Housebreaking Your New Puppy

You may remember that when you were a kid, house training a puppy involved putting newspaper all over the floor of a room that the puppy was constricted to, and maybe rubbing his nose in it when he “made a mistake” off the newspaper.

It’s too bad a puppy can’t be like a kitten – plop him into a litter pan and he gets it right away. But who would really want dogs to use litter pans in the house?

Successfully housebreaking your dog or puppy requires commitment, patience, vigilance, and—more than anything—consistency.

Most puppies will have some accidents in the house, hence the newspaper, but you can train your puppy quickly by consistently using basic potty training procedures.

Puppy being Scolded for Urinating Inside

Don’t expect success within a few days. It may take several weeks, or even longer with some breeds. Again, consistency is the key.

As a guide, a puppy can control his bladder one hour for every month of age. So, do the math. If he is three months old he can hold out for about three hours. If your job keeps you out of the house for longer than that at a stretch, puppy will need a babysitter.

In the wild, canine mothers keep the den clean by getting rid of their puppies’ messes immediately. The puppies learn not to associate the living area with relieving themselves because that scent is not around. We need to recreate this situation for puppies.

Two Things To Keep In Mind

Immediately clean and deodorize any spot where a puppy has peed or pooped in the house so he does not associate that spot with being okay.

Teach him to understand that bathroom breaks are for outside and not for inside.

Puppy Pooping on a Grass Field

Potty Training A Puppy

The most important thing in potty training is routine:

  • If a puppy is on a schedule, he learns that there are times to play, times to chow down, and times to go to the bathroom.
  • If you feed your puppy at the same three to four times every day, you can expect the timing of your bathroom trips to become regular as well, which will be easier on both of you.
  • Take your puppy outside after he wakes up, after eating or drinking, after playing, and generally at least every two hours.
  • Choose a spot outside for his bathroom and always bring him there.
  • Use a command phrase while she is pooping or peeing so she will understand that phrase as a reminder when she is older.
  • Take her out for a real walk for the sake of exercise and fun only after she’s done her duty.
  • ​Reward him with a treat or praise immediately after he’s finished so he associates the reward with what he just did.
  • Be sure she is really finished eliminating before giving that reward and taking her back inside the house—or she may finish inside the house and think it’s okay.
  • You puppy can sleep for about 7 hours without needing to pee. Take away the water bowl a couple of hours before bedtime to assist with this. She doesn’t require the water overnight.
  • If the puppy needs to go out in the middle of the night, be secretly glad he understands that’s what he needs to do. But make it as mundane as possible. No chatter, no playing, minimum lights—it’s all business and back to bed.

Puppy Carried to Outside Lawn for a Bathroom Break


  • Keep an eye on your puppy so you can take her outside if you think she is about to go on the carpet or floor. Grab the leash, bring her to the potty spot, and don’t forget the praise and the treat.
  • Signs that your puppy needs the bathroom: barking, circling, sniffing, restlessness, squatting, scratching at the door. These are good—it means he understands he shouldn’t do it just where he’s standing.
  • Other than the bathroom spot, treat the yard like a room in the house. The puppy should not be free to roam in the house or the yard until potty trained.
  • If you can’t supervise the puppy for a time, confine him to an area small enough that he won’t want to poop or pee there. You can use baby gates in laundry room or the bathroom to make a space just big enough for the puppy to stand up or stretch out.
  • Consider crate training your puppy.


  • Interrupt your puppy when you catch him in the act of eliminating in the house.
  • Don’t scare him, but do make a startling noise or say “bathroom!” or “outside!” and then take him straight to his potty spot.
  • ​Reward him if he finishes the job there.
  • Don’t punish or scold him for any mistakes inside the house, and DON’T rub his nose in it. You will do more harm than good. Just clean it up and try to catch him in the act sooner next time.
  • Getting the area clean is important. He will be drawn by scent to continue using that spot again if you don’t.
  • Be vigilant about supervision. You don’t want your dog to get confused about what is okay and what is not.

When You’re Away

Arrange for a dog-sitter to continue your training while you’re away. If you are not going to have a dog-sitter, he needs an area that has separate areas for sleeping, playing, and a bathroom spot.

Puppy Peeing on Indoor Grass

Pre-train the puppy to eliminate in a specific place indoors. You may need to resort to newspapers for this. Be aware that this might create a lifelong texture preference for peeing on newspapers that are lying around the house.

When your puppy must be left alone for longer periods of time, confine him to an area that has enough room for a sleeping space, a playing space and a separate place to eliminate.

The bathroom spot needs to be covered in several layers of newspaper or you can use pee pads. You can make a sod box by putting sods in a large container such as a child’s swimming pool.

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