top of page

Potty Training 101 & Puppy Handling


PUPPIES are so cute!! However, there is a lot of work ahead with puppy training and potty training your puppy. The first thing to remember about any behavior that you do not want is to never let your puppy practice it or he will repeat it. The more he practices any behavior, whether good or bad, the more he will repeat it. So, the more he practices bad behavior, the harder it will be to reverse or go extinct. In this case, it’s going potty in the house.

CRATE TIME: When you cannot supervise your puppy, he must be in a crate big enough for him to walk in, turn around, lay down comfortably, and sit without hitting his head on the top of the crate. The crate will keep him safe and prevent him from practicing any behavior you do not want. In this case, it’s eliminating in the house. The more he is allowed to have potty accidents, the longer it will take to potty train your puppy. Most puppies and adult dogs do not eliminate in their crates. They learn from their mothers to sleep in one area and eliminate in another. The best crate to buy is one that includes a divider. Use the divider to give your puppy enough room to sleep. As your puppy grows, you will need to increase the size of his sleeping area. Make sure there is nothing absorbent (a mat or bed) in the crate until he’s potty trained. Puppies and adult dogs are fine in the crate without a bed. Remember they lay on the floor, the sidewalk, the grass, etc. Your puppy will have to eliminate the first thing in the morning, after eating and drinking, after play (sometimes even during play), after taking a nap and before bedtime.

SCHEDULE: Take your puppy out on a schedule. Take the same route and use the same door to go outside in the beginning. Puppies learn better with consistency and routine. As you are walking outside, say something like, “outside”. Then once you get outside say “go potty”. You want your puppy to know a word that means “we are going outside” AND a word that means “do your business”. For example, don’t say “go potty” until you are at the place outside where you want your puppy to eliminate. Feed your puppy on a schedule - once in the morning and again in the evening. If you free feed your puppy it will be hard to put him on a schedule. Pick up the water bowl about 6:00pm in the evening and take him outside to eliminate 2 times before bed.

ROUTINE: If you have a house with a yard and you want your puppy to only go in one place, put a leash on him before you go outside. Take him to the place you only want him to eliminate and say, “go potty” (once he goes potty in that place, you no longer need to use the leash). As you puppy is eliminating, name it “potty”. Say it 2-3 times, but be sure to pause in-between saying "potty" so your puppy will not think it’s one big word. It's very important to praise with a “good girl/boy” ONLY AFTER he is done eliminating. If you tell him he a "good boy/girl" while eliminating, he may not empty his bladder fully, and will finish his business when he gets back in the house. Give your puppy a treat immediately after he done outside. Do not wait to give him a treat when you get back in the house, or he will think he’s being rewarded for coming in the house. Dogs have an attention span of 3 seconds (puppies have about 2 seconds) and timing is everything, so the reward must be given immediately after eliminating or he will not realize that good things happen when he goes potty outside. Give your puppy only 10 minutes to eliminate, so he will learn that he only has a certain amount of time to do his business. This will prevent him from taking a long amount of time and then you are late for work. This will be helpful when you are in a hurry, or traveling and need to stop to let your dog eliminate. However, try not to go immediately back in the house after he eliminates. Let your puppy know that he can spend his 10 minutes smelling or exploring also. If you come in the house right after he has eliminated, the puppy will learn to wait until the last minute to do his business.

HOW OFTEN?: If your schedule allows on a day off, take you puppy outside once an hour. Then in a few days, take him out every 2 hours. Then in a few days, take him out every 3 hours until he can hold it and only go out 3-5 times a day. If it’s a work day, put him in a crate until you can let him out to go potty. When potty training a puppy, you add how many months old he is plus one to determine how many hours he can physically hold it. For an example, if your puppy is 3 months old, he can hold it 4 hours. That does not always mean he will, especially in the beginning stages of potty training. If you work all day, you may want to consider hiring a pet sitter for potty breaks until he can hold it longer.

IMCLEMENT WEATHER: Take your puppy outside no matter what the weather is. Your puppy needs to learn to go potty no matter what the weather is outside. Take your puppy outside in rain, on windy days, on sunny days and freezing temperatures. If it’s raining, bring the umbrella for you and do not cover him with the umbrella, or he will never learn to eliminate in rain. He will then eliminate in the house, which is not considered being potty trained. It’s similar to when you learned to drive. If you never practiced driving in the rain, you could never drive in the rain.

ACCIDENTS HAPPEN: If your puppy eliminates when you are not looking, do not punish him in any way. If you did not catch him eliminating in the house, he will not associate you being angry with him after the fact. Therefore, if you cannot supervise him, put him in his crate until you can watch him like a hawk. You MUST catch him in the act and interrupt him, take him outside and let him finish. Do not yell at him or hit him. This will cause him to go hide next time and go potty in another room. He will learn that when he wants to relieve himself in the house, he will get interrupted and taken outside, and when he relieves himself outside, praise and treats happen! Food to puppies and adult dogs are the best reward you can give him. If he does not like treats, you can give him hot dogs, luncheon meat or cheese. If he simply is not food motivated, then play a game of ball or tug, or a smooth belly rub. IMPORTANT: If you puppy eliminates in the house, you must clean it up with an enzymatic cleaner which you can only buy at pet stores. The enzymatic cleaner will get the order out of the spot that he can still smell. Our household cleaners do not get the smell out. If he can smell it, he will eliminate there again. You can say your puppy is potty trained when he does not have an accident in the house for several weeks. If he goes potty in the house once or twice a week, he is NOT potty trained. Remember, if you cannot supervise him, put him in his crate with a “settle treat” (ie., a Kong filled with treats and peanut butter) while you do what you need to do.


It is very important to get your puppy used to being handled for many reasons. This exercise is an opportunity for you to check your puppy's skin, coat, paws, and teeth in order to find lumps, bumps, bites, debris or potential health issues. Also, this exercise gets your puppy ready for his veterinarian examinations and groomer visits for bathing, teeth brushing and nail clippings. They will not be able to do their jobs unless your dog is desensitized to touch. Dogs who are not used to human touch may need to be restrained, have a muzzle put on him, or to be tranquilized. What's worse is your dog may have to take the risk of anesthesia for simple routine visits to his veterinarian.


Living with a dog who can not be touched is not pleasant for you or your dog, and is potentially dangerous if he is afraid or feels restrained. A dog who feels threatened can and will bite - even his owner. It is not fair to your puppy to not expose him to being touched by you and other people. Otherwise, your puppy will grow up to be afraid and anxious all of his life around people who are part of his world.

Six Steps to Desensitizing Your Puppy to Touch:

1. Sit on the floor and put your puppy in front of you between your legs.

2. Start a slow and calm petting action from head to tail (do not pet fast or with excitement or your puppy will become hyper).

3. Rub around his ears and pull them back to get him used to ear examinations.

4. Check his teeth on all sides of his mouth to get him used to teeth examinations and teeth brushing.

5. Press and hold the front and back paws to get him used to be handled for nail clippings.

6. Massage the tail up and down to get him used to having his tail lifted by the vet tech to take his temperature in his back side.


If at any time your puppy is squirming or restless, hold him gently without moving and stay calm. There's no need to yell at him or correct him. It may mean that you need to pet or handle him calmer. This should be be an enjoyable experience for the both of you. If he squirms, just act like it's no big deal and continue to desensitize where ever you can. He will be calmer each time you practice. You may also give him treats for his calming behavior. If your puppy starts to mouth or bite your hands during this exercise, place his favorite toy or bone in his mouth. This will give him something to do, and also lets him know that you are not trying to play with him with your hands.

bottom of page