Potty Training 101

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

(Taken in part from “Minding your Pees and Cues” Pat Miller)

House training is not always easy. Training your puppy to eliminate in the right place is a 24-hour job until he understands the concept and is reliable to do this on his own. Please remember that we are not “housebreaking” our puppies, which was the old term for punishing a dog for doing his business in the wrong place; but “house training”, which requires that we focus on helping the dog do it in the right place.

Two Main Steps to Potty Training Your Dog

1. Preventing the behaviour you don’t want (Peeing on the carpet)

2. Reward for doing the correct behaviour and be consistent. (Attention and a little walk for eliminating in the right place)


- Reinforcements do not always come from you.

- Try to think about what the puppy feels would be considered a reward when it comes to urinating. (relief on the bladder, a treat, a quick play session, a walk)

- Never punish a puppy for making a mistake. It is our own fault if we didn’t catch it.

- Do NOT push any dog’s nose into his mistake on the floor. This will cause fear and distrust that will undo everything you are trying to accomplish.

- Use your knowledge of what your puppy thinks is rewarding to create positive behaviours by rewarding. Example: Don’t wait until you catch your puppy peeing on the carpet; teach him that if he pees outside in his corner, he gets lots of praise and a small treat from the very beginning.

- It is up to us to prevent as many mistakes as we can.

Getting the Job Done

1. Bring puppy outside (or the puppy pad) to the designated area several times a day and stand there and wait. Don’t talk to the puppy or give any attention. You want to be BORING. *When the puppy’s excitement decreases, he will remember that he has to pee.

2. When he starts to go to the washroom, you can say “busy busy” “go potty” or whatever you want your cue to be that will ask him to go to the washroom.* Stay away from phrases that you may say to your kids, or in the home on a regular basis, such as “hurry up” or “go pee”.

3. Praise him and give him a treat when he gets the job done. Then play with him or let him go for a quick walk.

*DO NOT go straight into the house after he does his duty when you are training him to pee outside, or he will learn to hold it in hopes of staying outside for a long time before going to the washroom.

4. Repeat this after the puppy awakens from a nap, has a tiring play after he eats or drinks, and several times in between.

5. If he is caught in the act, just say “eh-eh!” loudly so that he is a bit startled, and then pick him up and take him to the right place. Make sure he is praised and allowed a few minutes outside to finish in the right spot.



- If you do not go with the puppy outside and you just push him out the door, he may decide that the other side of the door is the place to pee.

- Going outside on a regular schedule and following the above tasks will help the puppy anticipate going outside to be relieved. This sounds much better than going to the bathroom on the carpet.

- You may carry the puppy to the designated area for the first two weeks if he cannot hold his bladder long enough.

- Make sure to clean the mistakes with an enzymatic cleaner (regular household cleaners will not do). Dogs can sense pheromones from a previous accident and will be inclined to go in that spot again.

“If you really feel you must make use of that rolled-up newspaper, smack yourself in the head three times while repeating, “I will supervise the puppy more closely, I will supervise the puppy more closely, I will supervise the puppy more closely.” (Quoted by Pat Miller)

What to Do in the Middle of the Night

1. When he cries in the middle of the night, you must get up quickly, put him on his leash and take him out to the potty spot.

2. As soon as he has done his duty, say “yes!” in a happy tone, give him a treat, praise him for being a good puppy, and then gently put him back in his crate.

Note: DO NOT play with the puppy in the middle of the night or your puppy will WANT to get you up at all hours of the night because he thinks he gets to play.

Using a Crate to Aid in Potty Training

There are two types of crates to choose from; plastic and wire. Both kinds have positives and negatives to them. The plastic crate is quiet, a bit bulky when trying to move or take apart, and can soak up odours if the puppy has any accidents. These crates are also approved for many commercial airlines. The wire crate is a bit noisy when the puppy is moving around; it is easily compacted when folded for transportation and it provides a very open concept. The crate you choose is based on your preference.

Whichever crate you decide on must be big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Puppies need this space during every stage of their life. This means that as the puppy grows, so must the space in the crate he is living. Whether plastic or wire, the crate will have to have a barrier inside so that it is not too big. If the space is too large, the puppy may sleep on one side and defecate on the other.

How to Use the Crate Properly

1. We must know when the puppy has to eliminate. To do this, we must have a schedule feeding time. *If we let the puppy eat whenever he wants, it will be impossible for us to predict when he will have to go to the washroom.

2. If he gets the job done, praise him and let him have a bit of free time in the house as a reward with you right there to watch him.

3. If he does not go, he must go back into the crate and then taken to the potty area every 15 – 20 minutes until he does. Then you can allow him to play without worrying about accidents.

Note: If you cannot watch him, he must go into his crate, or playpen, to prevent the chance that he will make a mistake.

You can give your puppy more freedom as his potty training progresses. Just remember that giving him too much freedom too fast is a recipe for disaster. If he relapses and has an accident after he has been good for a while, you went too fast. Make sure to go back to the beginning and use these steps to get him back on the right track.


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