How To Potty Train A Puppy

Just brought home a new puppy, huh? How exciting! Even though puppyhood is filled with wonderful parts, we all dread the potty training phase. 

Accidents happen (literally!), and potty training can feel like a never ending uphill battle. But with a little consistency and my expert tips, you and your new pup will be celebrating outside potty breaks in no time!

Puppy on a bed

How Long Can A Puppy "Hold It"?

Here's the thing: puppies have tiny bladders and even tinier bowels. But don’t worry, there’s a quick and easy formula you can use to determine how often your puppy will need to go outside. 

Your Puppy’s Age in Months + One = How Many Hours They Can Hold Their Bladder

For example, a three month old puppy can usually hold it for no more than 4 hours at a time. This means you'll want to take your puppy out more frequently than every 4 hours to make sure they have the opportunity to relieve themeselves in the correct place.

Puppy Potty Training Checklist

  • Supplies: Crate, puppy pads (optional), leash, treats, enzymatic cleaner.

  • Schedule: Puppies thrive on routine. Establish a feeding and potty routine that stays consistent. 

  • Location, Location, Location: Choose a designated potty spot outdoors. This is where you’ll bring your puppy every time you take them out. 

  • Rewards: When your pup eliminates in the right spot, celebrate! Of course we’re tempted to say “no” when they potty inside, but make sure you’re telling them when they do well pottying outside as well.

  • Accidents Happen (and that's okay!): Don't punish your puppy for accidents. They don’t know any better and punishing them may cause them to hide from you when they need to go (and get more clever about finding new indoor toilets). Clean up accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner to remove any lingering odors that might tempt repeat visits.

Creating A Routine

  • Where does your puppy sleep or hang out when you can’t watch them? Puppies have a natural instinct to not potty where they eat and where they sleep, so utilizing a crate is one of the fastest ways to reliably potty train your puppy. Their crate should be big enough that they can comfortably stand, turn around, and lay down but not so big that they can walk around.

  • Create a feeding schedule.  Feeding your puppy at the same times every day will help you become familiar with their potty routines. Most puppies need to go out within 5-20 minutes of eating or drinking. 

  • Naptime: Did you know that puppies need (on average) about 20 hours of sleep per day? All of that sleep won’t happen at once, of course, so your puppy will be waking up from naps on and off throughout the day. Just like how you created a feeding schedule, create a nap schedule, and any time your puppy wakes up be sure to take them out to potty, pronto. 

  • What about playtime? As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, puppies LOVE to play. Watch their body language white they plan and if they suddenly stop playing or begin to sniff the floor, take them out for a potty break.

Potty Training Troubleshooting

So, you've got the routine down, but your pup is still having accidents. Here are some troubleshooting tips: 

  • Take your puppy out more frequently. Even if you’re following the formula from above, every puppy is unique. It’s our job to take them out more frequently than they probably need so that they are set up for success. 

  • Rule out medical issues. Sometimes, medical issues like urinary tract infections or giardia can cause puppies to need to go suddenly or more than usual. If you feel like your puppy is struggling more than is normal or their potty habits suddenly change, check in with your vet. 

  • Double-check the cleaning process. Are you sure you're removing all traces of accidents? Your puppy’s nose is incredible, and significantly stronger than ours. Even if you can’t smell any residual odors, it doesn't mean your puppy doesn’t. Lingering smells can attract your puppy back to the same spot and mislead them into thinking that’s the designated doggy toilet. Make sure you're cleaning with an enzymatic cleaner (this one is my favorite, it smells fantastic and is pet-safe).

  • Consider professional help. A certified dog trainer can provide personalized guidance and address any specific challenges you might be facing.

Pro Tips For Puppy Potty Training

Life gets busy! Here are some additional tips to help you manage potty training even with a hectic schedule:

  • Designate a potty chaperone: When there’s multiple people in the house it’s easy to assume that someone else is paying attention. Designate specific people to be in charge of the puppy at different times so there’s no confusion. 
  • Keep a log:  Writing down a log of what times your puppy eats, drinks, and eliminates can help you better understand what their patterns and habits are.

  • Use a leash in the house: Keeping your puppy on a leash in the house will help you keep an eye on them while preventing them from sneaking behind the sofa or to another room to relieve themselves.


Do I need to use a crate?

Crate training provides a safe, den-like space for your puppy and can be a valuable tool in potty training. Confining your puppy to a crate that's appropriately sized prevents them from having accidents while you can't supervise them. Just remember, crate time shouldn't exceed their bladder control limits. 

Should I use puppy pads?

Puppy pads can be a helpful temporary solution, especially at night or when you live in an apartment. However, the goal is to transition your puppy to eliminating outdoors. If using pads, place them near the designated potty spot outside to create a scent connection.

How long does it take to potty train a puppy?

This varies depending on the puppy's age, breed, and consistency of training. Most puppies can achieve consistent potty training by 4-6 months old.

Download A Free Puppy Socialization Guide!

Now that you've mastered puppy potty training, move onto the next step in your puppy training journey with my FREE puppy socialization guide! This guide will walk you through what socialization is, how to do it, and even has a fun scavenger hunt you and your puppy can play together.