Potty Training 101

Congratulations!!! You have acquired a precious little bundle of joy! A puppy!! Now, what??!!

First thing’s first. Let’s talk about the dreaded task of POTTY TRAINING. This is probably one of the most common frustrations my clients endure when they decide to pull the trigger on getting that puppy. So let me help you help that puppy get on board with potty training!

Tip #1

The 5 most important times to take your puppy out to potty.

1. 1st thing in the morning. Yes, that’s right. Even before YOU get to go, you must take that puppy outside. As soon as your puppy hears you get up, they are already crossing their legs. They simply can not hold it until you get the liberty of doing YOUR business. Expect an accident waiting for you to clean up

2. Immediately after they eat. Puppies and dogs alike tend to have a reflex bowel movement/urination within 5-15 minutes of consuming food. Help yourselves out by NOT leaving food down free choice…or be prepared to delay your puppy’s potty training success for a few more weeks to even months!!

3. Immediately after playtime. You have been playing a mean game of tug-o-war and your little one takes a timeout pause. This is YOUR sign to pick that little bugger up and get them outside to potty!

4. Immediately after nap time. Puppy just wakes up from a nap and starts to meander about the house….looking for a spot to potty!

5. My personal favorite recommendation…. IF 1 hour has passed and the previous 4 scenarios have not occurred, take the puppy out to potty!!

Tip #2

It is a PRIVILEGE to have the freedom to roam the house NOT a God-given right. Your puppy has the mentality of a toddler…or a 2-3-year-old. Would you let a 2-year-old roam your house without direct supervision and NOT expect a catastrophe to occur? Most likely not. Your puppy cannot be held accountable for their actions if they are not being corrected in the act. Despite what you may think, your puppy will not be able to associate their “potty accident” that occurred a few minutes ago with your disgruntled verbal correction. They WILL know that you are upset/mad/frustrated, but they will be clueless as to WHY! My recommendation is to keep the puppy tethered to you at all times. A leash works great. I know, this sounds like a pain in the rear. BUT if you really, REALLY want to get this critter trained ASAP, please yield to my advice! PLUS, just think about killing 2 birds with 1 stone…potty training AND leash training!! Am I selling you on this idea now??

Tip #3

All puppies have ADHD. Ok, not really, but kind of. They have incredibly SHORT ATTENTION spans. Despite your 100% commitment to all of these tips, your puppy goes outside to “potty” and becomes easily distracted …. SQUIRREL! I find that if your puppy has not eliminated within 2 minutes of your verbal cues/reminders of the potty mission, pick up the puppy and go back inside. BUT… don’t throw in the towel just yet. Wait by the door for 30-60 seconds, repeat your cue word to signal WHY you are going outside, and repeat the mission. Repeat this UNTIL your puppy goes potty! Be sure to have that high value treat ready to reward the behavior. DO NOT let the puppy go play. Go back inside and wait at the door for 15-30 seconds, give the cue word to go out to play, then go out and PLAY! A very common issue client struggle with is that puppy won’t go potty outside, but as soon as we go inside, puppy eliminates on the floor. The truth is, your puppy was clueless as to the mission for going outside in the first place!!!

Tip #4

To Crate or Not to Crate…. that is the question! Should you crate train your puppy or not? Good question! I find that crate training can be helpful for some families and not for others. It really depends upon your family dynamic. I idea behind the crate is that confines the puppy to a very small area and pushes them to decide to hold it OR eliminate and stand in it. I have seen this work well for some puppies, and not for others. For safety measures, I feel that crate training can be beneficial for keeping your puppy confined when you are away from the house. However, it doesn’t “train” your puppy to eliminate outside. That is up to you my friend!

Tip #5

Puppy Pads or not? Puppy pads are basically glorified incontinence pads with a 100% markup on the sale price. (I know, novel idea eh?). If your intention is to have your puppy eliminate in your home, on the pad, then yes, using puppy pads would be appropriate. However, if your intention is to have your puppy eliminate outside, then no, the pads are a bad idea. It simply is one more habit for you to train away from. It tends to be a point of confusion for the puppy and I highly recommend not starting puppy pads if you want an easy transition to elimination outside.

Potty training isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes PERSISTENCE, LOVE, and PATIENCE. And honestly, don’t most things in life flourish in an environment bathed in these qualities?


Carrie Vigeant D.V.M., mother of 3 boys, entrepreneur, wife, and foodie.