dog

Puppy Care 101: What To Know Before Potty Training A New Dog

by Desirée O

When you welcome a puppy into your home, you may understandably be focused on the over-the-top adorableness, the heartwarmingly cute cuddles, and the hundreds of Instagram pics you’ll inevitably post of your sweet new pet. Unfortunately, you’ll likely also be dealing with a few stark realities of bringing home a puppy — like puddles of pee and piles of poo in spots that horrify you. That’s right, potty training a puppy is in your near future.

But don’t worry! Puppies just need a little help learning what to do when they need to relieve themselves.

If you have an older dog who is properly trained, that dog can help to set an example and teach your puppy the ropes. New pups learn a lot merely from watching experienced dogs do their business.

But if you don’t already have an older dog who can act like a puppy mentor, here’s everything you can possibly need to know about puppy potty training.

Learn Your Puppy’s "I Need to Do My Business" Signals

Learn Your Puppy’s "I Need to Do My Business" Signals
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

Just like humans, puppies have a hard time hiding the fact that they need to pee or poo. Frankly, your puppy won’t try to hide it at all. He’ll likely display obvious signs, like pacing, barking, sniffing the floor or his backside, and scratching at the door. You just need to learn to recognize those signals — and when you notice them, let your puppy outside to do his business right away.

Pick a Spot for Your Puppy to Pee and Poo Outside

Pick a Spot for Your Puppy to Pee and Poo Outside
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

Choose the outside area where you want your puppy to pee and poo, whether it’s in your yard or a suitable spot close by in your neighborhood. Once you’ve picked it out, you need to let your dog know that it’s the specific spot where he should do his business. To do that, put a leash on your pup and walk him outside to the pee spot. Wait there until he actually pees or poos. If he does, reward him with a treat. If he doesn’t go, then walk him back inside and repeat the process again until he finally pees.

Show Them the Door They Should Go to When They Need to Go Out

Show Them the Door They Should Go to When They Need to Go Out
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

Part of teaching puppies to do their business outside is showing them which door they should go to when they need to go out. When you put your pup on leash to take him out to his pee spot the first few times, pause for a moment or two right inside the door. Your pup might even give you another signal or two to try to remind you that he needs to go out. When that signal prompts you to open the door, your dog will learn that he should stand by the door and give you signals any time he needs to go out.

Use Pee Pads

Use Pee Pads
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

Pee pads are a handy way to deal with accidents that happen while your puppy is potty training. Start by layering multiple pee pads by the door to the outside. This should be the same door where you are teaching your puppy to signal you to go outside. You’ll need to change the pee pads often, but make sure to leave the bottom one behind each time so that a slight scent of urine remains, which will remind your pup that this is the proper place to pee.

Feed Your Puppy at the Same Time Every Day

Feed Your Puppy at the Same Time Every Day
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

One way to help puppies successfully potty train is to feed them at the same time every day. That way, they’ll generally have to poo around the same time every day. This means that you’ll know when to start watching for signals to let your dog out in time.

Take Your Puppy Out Soon After You Give Water

Take Your Puppy Out Soon After You Give Water
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

You’ll also want to watch your puppy for signs that he has to pee soon after you give him water. Smaller dogs as well as younger pups can’t hold it in as long as bigger, older dogs, so you might not have to wait too long before your puppy wants to go outside. And obviously, if you have a thirsty pup who drinks a lot, he’ll need to go outside more often than a dog who enjoys only an occasional bit of water.

You May Need to Start With Hourly Trips Outside

You May Need to Start With Hourly Trips Outside
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

If you want to avoid indoor accidents and are willing to help your puppy learn what’s expected of him as fast as possible, then try a consistent approach by taking your pup out every hour. While it might be tedious at first, once your puppy realizes that trips outside are a regular thing, he’ll know that he can wait for the next one to come around instead of peeing inside. At that point, you can start waiting for two or three hours between trips.

Praise and Reward Your Dog for Going Outside

Praise and Reward Your Dog for Going Outside
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Whenever your dog does successfully pee or poo outside, be sure to show him that this is exactly what you want him to do by giving him a treat, petting him, and offering plenty of compliments. Your dog will soon understand that going pee and poo outside is a positive thing, and he’ll want to do it to receive your praise.

Don’t Yell at or Punish Your Dog for Having an Accident

Don’t Yell at or Punish Your Dog for Having an Accident
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Remember that accidents are going to happen and that they’re a part of the process. Your puppy is a baby who is learning something new, and he’ll likely be confused at first. If your dog does make a mistake, don’t yell at or punish him. That could make your dog nervous and scared, leading to more accidents. Instead, stay calm, be patient, and keep trying.

Thoroughly Clean Spots Where Accidents Happen

Thoroughly Clean Spots Where Accidents Happen
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

Although you shouldn’t get mad or discouraged when accidents happen, you do need to deal with them properly so that you can avoid them in the future. If your puppy pees or poops inside, clean up the area as thoroughly as you can using a specialized product designed to fully eliminate the odor. That way, the puppy won’t smell urine or poo in that spot and repeat what he’s done.

Keep the Outdoor Area Clean

Keep the Outdoor Area Clean
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

While the puppy’s outdoor pee spot most likely won’t be the prettiest place in your yard, it’s important to keep it as clean as possible. You don’t have to pick up poo every single day, but if the area becomes too nasty, your pup may hesitate to do his business, so it’s best to grab a bag and start scooping that poop before things get overwhelming for both you and your puppy.

Teach Your Puppy a Pee Routine With a Crate

Teach Your Puppy a Pee Routine With a Crate
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If you’re using a crate for your puppy, it can be part of the potty training process. Before you put your pup in his crate — whether it’s for the night or while you head out of the house — let your puppy outside to pee and poo. Then, as soon as you let your puppy out of his crate, take him out to do his business again. This will teach your puppy that he can wait to relieve himself until you get back.

Get Your Puppy Used to Going Potty While You’re Out for a Walk

Get Your Puppy Used to Going Potty While You’re Out for a Walk
Courtesy of Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for LittleThings

Whether or not you have a yard of your own, you’ll want to get your puppy used to doing his business while you’re out for a walk. It’s natural for dogs to mark their territory while wandering around the neighborhood, but it’s also a good idea to teach them that this is another acceptable time and place to do their business.

Prepare for Variables

Prepare for Variables
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As you establish a potty training routine for your puppy, you’ll also have to get him used to inevitable issues that will pop up from time to time. Things like bad weather (such as rain, snow, or thunder) can make your pup hesitant to go outside, so have a large umbrella handy. Having visitors over might excite your puppy so much that he has an accidental piddle, so try keeping him calm. Take your pup out before guests arrive, and let him out regularly throughout the visit. If you go on a trip, your pup will either have to adapt to the travel conditions or learn a temporary routine while under someone else’s care.

While you potty train your puppy, think about what kind of variables might occur in your life and consider how you can deal with each. And remember that variables might confuse your puppy and cause occasional accidents. But they’re nothing to worry about — and nothing you can’t handle!