking my house?
Neutering your dog can actually prevent him from marking in the house. Another very successful method, which we have seen in action many times is with puppies that have been potty trained to go inside and outside. A young male puppy will go on the potty pad during his early stages the same way a female would.
Since he is so used to doing so, this habit will most likely carry over to adulthood. Even if it doesn’t it’s much easier to correct it because your dog will be able to understand what you want because he has done it the “right way” in the past. It’s unlikely that your dog will randomly go around marking your house when he reaches the age of leg raising, but it could happen if you introduce a new dog.
Your male dog may feel a little threatened when a new puppy comes into the home, which can prompt him to start marking his favorite spots.
How Do I Potty Train My Puppy When I Work Full Time?
When your puppy wakes up, take him out for a potty break. Before you leave the house for work, take him one more time. You will then need to keep your puppy in a confined area for his safety and your sanity while you’re away. This could either be a crate or a pen with a designated bathroom area. This is where crate training comes in.
You should come home at lunchtime if you can to let him out for a pee and poop break, or hire a dog walker to do it. Having support during the early years will do wonders. Family members or friends that can come over to let your pooch relieve yourself throughout the day will also be a great form of socialization.
We wouldn’t suggest leaving your young puppy in puppy daycare just yet, not until he has a strict routine and has some structure in his life. Doggy daycare should also be a gradual introduction rather than a sudden intrusion in your dog’s life.
When you decide to welcome your new puppy into your life will also be very important. To make sure the pup is potty trained well, we would suggest bringing him home during a long weekend or an extended break. If possible, you can even consider taking some time off work just to get your puppy acquainted with his surroundings and you.
Why do puppies pee in the house after going outside?
One of the biggest problems is a puppy that just won’t go outside but relieves himself right when he is let back into the house. You may not have given your puppy enough time, even though you stood out there for 20 minutes. Puppies are curious creatures and can be easily distracted, which is why they will lose focus of why they are out there in the first place.
You don’t want to be too strict with your puppy, but you want to be firm enough to guide him back to the task at hand when he loses concentration. If you use a heavy hand, your dog will very likely get frustrated, and so will you. If you give up and bring your puppy inside without relieving himself, then that will throw a wrench in all the previous successful attempts.
After your dog goes for the first time, the subsequent tries should get easier since he will be prompted by the scent.
Don’t feel envious when you see another dog owner’s fully potty-trained pup. After all, that potty-trained pup could be yours in no time at all – with the right training, encouragement, and patience. Don’t be discouraged if your puppy doesn’t get it right away. It’s a process, which is why we would suggest not focusing on “how long does it take to potty train a puppy”, and focus on your puppy and the time he needs.
Each pup is different and some can master potty training in a month, while others may take up to half a year. It’s okay either way, just know that your puppy will get it eventually with consistency, perseverance, patience, and rewards on your part.
Did You Know?
It can be very tough to keep an eye on your new puppy at all times, which makes it even harder to find and catch him in the act. We would suggest tethering your dog to you during the day for short periods to make monitoring him easier.
There are a lot of books and videos from trainers that claim to have secrets that will potty train your dog in a set amount of time – guaranteed. Do not believe the hype. Certain methods might work better than others on each unique puppy, and even if your puppy manages to get the logic behind potty training in 3 days, accidents will still happen.