How to Potty Train a Puppy in an Apartment

How to Potty Train a Puppy in an Apartment

Potty training your young puppy, when you live in an apartment, seems like an impossible task, but it can be done!

It takes a bit more creativity since the outside world is not as easily accessible in high-rise apartments.

It seems like all the puppy potty training articles out there are geared toward those living in houses. Don’t feel left out, because we have taken into account the difficulties of how to potty train a puppy when you live in an apartment.

Let’s dive right in.

What You Need to Get Started

Before you start potty training your young puppy or even before you bring it home, you will need to prepare some or all of the following items to make the house training process easier.

Crate or Pen

puppy in a crate or pen
Photo by Alison Pang on Unsplash

Potty training is easier if you have a controlled environment. Using a crate, pen or baby gate can limit your dog’s range of movement and give you more command. This will also limit the areas where accidents may happen. Instead of running around the apartment checking where your dog may have had an accident, you just have to look inside the space.

The pen will give your dog more freedom, while the crate is best for short-term confinement. The crate should be a safe space for your dog and can double as his bedroom. Dogs don’t usually soil where they sleep, so using crate training will teach young puppies how to hold it.

Don’t push your dog to the limit. They can only hold it for their age plus one. For example, a 3-month old puppy should only be made to hold it for up to 4 hours maximum.

The success of crate training hinges on getting the right size. You don’t want to give a small dog too much space by purchasing a crate for large breeds. We understand that many dog owners come from a place of love and want to give their pups more room to move.

However, this also encourages them to eliminate in the crate because they can comfortably do so in one corner and roam in the other half of the crate, safely away from their mess.

The right-sized crate should be large enough for your dog to stand in, make a step or two, turn around and lie down comfortably. For those who want to engage in pen training, you will also need to support this with puppy pee pads.

Pee Pads and Holder

puppy on a pee pad

Pee pads, or puppy pads, are a great way to section off a spot for your dog to eliminate in the apartment. For most apartment dwellers, this is a necessary part of potty training.

Yes, there are still some pet parents that opt to limit potty training strictly outdoors, but most find it best to be flexible when they live in an apartment.

If you do decide to try potty pad training, we would also recommend purchasing a puppy pad holder as well. it is a plastic tray that has a grill secured on the top to elevate your dog’s paws above the pad. This prevents tracking and keeps the pad away from curious puppies who might want to tear it up.

Doggy Waste Bags

Doggy waste bags are a mandatory potty training tool in and out of the apartment. We would recommend biodegradable bags that are eco-friendly. They are easier to dispose of and won’t harm the planet.

These bags are used to pick up and clean up your dog’s mess. For walks, doggy waste bags come in rolls in a holder that can clip onto your dog’s leash or harness with a carabiner.

Doggy Wipes

puppy playing with doggy wipes
Photo by Daniël Maas on Unsplash

We would also recommend purchasing doggy wipes for the sake of convenience. You don’t always have easy access to water and soap, so just in case your dog makes a mess of himself or you get some poop on your hands, the doggy wipes are a godsend.

We would not suggest using baby wipes on dogs, as they could contain some irritable ingredients. It’s always better to use dog-specific items when it comes to cleaning and grooming.

Leash and Harness

puppy on a leash while potty training outdoors

A leash and a harness are one of the first things you should get when you bring a new pup home. They are also necessary for outdoor potty training and for walks. For apartment living, you may not need these accessories as early as someone who lives in a house, but you should still get them fitted for a collar or harness by the time they’re 3 months old.

Depending on the size of your puppy, you may not have to purchase a new harness as your dog grows. Toy, small, and some medium-small breed dogs could use the same harness from the puppy stage to their later years if it’s adjustable. The right size will allow dog parents to fit 2 fingers through any contact point between the harness and their dog’s skin.

Leashes come in different lengths with the ideal choice being 6 feet. Short leashes are better if you need more control over your pup, which is why they are recommended for strong pullers.

Longer leashes that are over 6 feet are great for loose-leash walking, but this should only be attempted when your dog is older and more stable.

Yummy Treats

puppy potty yummy treats
Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Most experts, breeders, trainers, and vets alike recommend positive reinforcement over anything else. The best way to do this is to present your dog with delicious treats, your praise, and pets after doing something right.

Many professionals claim that positive reinforcement is a much more effective method compared to punishment. Showing your dog what’s right instead of highlighting what’s wrong will lead to a fully potty-trained puppy even sooner.

From our experience, puppies like to eat most treats, but don’t be afraid to take the time to get to know your puppy to figure out what he likes. Use high-value treats so your dog is eager to get house training right, but don’t forget to account for the extra calories in your dog’s daily meals.

Enzyme Cleaner

Accidents are an inevitable part of house training, so you should also be prepared to tackle stains and messes with the full force of effective cleaners, namely enzyme cleaners.

These cleaners are not heavier duty, but they are more thorough. These cleaners eliminate stains down to the molecules so there is virtually no trace of the mess.

Why is this important? You would be surprised by a dog’s sense of smell. Their sniffers can smell food in the kitchen from the back room of a house, so be sure they can smell the stains they have left.

Dogs have the tendency to eliminate in the same spot. This means that any soiled area could potentially become your dog’s permanent potty area. This is why it’s crucial to erase all existence of your puppy’s previous mess.

The Keys to Puppy Potty Training Success

puppy potty training for success
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Potty training is a long and arduous process, this is a fact. However, with a clear guidelines, puppy parents will at least know where to start. We have helped you map out how you can tackle dog training as quickly as possible despite living in an apartment building.

Choose Your Method

The first step is to choose your method. Most apartment dwellers choose to use pee pads as a dog training aid because it provides more flexibility for the pup and owner. Let’s take a closer look at the various methods you can try.

Puppy Pads

A potty pad is quite easy to use, especially since each piece usually contains an attractant. An attractant in potty pads gives off a scent that encourages your puppy to eliminate. Many dog parents have reported puppy pad training is as simple as placing it down in your chosen spot and letting nature take its course.

Remember to still reward your pup when he gets it right. You can sometimes choose to substitute their favorite treat with plenty of praise and a good pat on the head if you want to avoid overfeeding.

Puppy Litter Box

puppy litter box in an apartment

A puppy litter box is a relatively new invention compared to potty pads and these are the ones with synthetic grass on the surface. A puppy litter box functions the same way as potty pads except they produce less waste. However, you will still need to replace the artificial grass every month or so, and it requires quite a bit of cleaning.

Many owners who live in apartments choose a puppy litter box for its aesthetic and keep it on the balcony.

Strictly Outside

If your apartment has a balcony, then training your dog to do his business strictly outside is easy, but not everyone has one. You can potty train your dog to only go on the balcony with the use of potty pads and litter boxes, just simply place them outside. It’s easy to keep the door to the balcony open during the summer months and even keep it open if you live in a warmer climate during winter.

If not, pet parents can easily train their dogs using potty bells, which dogs ring to notify their owners that they need to go. Others may just sit by the door, whine, or scratch when they have to eliminate.

Set a Routine

Before you start to potty train your young dog, we would suggest setting a regular schedule or routine so your dog can get used to it and know what’s expected of him every day. When your dog is familiar with a routine, you will also notice that training a puppy is much easier. Don’t hesitate to plan your day down to the hour, from when you wake up to when it’s time for bed – just make sure to keep to it.

Sometimes plans may change if work needs you to stay later or you plan on going on vacation, but your dog will fall back into the routine quickly after. Think about when you have time to feed your puppy 3 to 4 meals a day, carve out playtime, nap time and training time. Don’t forget to schedule potty breaks when necessary as well.

Potty breaks are usually 10-15 minutes after consuming food or water, right after nap time, waking up, and before bed, and don’t forget to plan potty breaks during playtime. If you don’t have time to come home during the day to give your dog a potty break, then hire a dog walker, or dog sitter, or ask a friend or family member to let your dog out.

A dog can only hold it for his get plus 1, so try not to push it or your dog may develop health issues such as urinary tract infections.

Pick Up Your Pup

potty training and picking up the pup

Whether you’re adamant about allowing your dog to eliminate outside or on your balcony, we recommend picking them up and carrying them to the potty spot to avoid accidents. This is even more important if you have to wait for the elevator and if there are other people because your puppy will be easily distracted at such a young age.

Positive Reinforcement

As we briefly mentioned, avoid punishing your pup by scolding him or rubbing his face in his mess when accidents happen. Instead, reinforce good behavior and ignore bad ones. Positive reinforcement can be achieved with encouraging words and puppy treats. We suggest offering a combination of both.

Accidents Happen – and that’s okay!

Accidents will happen, it’s near impossible for a dog to never go in the wrong place and that’s okay. Dog owners need to constantly remind themselves that a ton of patience, resilience, consistency, and love go into training a puppy, so give it time. All you need to do is stick to the routine, clean up the mess thoroughly, and use positive reinforcement.

Don’t tell off your pup if you do not catch him right after or during the act. Your dog will not understand why you are scolding him if you discover the mess hours later. Dogs are incapable of making the connection, so just clean it up and hope to correct them next time.

However, if you do happen to catch them during or right after, you can utter a firm “NO!” and take them to the correct potty spot to finish. Don’t forget to hand them a great after.

Know the Potty Signs

puppies without potty signs

The number 1 accident prevention method is to read the potty signs. Know when your dog has to go by monitoring the behavior he is exhibiting. The most common signals of a pup needing a potty break are sniffing the ground, circling, whining, and pacing.

Once you notice your dog is showing some or all of these signs, pick him up right away and head to the potty spot.

Accompany him there until he eliminates himself. You can also try to incorporate a keyword such as “pee pee”, which could eventually become the trigger word if used consistently. Once your puppy gets the hang of potty training, all you will need to do in the future is mention the keyword and he will know what to do without you having to bring him to the potty area.

Apartment Potty Training Do’s and Don’ts

Potty Breaks at Night

puppy in a cage during night time
Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

You must give your dog a potty break sometime during the night. Some dogs need to go once, while others may need to go twice. It all depends on when you put your dog to bed, how old they are, and the breed.

Let’s face it, getting up in the middle of the night to take your dog to the potty is not fun. Cold winter nights make it even less enjoyable if you have to stand outside in the cold, waiting for your dog to do his business.

For apartment living, we suggest opting for puppy pads or litter boxes during the night if you don’t have a balcony. If you do have one, then we recommend fully utilizing it instead of going all the way downstairs.

If you want to minimize sleep disruption, then we suggest putting your puppy to bed later. For example, putting your 3-month old pup to bed at 12 am means you only need to get up once at 3 or 3:30, and then once again at 6:30, which is when many people with 9-5 jobs need to wake up. If you want more sleep, then you can put your dog to bed earlier, but remember to get up more than once during the night at the appropriate intervals.

We would also suggest limiting your dog’s water intake to about 2 hours before bed because this will also reduce the chance of an accident. There are some lucky dog parents who have puppies that manage to sleep through the night, although in most cases, it will take your dog at least a few days to get used to his new surroundings.

No Punishment

Remember to not punish your puppy when accidents occur. You do not want your young pup to have negative associations with potty training. It will only have the opposite effect of what you want – a longer potty training period.

Don’t Change the Designated Potty Spot

puppy lying on its designated potty area

It’s okay if you do it once or twice in the beginning while you’re trying to figure out the best potty area, but try not to move it too often after that once you find an ideal spot. It will only succeed in confusing your puppy if the location keeps changing.

Don’t Distract Your Puppy

When you are waiting for him to do the deed, don’t talk or make any distracting movements or noises – your dog needs to concentrate! Young puppies are very curious and have a short attention span. They can easily lose focus just when they’re about to go, so keep the environment free from any distractions – this includes yourself.

Confine Them When You Can’t Watch Them

If you can’t keep an eye on your pup, make sure to keep him in a confined area whether it’s his crate or in a pen. Not only will it contain messes if they do occur, but it will also ensure your pup’s safety. As we said, puppies are very curious creatures and they can get up to all kinds of mischief especially if they are in the teething stage.

Don’t Stop Training

There may be times when your patience is tested and you want to get up, but don’t! Giving up too soon will negate all your previous hard work. Some dog owners will experience potty training regression, which happens a few months in. This is when your puppy seems to forget what to do and has accidents all over again even if he was having a good streak.

Some pet parents will feel very discouraged during this time, but we stress that it’s important to push through. Gently remind your pup what to do and he will soon fall back into the routine. You will know your pup is fully potty trained when he can go a few months without accidents.

Know When to Stop

On occasion, your dog simply won’t have to eliminate and that’s okay. If your pup has been out on the balcony for around 15 minutes and he has lost focus, is distracted by his surroundings, wants to play, or simply sits or lays down, then he just may not need to go.

Bring him back in for a few minutes and watch. If he starts to show the signs, take him out right away. You can even consider putting him in the crate for a bit then taking him out again and trying again.

Always Keep a Positive Attitude

Your dog can sense your emotions, so you can be sure that he can feel your frustration and, in turn, he will also start to feel frustrated. Always try to keep a happy and light attitude when you’re potty training your puppy and be patient.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do puppies pee in an apartment?

Puppies usually pee on the balcony or on a puppy pad in a designated spot in an apartment. Apartment living can make access to the outdoors a bit more limited as you will need to go down a corridor, and down an elevator, before you can reach the lobby and head outside. Many dog owners who live in apartments have a permanent spot somewhere indoors for backup.

How do you potty train a puppy fast indoors?

You can potty train a puppy fast indoors by being consistent, patient and sticking to a set routine. Using the help of puppy pads with an in-built attractant will help speed up the process and encourage your dog to eliminate. We would also suggest using a puppy pad holder to keep your puppy from tracking wet footprints all over. Take a look at some of the coolest doormats for dogs too as it also leave little to no paw prints scattered around your squeaky clean home!

Can you potty train a puppy on the balcony?

Yes, you can potty train a puppy on the balcony. The most common method is by using puppy pads or a potty litter box, which has artificial turf to simulate grass. Training a puppy to go on the balcony requires the same steps – establishing a potty area, routine potty breaks, and plenty of positive reinforcement.

What kind of dog is good for an apartment?

Most dogs can live just fine in an apartment, but smaller or low-energy dogs are generally better. Large dogs require more space due to their stature, but if you have plenty of time to take your dogs on walks and puppy dates outside, then even large breeds can thrive in apartments.

What is the best way to potty train a puppy in an apartment?

The best way to potty train a puppy in an apartment is by using a potty pad or litter box. Outdoor training is still possible if that’s what you prefer, but it will be more difficult than for those living in houses. It’s more convenient to utilize the balcony or to train your dog to go both indoors and out. Have a designated potty area in the home just for a plan B.


Raising a dog in an apartment is completely possible, and so is potty training. Some would even say it’s easier because you can just take your dog outside to the balcony. Instead of allowing your dog to eliminate anywhere, place a potty pad or litter box in a designated area.

This consistent routine will teach your puppy that this is where he is allowed to go. Remember to always use positive reinforcement to show your dog what’s right and ignore bad behavior to teach him what’s wrong.

It will take some time and you may be met with regression at some time down the line, but your dog will get there eventually. Don’t be discouraged if it takes your beloved fur baby a little longer, just know that he is trying his best!

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