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How to Potty Train Your Puppy

Updated on 12/14/22

“Magic time, get busy, hurry up, do your business”, are just a few possible phrases you can teach your puppy to understand when you ask them to go to the bathroom. Regardless of what you decide to call it, potty training (aka housetraining) is an essential part of raising a puppy.

Basic Information Before Starting

Young puppies between 8 and 16 weeks of age are like infants. They constantly go to the bathroom! This means you will need to guide them to potty training success. For young puppies between 8 and 16 weeks of age, you should bring your puppy outside every half hour to an hour for the greatest potty training success. Doing so is important so that your puppy starts to learn where to go to the bathroom.

Tracking Success

My advice to puppy owners is to have a notebook where you can track your puppy’s bathroom habits. The notebook can have the time you brought your puppy out, if she eliminated or not, if she had an accident inside your house and I even ,like to mark down when the puppy ate one of her meals so that I can see a correlation between bathroom habits and meal time.

Tracking your puppy’s bathroom habits is a simple way to start noticing how often your puppy needs to eliminate. And if you have a household with children or multiple family members helping you raise the puppy, writing down when your puppy went to the bathroom will help keep everyone organized and on the same page. Track your puppy’s bathroom habits for as long as you feel it is necessary. I have included a two sample’s of how I usually suggest organizing my potty training notebook.

Sample 1: Potty Tracker 

Date Time The Business Name of responsible individual
9/12/22 6:05am Peed & Pooped Anthony
9/12/22 6:55am Accident-peed in kitchen Everyone screwed up ☺ lol
9/12/22 8:00am Fed Breakfast Jennifer

Sample 2: Potty Tracker 

Time Urination Defecation Location Meal Responsible Individual
6:00am X X Backyard Anthony
6:45 X Accident in kitchen Everyone messed up!
7:00 Fed Breakfast Jennifer
7:15 X Backyard Anthony
8:00am X Backyard Mikey
8:45am X Backyard Jen
9:45 X Accident in Kitchen Jen


Helpful Tips For Success

Below are my basic tips for potty training that you may find really helpful in order to have success with your puppy.

  • As I stated above, young puppies generally need to eliminate every 30 minutes to 1 hour. The more active the puppy is and the more your puppy moves around, the sooner your puppy will probably need to go to the bathroom.
  • Track your puppy’s bathroom habits by writing it down. This will help you learn how often your puppy truly is going to the bathroom. The more accidents your puppy is having, may be an indicator that your puppy needs to be brought out more often or sooner than what you are currently doing.
  • Bring your puppy out the same door when going outside. After a few weeks, many puppy’s may start learning to bark or scratch at the door to indicate they need to be brought out.
  • Bring tasty treats outside to reward your puppy! Make sure to ALWAYS bring a handful of high value treats with you. As soon as your puppy finishes eliminating, praise and reward your puppy on the spot! (Do not worry I have instructions for you below!)
  • If you are potty training your puppy outside, I suggest clipping your puppy to a leash so that way she does not wander off. If your puppy goes to the bathroom on the other side of the yard and you are planning on rewarding her for a a job well done, it is difficult to do when your puppy is 100 feet away. (We will discuss more about rewarding your puppy in the instructions below.)  Using a leash provides some control in your puppy’s success.
  • If your puppy does not go to the bathroom, contain your puppy when your bring her back inside. Free time is only earned when she has gone to the bathroom to reduce the chances of her having an accident inside the home. (More information on this is below.)


The Simple Steps To Potty Training:

STEP 1: Put your puppy on a leash and let her sniff around your yard until she finds the right spot. Some puppies need to walk and sniff around for 10 to 15 minutes to find the right spot before eliminating.

STEP 2: As your dog squats down to go to the bathroom softly say your magic word or phrase to tell your puppy to go to the bathroom: “Get Busy, Go Potty” etc. Saying this while your puppy is going to the bathroom will teach your puppy over the next few days or weeks that your phrase means to eliminate. This will be helpful as your puppy ages because when you let her outside, you can then tell her “Molly, get busy”, which will them promptly her to go to the bathroom when you ask her to. This teaches your puppy clear instruction.

STEP 3: As soon as your puppy finishes eliminating, praise her and immediately reward with a tasty treat or a couple of treats. Reward using 3 treats (giving one at a time) for a job well done! (Make sure to reward your dog with a treat immediately after eliminating. This helps your puppy learn why she is earning the reward. Many owners wait to reward the dog until then go back inside the house. But this is not actually teaching the puppy that they earned the treat for going to the bathroom. It only teaches the puppy that going inside the house means they will get a treat. 

My Puppy Has Not Eliminated

If your puppy has not gone to the bathroom during the time you have taken her outside, then she must be brought back inside and confined in her crate or exercise pen. Doing so will prevent her from having an accident inside the house wherever she would like. Place her in the crate or exercise pen for 5 to 15 minutes. After about 5 to 15 minutes, take her back outside to try and eliminate. If she does not go to the bathroom, continue to follow this one or two more times. If she does not go to the bathroom, it is your choice to leave her confined or monitor her wherever she is. For me, free time is earned only after going to the bathroom as this will reduce the chances of an accident occurring inside your home.

Troubleshooting Tips & Suggestions

  • If you are struggling to get your puppy to go to the bathroom, then try playing a game of fetch, tug, play with a flirt pole, running recall games or playing hide and seek. Getting a puppy to run and move their body can help them eliminate.
  • Take treats outside with you all the time to reward a job well done!
  • If pup drinks water, make sure to take your puppy out within 5 to 10 minutes of drinking as puppies cannot hold water for very long.
  • Observe your puppies behavior! Each puppy will have their own way of indicating that they need to go to the bathroom. Some puppies will start seeking attention by jumping, scratching or nudging you in some way, maybe even whine a little. Others will start excessively sniffing, pacing and even start to walk in a small circular motions. This are all signs that the puppy needs to go to the bathroom.
  • If your puppy goes on walks around the neighborhood, remember to bring your puppy to the bathroom in your yard before going inside the house. Many puppies do not go to the bathroom on walks as they are distracted with smells and visual stimuli. Before going back inside your home, make sure she has the opportunity to eliminate to avoid and accident. Follow this rule for car rides as well!!!

My Puppy Had An Accident! What Should I Do???

If your puppy has an accident, do not yell, hit or shove her face in it! This can create fear in your puppy and it can negatively affect the relationship your puppy has with you. You can actually start teaching your puppy to be avoidant or nervous of you, which can actually hinder your potty training success. Some puppies will even learn to avoid you or hide such as going to the bathroom behind a piece of furniture or go in another area of the home, yard etc.

My advice: Just clean the mess up and move on! Accidents happen! That is why we call them accidents. I don’t expect young puppies to just know how and where to potty. And I do not expect them to hold it in.

If your puppy has accidents you should:

  • Use an enzymatic cleaner such as Natures Miracle to help clean and get rid of odors.
  • Remove all rugs if you puppy tends to gravitate and eliminate on them. For carpeted areas, your puppy should not have access unless she has already eliminated to avoid accidents from happening on the carpet. Remember, no matter how well you clean your rugs or carpets, the odor can still be there and it could seep through to the floor where you cannot clean. Dogs will still smell that!
  • Some puppies who constantly have accidents in their crates/pen could have giardia or other parasites. Having a proper vet check to rule out any parasites or infections may be necessary.
  • Feeding & Meal Time: Make sure to take your puppy outside after eating a meal. I usually say within an hour most puppies will have a bowel movement. Some dogs need to go right after eating and some may need a period of time to digest before going. Regardless, it’s good practice to bring your dog out after eating. Lastly, if puppy does not eat within 20 to 30 minutes of the food being placed down, pick it up and feed again during the next meal. DO NOT free feed as this can cause housetraining issues.
  • Supervision: Your puppy should NOT be left unsupervised and left to her own devices! Puppies with to much freedom can learn to have accidents in the house, chew on household things and may not learn about rules and boundaries. Use a crate, exercise pen and baby gates if needed.


It is important to remember that potty training can take time and every puppy is different. One of my dog’s was potty trained in two weeks and one of my other dog’s took 6 months to really grasp the concept. With time, consistency and patients you can have success!


Anthony De Marinis specializes in working with dogs with behavior issues, specifically with aggressive behavior. He provides comprehensive in-home behavior consultations and dog training services in most of Nassau County and western Suffolk County on Long Island, NY. (Online Virtual Consultations for aggression and behavior modification are also available for clients who are local and out of state.) Anthony is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Accredited Dog Trainer by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Licensed Family Dog Mediator (LFDM), and a Fear Free Certified Training Professional (FFCP). Anthony currently has an interest in training and behavior modification in Working & Sport bred dogs. He is also learning about and currently competing in agility and sheep herding with his own dogs. Anthony has two Australian Kelpies, Journey and Quest.

October 21, 2018