3 Tips to Potty Training Your Puppy Easily from a Certified Dog Trainer
Step 14 of 16 in the Dogly Puppy Channel
with Brooke Fagel of PalmSpringsDogTraining, Training Advocate

Puppy potty training doesn't have to be daunting.

Successful house training is one of the first things dog parents need and want to accomplish with a new puppy. Here's everything you need to know for house training success - including a step-by-step approach to using crate training to simplify the process.

While the potty training process can be time consuming at the start, it doesn't have to be an overwhelming job for you or your puppy. With a combination of consistency, common sense, and positive reinforcement protocols, you can quickly teach any puppy good toilet habits.

You can also watch me take you through all these steps to potty train a puppy, demonstrating with my puppy Spirit in the accompanying video below.

First, what's your puppy thinking when house training?

Dogs aren't born knowing where they should and shouldn't relieve themselves. It's up to us to show them where to go.

In their little puppy brains, it makes perfect sense to go potty wherever they are. It's good to keep in mind though, that instinctively, dogs including your young puppy do not like to potty wherever they sleep or eat.

So how do we use that information to set up our puppies for potty training success and learn where we want them to go potty consistently?

The quickest way to potty train your puppy is to use what we call in the professional dog trainer world "management techniques."

Why? Because the easiest, fastest way to potty train is to manage the circumstances around your puppy to preempt potty behavior you don't want and reinforce the behavior you do want.


What management for success in potty training looks like...

In potty training, management can work in a variety of ways. Here are two tried and true ways to set the stage for your puppy potty training success.

1) How to potty train using the tether method

One of my personal favorites, tethering involves attaching your puppy's leash to you to keep your puppy with you throughout the house.

Why it works when house training

This prevents your puppy from having indoor accidents in your home or if you live in an apartment when you're not watching because they're always with you. It ensures there are no potty accidents in your home.

And if your puppy does start to go to the bathroom, you'll spot it right away and you can whisk your puppy to an outdoor space to show where to finish their bathroom break appropriately and reinforce the correct behavior with treats your puppy LOVES.

2) How to potty train using a crate, baby gate, or puppy playpen

With these management tools, you're giving your puppy a little freedom but not too much freedom. You're controlling your puppy's accessible space - where your puppy can and cannot go in your home to prevent opportunities for potty accidents.

Please remember, a crate is not a puppy sitter.

It's just a way to keep your puppy safe and out of trouble for a short period of time.

Here's how to make a crate work when potty training your puppy:

(You can see me demonstrating each of these steps with puppy Spirit in the video below.)

Try this

Step 1:

Open the crate door and have some of your puppy's favorite dog treats in hand.

Step 2:

Click or mark your puppy with a "yes!" and treat for staying anywhere near the crate.

Step 3:

If your puppy shows any kind of interest in the crate, maybe takes a little baby step toward it, any of those types of things, you want to mark with a click or "yes!" and treat. What we're doing is making the crate or pen a super, super fun object.

Keeping the door open at this stage, you're going to mark and treat for each step your dog makes toward moving inside the crate/pen.

Step 4:

Next, as your puppy is comfortable and happy in the crate, you can close the door, even latch it this time. You're going to click and treat each step of this process.

Make sure to go out of your way to see that your puppy has a great time in the crate/pen. Add a bed, a bone, your dog's favorite toy. You want the crate to be a haven where your puppy is happy to hang out for short periods of time.

And again most importantly, remember your dog's crate or exercise pen is not a babysitter. It's just an easy way to keep your dog safe and out of trouble when you absolutely can't supervise him or her.


If your puppy does have an accident inside...

It's okay!! Never punish your puppy in any way - simply interrupt and pick up your puppy, and whisk him or her to the outside potty area where your puppy is supposed to go to the bathroom. Then, since this is the outdoor potty training behavior you want, mark and treat.

It's even okay if your puppy doesn't finish in that time outside. The most important part is that you interrupted the behavior and you replaced it with the behavior you would like your puppy to do - and reinforced the desired behavior by rewarding with marking and dog treats.

Old school advice used to say to push your puppy's nose in the accident. Please don't do this! It doesn't work and it's totally unnecessary because dogs don't generalize the behavior from one incident to another.

If you've been consistent, used common sense, marked and treated when your puppy goes in the right spot - your pup will learn quickly that toileting outside is much more fun (and rewarding!) than toileting inside.

Let's summarize the 3 simple elements to making potty training work for young puppies...

#1 - Management

You're setting the stage to make it almost impossible for your puppy to fail and making it easy for your puppy to succeed, giving you both more opportunities to celebrate and reinforce (treat!) the behavior you want to see in your puppy.

#2 - Interrupting accidents

Accidents happen! But with your puppy not having free run of your home, you're likely to catch any potty accidents in progress and be able to interrupt and carry your puppy outside to replace the unwanted behavior with the behavior you want to see - with reinforcing rewards, of course.

This is how puppies, and all dogs, quickly learn what we want. Dogs do what works for them!

#3 - Reinforcing (treating) when your puppy goes outside

In potty training and all behaviors, we get more of what we reinforce. So be sure to reinforce good behavior immediately and exuberantly when it happens with a click or "yes!" and treats. That way your dog's brain connects the good behavior (when your dog pees outside) directly with the rewards.

(Always have treats with you; giving the treats when you come back inside from a potty break doesn't mean anything to your pup... he/she will think it's for something that happened in that moment inside.)


A quick recap of key details and pro tips for potty training:

  • Take your puppy out to go to the bathroom after waking up, once an hour, and 20-30 minutes after eating. You always want to anticipate your puppy's potty schedule, getting ahead of when your pup needs to go to the bathroom so you're preempting potty accidents and rewarding successes.

  • Note: For young puppies who aren't fully vaccinated yet, if you're potty training your puppy in an apartment and outside means public spaces, you can use potty pads as your separate and approved potty space in the meantime until you're able to transfer the potty training behavior from the puppy pads to outside.

  • Only stay outside for potty breaks a few minutes at a time. If your puppy doesn't do anything after a few minutes, go back inside, let your pup relax a bit and then start fresh.

  • When your puppy or dog* potties outside, immediately click or say "yes!" and give a treat.

  • *(This same process works for an adult dog or older-than-puppy rescue dogs who need to learn the potty routine to fit your home, too.)

  • Do not punish any accidents. This will cause your puppy to fear you and go to the bathroom around the house in secret. When you do find indoor dog potty accidents after the fact (rather than in the moment when you can interrupt and take your dog outside), just look for your next opportunity to help set up your pup to get it right next time so you can reinforce (treat!) the behavior you want to see.

And there you have it - potty training made easily doable with some solid management techniques, positive reinforcement, and consistency from you!

Discover a stress-free way to potty train your puppy.

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Next up in the Puppy Channel on Dogly

Now that you know how to potty train puppy members of your family simply and successfully, remember to celebrate all those victories together with plenty of treats!

And check out what's next in the Puppy Channel for more on puppy training - from additional takes on potty training to leash walking to nipping/biting solutions - from Dogly Advocates, each one a certified dog trainer.

Or hop over to the Life Stage Feeding Channel to find out which foods support your puppy's best growth and wellness, with recommendations from a certified canine nutritionist.

If you have any questions on training and your puppy, just ask us in the Community discussion! Or get customized training help in your dog's plan here.

Brooke Fagel of PalmSpringsDogTraining

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Brooke because of her intuitive connection with dogs, and we love how it inspires her talent and passion for positive training with all our dogs now.

Brooke guides you

puppy training - Training Tricks - stay - Nipping - potty training - leave it

Brooke is certified

Certified AKC CGC/STAR Puppy Evaluator - Canine Good Citizen - AKC Community Canine (the advanced level of CGC) - AKC Public Access tests and Trick Dog tests.