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Potty Training for Puppies

Potty Training for Puppies 1

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You’ve recently acquired a puppy and want to ensure they become house-trained quickly. Here are some tips to help you achieve that goal.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the early living conditions play a role in a puppy’s ability to learn cleanliness. A puppy raised in a home with access to the outdoors and living with its mother will quickly learn, through mimicry, to go potty outside. On the other hand, a puppy raised in a breeding facility, living in a cage and eliminating there, will not have developed the right habits.

Your puppy will learn to control its bladder and bowels as it grows older. Before 10 weeks of age, it is incapable of holding it for an extended period, outside of its designated area.


You might be hesitant to take your puppy to public places due to incomplete vaccination. This is an unfounded belief!

If the puppy’s mother has been properly vaccinated, she has passed on antibodies through her milk, providing protection against diseases targeted by vaccines. When you acquire your puppy after 8 weeks of age, they are identified and vaccinated as required by law. Therefore, they are protected, and you can take them outside.

In addition to potty training, this exposure to the outside environment is crucial for their education and understanding of their surroundings.


Your puppy has a fragile immune system as a “baby,” so it is advised to exercise reasonable and responsible behavior regarding their interactions with other dogs and certain places. Avoid exposing them to unfamiliar animals whose health status is unknown. Canine relief areas are also breeding grounds for parasites, viruses, and bacteria, so it’s best to keep puppies away from them. Furthermore, it is not recommended to let them swim in stagnant or dirty waters.

Rules for Training

Regardless of the behavior you’re trying to teach, there are two techniques:

1. Reward: It should be given at the moment of the desired action. It can be a food reward if the puppy is food motivated (treat), an affectionate reward (pat), or a vocal reward (verbal praise). Food rewards should gradually become random and be replaced by pats and verbal praise alone. Rewards are highly effective in training, being 10 times more effective than punishment!

2. Punishment: It should be “ethological,” meaning it belongs to the dog’s behavioral repertoire, immediate, and justified. For potty training, you should punish the puppy when it assumes the position to eliminate, using a deep and stern voice and possibly lifting the puppy gently by the loose skin on its neck (similar to what a mother would do).

Note: In training techniques, there is also the concept of extinction, which involves ignoring the behavior one wishes to eliminate. This technique is useful, for example, in teaching a puppy not to beg at the table. The first time it begs, do not respond and ignore it; the puppy will return to its designated area, understanding that the behavior brings no rewards. This technique is also instinctively used during the first night after adoption when the puppy may cry. By not responding to its cries, the puppy will eventually stop and fall asleep. However, this technique is not applicable to potty training.

Potty Training for Puppies


Teach your puppy to eliminate outside.

Take your puppy out after each meal (remember to provide the puppy with three meals after your own, allowing 15-20 minutes before removing the bowl, even if the puppy hasn’t finished eating). Always take them to the same spot for elimination.

Give them excessive praise (treats, pats) as soon as they eliminate.

Don’t go back inside immediately, but engage in a play session or continue the walk so that the puppy doesn’t associate elimination with going back inside.

However, do not let the puppy play until they have eliminated, as they will then want to go outside frequently, having associated going out with playtime.

Punish them when they eliminate in inappropriate places.

When the puppy assumes the position, scold them with a deep and stern voice, saying “NO,” with hands on your hips. You can also give them a light tap on the backside and immediately take them outside to an appropriate spot for elimination.

Do not shout (especially women), as a high-pitched voice can be an invitation to play!

If the puppy eliminates in your absence: “out of sight, out of mind!”

Put the puppy in another room so that they don’t see you cleaning. Getting down on all fours to clean up can be interpreted as play behavior, and the puppy may think you’re playing with their waste!

You may feel like when you enter the house, “they know they did something wrong”…. Wrong! The sad and guilty expression on their face when you return is simply a reflection of your stern and angry face as you search for where they peed again!

Clean urine/feces stains with a deodorizing/disinfecting product (or white vinegar) without ammonia or bleach, as these smells attract dogs and they may return to eliminate there.


Do not push the puppy’s nose into their waste; it serves no purpose. Dogs sniff each other’s urine, and their own does not have the repulsive connotation humans may associate with it. Showing them their waste to scold them communicates that their waste is not acceptable, but it does not indicate that the location is inappropriate!

Do not scold your puppy if they eliminate in your absence.

Some Handy Tips

Puppies should be house-trained by 4 months of age, with a few late bloomers taking until 6 months. Male puppies may have more difficulty with potty training.

Be lenient and quick in the morning: initially, take your puppy outside promptly to eliminate. Between holding it overnight and the joy of seeing you in the morning, they won’t be able to wait for you to have breakfast before going outside!

For light sleepers, you may notice your puppy moving or crying in the early morning. If you have the energy, you can take them outside, then put them back in their designated area and go back to sleep. However, be careful not to make the puppy think the day has started; be less expressive and do not respond to their requests for play.

To facilitate nighttime potty training, you can use a “Varikennel” or similar type of transport crate as their “bedroom” for small-sized dogs. Puppies naturally understand not to eliminate where they sleep. This area should not be seen as a punishment but rather as a cozy sleeping spot (with a blanket and bed). Ensure the crate is of an appropriate size for the puppy to lie down at the back while leaving a small area at the front for potential nighttime accidents! At bedtime, encourage them to return to their “bedroom.” In the future, this crate will serve as their bedroom in other circumstances, such as when you sleep over at a friend’s house or stay at a hotel.

For owners who are away for a significant part of the day, it is possible to train the puppy to eliminate in a designated area (using a litter box or a paper-covered tray). Since the puppy cannot hold it, it is more convenient to clean a specific area than to search for accidents upon your return. In this case, designate a specific spot and teach the puppy while you’re present (as it’s not natural for dogs like it is for cats): when you see the puppy whining, circling, or assuming the position, pick them up and place them in the designated area, praising them when they eliminate. Gradually, the puppy will learn to hold it better, and after a few weeks, when you come back, there will be nothing in the designated area, and you can eliminate it.

In certain stubborn cases, it may be advised to remove the water bowl at night as the puppy doesn’t need to drink. Assuming they eat around 8 p.m., leave the water bowl until 9 p.m., take them out at 10 p.m. for their last elimination, and they should be able to last a good portion of the night before their bladder fills up.

Do not confuse the puppy’s elimination needs with a few drops they may release due to excitement, such as the joy of seeing you or in response to a scolding. This behavior will diminish as they grow older.

A common remark is “my puppy goes outside, plays, and comes back inside to pee!” This indicates that the puppy has not yet understood the appropriate elimination location. In this case, spend more time with them outside and observe them until they eliminate. Once they do, praise them!

Finally, be aware that for this training, as well as for all the other rules you want to instill in your companion, it will sometimes require a lot of patience. However, these first weeks of shared life will determine the wonderful years to come.

Attention, When Medical Issues Interfere with Cleanliness…

Puppy’s lack of cleanliness should not be confused with a medical condition such as cystitis (urinary tract infection) that causes frequent small amounts of urination. This condition is often accompanied by other signs such as lethargy, decreased appetite, strong urine odor, or changes in color. In such cases, consult your veterinarian promptly.

Potty Training for Puppies

My dog was clean, but now they’re not…

This could also be the first sign of a urinary tract infection.

In male puppies, marking behavior may appear during puberty or when they come into contact (or sense nearby!) with female dogs in heat. The presence of other dogs can also trigger this behavior. In these cases, the sequence involves clear marking, with the leg lifted high and urination on a vertical surface (unlike a puppy who simply creates a puddle in the middle of the room).

mahatma gandhi portrait

- Mahatma Gandhi

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”