French Bulldog puppy learning to potty train

Tips for potty training your puppy

Team Walmart Pets

June 2, 2021


min read

Housebreaking a puppy is one of the first orders of business after getting your new dog — but there’s no need to stress if your newly adopted older dog needs a refresher course, too. The most important thing is to be attentive, consistent and use lots of positive reinforcement when potty training a puppy or dog. 

You might be wondering, how long does it take to potty train a puppy? Before we get there, check out these tips to start you on your dog potty training journey:

Create a bathroom routine with crate training 

A crate is one of the easiest and most effective tools for potty training dogs. It’s a common misconception that dogs dislike being in a crate. In fact, dogs love being in their crate, especially after they’re properly trained to use it — as it plays to their instinctual desires to be in a den. When introduced correctly, a crate can become your pup’s favorite place in the house.

  • You can use a wire crate or a plastic crate, either way, they should be large enough for your dog to comfortably stand up, lie down and turn in a circle.
  • A crate can be used as your dog’s bed, babysitter and time-out zone. If you have a dog who is not potty trained at home, they should be in their crate any time you aren’t actively supervising them.
  • Teach your dog that their crate is a relaxing and safe space by giving him something fun to do while they are in there. Try a stuffed or frozen KONG toy—both of these last much longer than a traditional dog biscuit and engage your dog’s brain and body so they don’t get bored. 

Recognize when it’s time to go

Though they may not verbalize it to you, your dog has ways of telling you they need to go to the bathroom. Here are some tips for recognizing when your dog needs to go potty:

  • If your dog is engaged with you in a play or petting situation and then suddenly walks away, it’s time to take him out to use the bathroom.
  • If you see your dog sneak off to another room where family members are not present, you can bet you’re in for a surprise later!
  • If you notice your dog lingering by the door, they probably need to go out. Even if they don’t, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
  • Remember that what goes in must come out — so if your dog has had a lot to eat or drink within the last hour, they may need an extra potty break, even if it’s not in their regularly scheduled routine. Being vigilant during the potty training process will set you both up for success.

Keep your pet close

Too much freedom too soon is a mistake for young pups. In this phase where you’re working on housebreaking your puppy, it’s important you keep a watchful eye on your dog at all times. It’s easier to prevent accidents than to make your dog unlearn where to go. This may mean leashing your dog in the house or closing doors to rooms you’re not using so they can’t access them.

It may help to put a small bell or jangly tags on your dog’s collar to alert you if they start to move. That way, if you’re watching your favorite TV show while your dog sleeps at your feet, you’ll know they need a potty break as soon as you hear that bell moving away from you. 

Don’t rub their nose in it

Sometimes puppy potty training tips become widespread, but actually have no merit. Here’s an example: Rubbing your dog’s face or nose in their mess. This has not only been proven to be ineffective, it makes your dog scared of you the next time they have an accident. And there’s more: if you use this method, there will be another accident. Why? Because dogs live in the moment, so you cannot punish them now for what they did in the past, even if it was only ~five minutes ago. Next time you walk into a room and find an accident that’s already happened, grab a rolled up newspaper — and hit yourself with it, because you should have been watching your dog more closely in the first place.

When you come into the room and find a puddle or, ahem, “present” on the floor, your dog pulls their ears back and gives you their best “I’m sorry” act. It’s easy to believe that they know what they did was wrong, but in reality, dogs don’t have the cognitive capabilities to put that scenario together. What they can do is figure out patterns that happen in certain circumstances. So does your dog know that you are actually upset that they made the poo? Probably not. They just know that he’s in a room with poo, and you’re mad!

Housebreaking your new puppy can be a challenging time for any new pet parent, but if you stick with it, follow these tips and stay patient, you should be pee-free at home in a few months. It can take some pets up to a year to learn where to properly go, but don’t lose hope. After all, there’s always carpet cleaner!


Dog Training

Crate Training


Photo by Graham Holtshausena on Unsplash