A Foolproof Plan for Potty Training Puppies

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Creating the Perfect Puppy DVD


By Dr.Sophia Yin, DVM, CAAB, M.S. Animal Science (1966-2014).

Reader Question:
My 10 week old puppy seemed to do well the first several days we had him but it’s been a week and he’s still having accidents in the house. What can we do to fix this?


While young puppies provide many precious moments they, like infants and toddlers, require an extraordinary amount of time, planning, and energy—usually much more than one predicts. One of the most trying tasks associated with having a puppy is potty training. Some people think that potty training is as easy as just keeping the pup on a regular eating, drinking and potty-outing schedule where he is taken out every several hours. Or they think that the pup will be completely house-trained in just a week or two. For some precocial pups (meaning offspring born relatively mature and independent) this might be so. Most pups taken through such a lax, abbreviated potty protocol remain only partially house-trained. They learn that outside is a good place to go but don’t understand that inside is off-bounds. In fact, they may even come inside after an extensive play or exercise period and then relieve themselves on your expensive carpet.

The Full Potty Training Protocol for Young Pups

Here’s what’s really required for foolproof potty training—it’s not an easy task. When the pup wakes up, let him out of his pooch-palace, a travel kennel just big enough for him to sleep in but not large enough for a bed plus bathroom. Immediately carry or run him out on leash to the preferred potty spot outside and stand there, stationary and silent until he’s done both #1 and #2. As he’s about to potty you can say the cue word “potty” just once so he comes to associate the word with the action. Then you can reward him as he’s finishing. But, otherwise, you’re silent so you don’t distract him from doing his duty. If he’s done both, then, he can come in and have a meal and play session. If he has not, then he goes back into his pooch palace for 15 minutes after which time you try again. Repeat this process until he’s done both #1 and #2 or he’ll potty inside as soon as you’ve taken a break and strayed from the plan.


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Next, once he’s earned a free-time session you can let him loose in a small area if you can keep your eyes glued to him. As soon as you take your eyes off him, he’s sure to have an accident just as sure as your pasta water will boil over as soon as your attention is diverted elsewhere. Watch for signs (like sniffing the ground) that he’s ready to go potty again and run him outside if you’re unsure. Next, 15-20 minutes after he’s eaten or drank water, and every time he wakes up from resting or has been playing and slows down, take him out to go potty and reward him when he does. If he doesn’t potty, put him back in his crate for 15 minutes and then try again. During the rest of the day he should spend bouts sleeping in his crate, and you can regularly go through the same potty process you went through first thing in the morning. You may need to go through the process 4-6 times a day.

Once he’s relieved himself outside during the day, he can have a play session or be attached to you on leash so you’re more likely to catch the signs he wants to potty. The goal is that every time he goes outside, he sees this as his opportunity to potty and does #1 or #2, and when he’s inside he does not have an opportunity to make a mistake. This is the quickest way for him to develop an outdoor potty habit and to learn that indoors is not a normal potty place.

Usually after a week, you get a pup who goes potty outside on cue but who may still have accidents inside. This rigid routine must be carried out consistently for several months and without accidents for several weeks before it’s set. Even the most diligent owners should expect accidents and avoid getting upset. Just startle the pup if you catch him in the act so that you can hopefully get him to stop and then rush him outside to finish. Beware that if you punish him or cause him to be scared, he may just learn to potty in the house out of your sight so just chalk accidents up to your mistake and resume following the plan.

If this potty training process sounds like a drag, you’re right. The only thing more inconvenient than following this plan is having to randomly clean up after your dog in the house for the dog’s entire life.

Potty Training Refresher in a New House

What? You thought your dog was potty trained until he had an accident at your friend’s house? Well, he may be perfect in your house, but in new locations he may need to be retrained for a day or two. Even adult dogs frequently need to be retrained somewhat in every new home they visit so they understand where the new bathrooms are.

Here are some more puppy resources from our store: https://store.lowstresshandling.com/product/create-the-perfect-puppy-resources/

Updated 06/21


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28 responses to “A Foolproof Plan for Potty Training Puppies

  1. I have 3 month old puppy, I have only had her 2 days, I have not obtained a crate yet, I read the steps for potty trainning,she is supposed to be paper trained, we went out several times yesterday and all she did was eat the grass, and play, I did keep trying, though, but no success, this morning she did not use the paper for poop, and then tried to eat the feces. Now What???

    I look forward to a response, I also have a dog that is a rescue 3 years old, very fearfull of everything but no outward aggression. He primarily if terror stricken of new people, new places, except does well with other dogs,

    I let him out with us during the potty exercises is this a distraction for this small Shih Tzu Puppy?

    We have lots of rain and mud here in the Pacific Northwest, to be perfectly honest it a deterent for me, mostly due to the grooming requiquents for the mostly white haired Puppy. The puppy does have a pen area rather than the crate, I am not clear on how to tranisition from the papper/potty pads to outside and if the papds/or papper go in the pen or outside the pen.

  2. Dr Yin,

    Please let us know who to amend this for an older dog that is incompletely housetrained. We frequently see clients with this issue, and while I always tell them similar things, I am wondering if you have different advise! Thank you,

    Judi Wiegle RVT Muscatine IA

  3. I’m confused about the BM. I can see how we should expect them to urinate each time out of the crate, but aren’t BMs less frequent and tied more to their meals? If I take him out and he urinates, but doesn’t BM, it doesn’t seem like I should put him back in crate to keep trying over and over. Then the second time he may not urinate or bm, etc and back in the create again. Other places don’t mention that they have to do both, but just one. Please clarify.

    1. Dr Yin,
      I inherited a 1 year old dog and I had understood from his previous owner that the dog was house trained, but when I took the dog for one week (babysitting) I found out he was not! He shit and peed inside all the time, so of course as a soon to be new dog owner I yelled and did all the wrong things, so now the dog does his business when I am not looking!

      He still hasn’t learned to do both #1 and #2 outside, even first thing in the morning, which I now understand from your article was not the right thing to do to bring him in before he did both. If I leave the house door open, he goes outside on his own for both when he feels the need, but because I live in an apartment on a lower floor, I cannot make this a habit; it is not prudent nor safe. I tried the bell thing but that has not worked. I will try what you suggest but now the dog is a 2 yr old adult dog and I am tired of cleaning up after him. Please send me a reply.

      1. Hi I have 2 shitzui oldest one half who was toilet trained at a young age she’s no trouble the young one who is now 8 months some times she’s good a lot of time she goes out then comes in and wees and poor what can I do please

  4. We just adopted a labrador retriever 6 months ago and she is doing well till my daughters dog pees in the house sometimes so now my dog will pee were he pees even after I take her out what do I do

  5. We just rescued a dog that came from the South. He is approx. 3 months old. We live in MN. Everytime we take him out he shivers terribly. Can we put warmer wear and boots on him and then do your procedure, or is that too confusing?

  6. help

    My 4 month old lhaso, poodle Yorkie just isn’t getting the
    potty training. I’ve had her since January & she just won’t go where i want her to.
    i have tried EVERYTHING. any suggestions

  7. Our male puppy poops and pees outside but then comes inside and does it again. Help! What are we doing wrong

      1. Kathie and Torie
        Sometimes the pups won’t pee just once. They do it several times. Make sure when you bring them in to take them back out a few minutes later, or stay out longer the first time.

  8. I have an 8 week old Germans Shepherd and she is on a set schedule for food and water. I take her out 5 minutes after she drinks water or eats food, when she is done playing, and when she wakes up.Every time she is taken outside she goes to the bathroom (normally pee’s once or twice and poops about 5 times a day) and also gets a treat once she is done. Once she is brought back inside 10 min later she pee’s again. I am starting to lose my mind because she is taken outside almost every 20-30 min and then pees inside 5 min later. I know she’s young and probably doesn’t have control of her bladder but it is very discouraging when she has accidents in the house. Does anyone have any tips?

    1. Layla having exactly the same issue. 4th puppy don’t remember having this problem before. Searching and found this info.
      But not seeing reply’s
      My wife’s patience is warring
      Good info here going to restrict to one room

      1. I’m having this issue as well with my pup!
        We are outside people and she spends her days outside/inside.
        But will still have accidents after returning inside we are losing our minds here any tips would be great!

        My bank is draining in the amount of paper towel, and floor cleaner!

        1. I’m having same issue with my 13 week old Frenchie. I’m out of patience. Just wish I knew what I was doing wrong.

    2. curious if you figured it out? I had a german shepherd puppy that did that and ended up having a urinary track infection.

    3. Did u figure it out I have a 9 week old German shepherd and hes doing the same thing and I have a 1 and a half year old and I’m a single mom. Please help!!!

  9. We have a 14 week old puppy that we are having difficultly with. He is peeing when we go to take him out of his crate before we can get the door open. He gets very excited and can’t seem to wait. We have had 2 other puppies in the last 5 years and have successfully crate trained them but have not had this particular problem. I have not been able to find a solution on the internet. We need your help ASAP.

    1. Suggestion:
      Keep the crate right next to the door so as he’s walking out of the crate door he’s walking immediately out the house door.

      1. Very good suggestion! I have an enclosure outside that I take her to but she just jumps and barks and cries.


  10. Hello,
    I’m preparing to welcome a poodle puppy at home in 2 months. I’m planning to use the playpen as a crate substitute. I was wondering if it’s a good idea to buy an indoor potty and place it in the playpen during the night or the time when I’m not at home?

    1. Did you use an indoor potty? I’m getting an 8 week old puppy (sheltie) tomorrow and trying to decide if I should do this for a few weeks until she is older. Seems so much easier than going outside every 30 minutes.

  11. I love this, Sophia! Thanks for all the helpful tips. 🙂

    Recently I was googling how to train dogs with other basic commands, and it seems all the research suggests the key for training our pups is to keep patient, keep things fun and lighthearted… which is some of what you seem to be saying here. True?

    Anyway, I found a list of these top 5 commands and how to easily implement them using, you guessed it, fun and lightheartedness ha

    I thought I’d share them here with your community, if you don’t mind.

    After reading this, I truly value your expert opinion and wonder if you have anything to add to/comment on in those 5 basic commands. I plan to try these soon.

    Thanks again!

  12. I have a 13 week old male Chihuahua I’ve had him for 4 weeks now. We have two other females that are around 6 years old that are potty trained to go on a pee pee pad. When I first got my puppy he was peeing on the pee pee pads. Now I’ve found that he won’t use them. He is having accidents all over my house. He is pooping under our beds. I have a crate I put him in and I take him outside consistently but soon as he comes in he pees and poos. I don’t know what to do to stop this please help!!!!

  13. Dr Yin
    We have a 9 week old golden and we’ve had her for a week. She was so good the last 4 days and today is potty training day from heck. We take her out and a few minutes later she peed in the house. What am I doing wrong and is this normal?

  14. I have a 6 month old Cavapoo, we take her out frequently however we have to take her out into the garden with her lead on as she eats everything, runs under bushes and doesn’t come in when we want her to. She is also still having lots of accidents and chews on furniture and nips us. We feel as though we have tried everything but just continuously keep failing. Any tips on how to stop any of this behaviour?

  15. I have a 4 month puppy I’ve had fir 2 months. She can be outside for 2hrs, potty outside & STILL potty as soon after she comes in the house 🤦🏾‍♂️🤦🏾‍♂️🤦🏾‍♂️

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