How to Potty Train a Dog

Do you need extra help to house train a puppy or dog?

happy relationship with your dog

House Training a puppy or adult dog is an essential part of developing a long and happy relationship with your pet. As the saying goes, “patience is a virtue” and you will need this in bucket loads to successfully house train the new addition to the family.

Sometimes, despite all the reading and research you have done, things just don’t go right and you are looking for some in-depth specialist help. If you find yourself here, I’m sure it’s not for lack of trying, but there may be something small which is just not quite right, and with a little extra guidance we can get you back on track:

Click here to subscribe to a FREE course on house training puppies and dogs.

Here are some of the basics again, if you need to refresh your memory on things you need to know before you actually start potty training a puppy or adult Dog.

Signes your dog wants to go to the toilet

  • You need to understand your dog’s body language. Watch for signs that will indicate to you when your pet wants to go to the toilet. For example, sniffing the floor, or circling.
  • If you are house training puppies, remember that they need to go at fairly frequent intervals – as soon as they wake up, after short naps, after play-time, after meals, before and after being crated and finally, before retiring for the night.

Walk your dog frequently when potty training

  • Try and take your dog for walks at the time you think they will need the toilet. This will help build an association with going outside. Consistency will always help, so if not going out for a walk, take him/her out to the yard, and then to the same place in the yard next time they are going in that area.
  • Praise your dog after he/she “does their business” in the right place.
  • If you want to get advanced, you can try signal training over time, although this is not a necessity! This would involve creating some form of signal that your dog can use to indicate they want to go. For example, you could hang a bell at their level near the door and teach them to push it with his nose or pat it with his paw. I wouldn’t recommend this until basic house training is mastered, otherwise you may confuse your puppy or dog with too many things to think about at once.
  • Until your dog has been fully house trained keep him under a strict watch – this is really important, as accidents will most likely happen while your back is turned. Do not let him roam around the house freely.
    • You can use a crate if desired – some dogs can be very happy to get their own den and because dogs do not like to soil the place where they sleep, this can assist with house training. But be sensible with it – a giant crate could allow them to toilet in one part and “live” in another; a crate that’s too small won’t let them move around enough and will be uncomfortable; don’t think that you can leave them in the crate for extended periods of time without going to the toilet – this is unfair on them and if they hold it in for too long, they can damage their bladder and kidneys.


  • If you have a small dog and if you live in a high-rise building or in a place that does not have a proper backyard, you can try litter pan training – just like with cats, the principle is the same.  What you do is create a space for your pet to go in your house itself.

do not scold your dog

  • Use positive reinforcements while housebreaking puppies or adult dogs. Do not scold them, as this will create a negative association with you arriving home or coming into the room. you need to clean it up as if nothing has happened. (Remember to clean up with bio-detergent, or you won’t remove all the protein and they will smell the area and likely go there again). If you catch them in the act, a stern ‘NO’ or will do. It will startle the Dog enough for him to stop pooping.
  • Be prepared to return to a soiled home  – this is likely to happen frequently to start with and decrease over time, but it’s part of having a dog!

Vet check up for a dog

  • if a house trained puppy or dog suddenly starts having more accidents than usual around the house, please take them to the vet for a check up – it’s possible there is an underlying medical problem or health issue.
  • If you are patient and are ready to accept that house training a dog takes time, even months sometimes, you will end up with the right results.

Click here to subscribe to a FREE course on house training puppies and dogs.

Now we will move on to more specifically how to house train puppies and adult dogs.

House Training a Puppy

potty train a puppyIrrespective of breeds, house training a puppy is considered to be one of the biggest challenges by dog owners. If you think house training your puppy simply involves a steady supply of old newspapers, then think again.

A puppy does not develop full control over his bladder until it is over 4 or 5 months old. Since they are growing and developing rapidly at this time, puppies eat more, burn more calories and need to eliminate more frequently than an adult dog.

After each nap, meal, drink or play, take your puppy to his designated area (indoors or outdoors, wherever you have decided) and stay there until it eliminates. Then bring him to his crate.

Repeat this situation everyday until he has developed a habit out of it.

Click here to subscribe to a FREE course on housebreaking a puppy.

House Training an Adult Dog

potty train an adult dog

The best way to house train an adult dog is to begin all over again. This may especially be the case if you are taking on a rescue dog, that has possibly never had a routine or their normal routine has been severely disrupted.

Observe him very closely. Maybe even maintain a diary of where he goes and when. Whether he is pooping when you are home or only when you are outside; whether you can time yourself to be home when he feels the need to go outside.

You can try dog crates, but be careful to introduce him gradually to them.

Remember, commitment, consistency and intelligent use of positive reinforcement will make you the owner of a perfectly house trained dog. Don’t expect miracles. You will only be disappointed and it does take time!

Get this FREE course on potty training a dog.

If you have any comments or would like to share things that have or haven’t worked for you, please do so below. We would love to hear from you 🙂

6 thoughts on “How to Potty Train a Dog

  1. This is an excellent post. I’m in the process of house breaking a 10 week old Shepador puppy.The tips regarding puppies will help me enormously . Thank’s A Million

    1. I’m so glad you’re finding this useful! Hope the house training is going well – and I bet your Shepador is a great looking pup. 🙂

  2. I believe every dog owner should be responsible and do the best for their pet. When do you think a potty training should start? When the puppy first enters the house or wait a little?
    Is it easier to train a puppy or an older dog?
    I must admit that I am more a cat person, but because our kids want a dog we might need to come back to your site.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Ellie,

      Potty training should be started when the puppy is around 12-16 weeks old, so as long as the puppy is old enough you can start as soon as you bring him/her home. The reason being at this age they have sufficient control of their bladder and bowels, so they are physically able to start to “hold it in”. However, it’s really important to remember their bladder is still pretty small, so they need to be taken outside to the same spot very frequently to reinforce toileting habits. And be prepared for accidents along the way!

      To answer your second question: Usually it would be quicker to train an older dog, as they are more likely to have previous experience – however, it does depend on their background. If they have never been house trained it may take longer than it would with a puppy, as they are having to “re-learn” existing behaviors.

      I hope I can help you further if you go ahead and get a dog. 🙂


  3. This is a very thoughtful article. I think it is important that people understand that they will need a lot of patience when training their dogs, either young or older ones, and that taking short cuts with the training just won’t work. Be thorough, and realize that there will be some setbacks along the way, but when the training is complete, you gain a friend for life, and that makes it all worthwhile.

    1. Hi Molly,

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment – you are so right about patience being the key and that it is unlikely to be smooth sailing all the time. it is definitely worthwhile in the end!


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