Potty and House Training Your Puppy or Adult Dog

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by jtclough on July 6, 2010

Fundamentals in dog training are of utmost importance from the get go and potty and house training for any new puppy or adult rescue dog should be first on the list.

The following steps are actually pretty easy. It takes the diligence of supervision which can seem difficult but with a little change in mindset you can have your puppy or dog house trained quickly.

First and foremost you must not let your puppy be unattended at any time in the first few weeks of potty training. Dogs learn and think in pictures much different than babies or toddlers who actually do develop the ability to logic. For this reason creating the right picture consistently is the key to perfect potty training.

As with a new born baby or small toddler leaving them unattended is a big no, no. A mistake of some sort is bound to happen in the absence of supervision. The same is true with a puppy or an older dog who has not be consistently been shown what to do. Using a crate is a must just as a crib or playpen for a baby or toddler when you can’t watch every move like a hawk!

Potty and House Training Essentials

Cleaning Enzymes

This is one of the most important parts to potty training a new puppy or an adult dog. Mistakes in the beginning happen. Not treated correctly and those beginning mistakes can set the precedent for a long road in the potty training area. Cleaning a urine accident with an enzyme cleaner is one of the most important steps you can take in the potty training process.

Dogs have the ability to smell to a much deeper level than we do. An area that been peed on without proper enzyme cleaning will continue to smell of urine to your puppy.  This is an alert that speaks to your dog along the lines of this is your bathroom, go here!

All urine enzyme cleaners are not the same. After years of training dogs and puppies I found things that work and things that don’t. Many of the most popular brands found in big name pet stores not only don’t work but leave your home smelling even worse. Planet Urine not only has been proven with hundreds of my own clients but also has has wonderful website with even more helpful information on potty training your dog or puppy.

A Crate or Kennel

If you cannot watch your puppy a crate or kennel should be in use. Just like the baby or toddler situation above. Leaving your puppy unattended is a big no, no and will make the process of potty training much more difficult. The goal is to have the least amount of accidents as possible. If you aren’t watching, the chances of an accident go way up.

Dogs learn and think in pictures and then start using those pictures to form a habit early on. You should never let your new puppy or dog wander about without supervision. This will ensure you can catch a mistake if it should happen. The only time your can actually correct your dog’s behavior in potty training would be if you catch it happening in the moment, tell your dog “no”, “bad”, whatever term comes out to stop your dog, then escort your puppy outside to the area that is supposed to be used to finish the job.

Get your puppy on a schedule early enough that you do not even have to deal with this problem. Outside every 2 hours for small puppies and up to 4 hours for adult dogs.  This will give your puppy the opportunity to go in the right spot every single time and you can skip over the step of having to correct or worse yet, find an accident that you can’t correct since it was already done.  NEVER discipline your puppy or dog for an accident previously done. You will need to go through the cleaning process and know that you have many more repetitions of correct behavior to override the memory of going in the wrong spot.

Collar and Leash

Many people want their dog to go in the same spot so the yard doesn’t end up with a bunch of yellow spots all over, or you find yourself looking around to make sure there are no little land mines to step in. Use a collar and leash while you are in the potty training process and you’ll not only be able to show your dog the place to go every time, you’ll also be setting up another important training component of walking on a loose leash from the very beginning.

You should be taking your dog out of the crate or kennel and going straight outside. Clip a leash to your dog’s collar and head on out to the area you want your dog to use as the bathroom. The act of going to the same spot will set up a default area in your puppy’s head and once the habit has been established your dog will continue the habit and head to the “spot” on all his or her own very soon.


Reward systems work. They work for people and they work for puppies and dogs. With people these days it’s usually money that provides high motivation. With most puppies and dogs a tidbit of a treat works. You’ll find it won’t take long for your dog to go out and go to the bathroom in the same spot when the motivation for a food reward becomes an easy habit to fall into.

As with much of dog training, timing is important. Make sure to have your dog treats ready to go so that right after going potty you can deliver the yummy reward. It works.

A Healthy Dog Food Diet

The kind of food you feed your puppy or dog as well as when and how much you feed are a bigger factor in house training then people often are aware of. There is more than one facet to the reasons behind this rule of thumb.

A better dog food is going to digest better… making it much easier for you to pick up I might add! And yes, it is important to pick up your dog’s feces as soon as the job is done. Many puppies fall into copaphagia or eating their own poop. Gross! Never the less it happens often and by picking up right away your dog won’t have the chance to gobble it down with the joy it seems to give them! You also won’t have family or friends accidentally stepping in it. And besides who wants to smell it or have to pick up a whole bucket full. Rule of thumb, whether in your yard or on a walk, pick it up right away.

A puppy needs to be fed at three times a day while and adult dog should get a morning meal and an evening meal. If your puppy is allowed to free feed (eat whenever the whim occurs) it is much harder to establish a potty routine. Even people tend to fall into a routine as to elimination because we tend to eat in patterns. Do the same for your dog making it easier when to predict the time to go outside for a potty break is best.

Feed a quality holistic puppy or dog food for long term health benefits as well as an easier time digesting for potty training purposes.

Potty Training Routine

Getting your puppy or dog on a schedule is key. Here is a typical schedule:

  • First thing in the morning go to the crate, clip the leash on and take your puppy or dog immediately outside.
  • Once the job is done, treat, reward, yahoo.
  • You can have some free play time etc at that point.
  • Feed your puppy.
  • If you are not able to watch your puppy after eating crate or kennel for 20 or 30 minutes.
  • Take your dog out of the crate and back to the potty spot.
  • Once your dog has gone (and yes you MUST supervise so you know), you can then let your puppy have some free time to play or hang out with your or the other dogs in the house.
  • You can tether your puppy to you so you can watch every move if you are busy doing things around the house (another good introduction to leash training)
  • Or put your dog in the kennel while you are busy if you don’t have the time or patience to be watching every move.
  • Set a timer, take your puppy out every 2 hours an older dog 3-4 hours.
  • You will need to get up in the middle of the night for puppies.
  • You’ll begin to find patterns of how often and how long in between your puppy really needs before having to go. Adjust the number of hours accordingly.
  • The feeding process is repeated with a puppy 2 more times, lunch and dinner, while and adult dog should only get dinner.
  • Take your dog out 20-30 minutes afterwards.
  • Free play time happens AFTER your dog has gone potty.
  • If you dog does not go… back to the crate and try again in 15-20 minutes.

Planet Urine - Do you want to stop your pet from peeing?

Potty Training Summary

  • Take your puppy or dog out often.
  • Crate or kennel time ANYTIME you are not watching.
  • Feed 3 times a day for puppies, 2 times a day for adult dogs.
  • Reward right after potty happens.
  • Free time after potty happens.
  • If a mistake happens in the house clean it properly right away with enzyme cleaner.

Bottom line, show your dog what to do all the time in the beginning and accidents won’t happen, habits will form and you’ll have a house trained puppy or dog in no time.

Ask Your Potty or House Training Question or Share Your Success Story

Every puppy and dog owner goes through it… and it is on the top of the list of my dog training questions. Post your specific question in the the comments and you’ll get a detailed answer, helping your dog to a better place and other owners who are wondering the same thing. As well, good puppy stories are awesome… give your dog props in the comments section!

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1 Ark Lady July 7, 2010 at 8:30 am

Nice back to basics post but I have one suggestion for the “puppy brained” crowd.

In some cases it is best to keep the “business trip” about business and then play once your return to normal activities since some pups tend to lose focus anyway and until the behavior is established, this makes it easier for learning.
Ark Lady´s last blog post ..Ark Animal Tracks July 2010

2 Deb July 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Great tips K-9 coach. I also noticed that the process is much easier when you have 2 other already house broken dogs. Learned that after lab #3 showed up in my front lawn one evening.

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