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How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

To speed up your potty training process, keep your pup supervised, be in tune with their cues, pick a consistent spot, and be patient with the process.

A brown puppy lays on a potty pad next to a rope and a chew toy.

To speed up your potty training process, keep your pup supervised, be in tune with their cues, pick a consistent spot, and be patient with the process.

By: Sara Ondrako, Certified Canine Behavior Consultant

Many new pet owners dread house training their new puppies because navigating accidental puddles and middle-of-the-night potty trips can be pretty challenging. Potty training doesn't have to be so ruff! 

House training teaches your puppy the ins and outs of sharing a dwelling with their human counterpart. Helping to show them what's acceptable, what's not, what gets them access to resources they love, and what doesn't work in this human-dominated environment. The bulk of house training is often potty training.

In this article, we'll review how long potty training typically takes, an ideal potty training schedule to speed things up, and a few pro tips to make potty training simplified and successful for pet parents

A brown puppy lays on a potty pad next to a rope and a chew toy.

Potty Training Supplies

The first step to successful house training is ensuring you have all the supplies you need - and we're not just talking about poop bags here!

Crate or Kennel

You'll want a crate or kennel that can grow with your puppy, especially if you have a large breed puppy. Dog crates come in various materials, including plastic, cloth, and wire. Wire crates are more flexible, with easily assembled dividers for separated spaces that you can adjust as your puppy grows.

When you start potty training, limit room in the crate to where your puppy can stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If the space is too roomy, there's a risk that the puppy will do their business on one side of the crate and move to the other side.

Cleaning Supplies

Be prepared for the occasional oops with an enzymatic cleaner for all surfaces. Enzymatic cleaners, such as Nature's Miracle, break down urine for more thorough cleaning. All-purpose and other household cleaners often don't completely eliminate urine, even if you can't smell it. If your puppy smells urine after cleaning the area, they may return to that area to potty again. When accidents happen, clean the area thoroughly right away. 

Rewards for Good Behavior

Have lots of high-value treats ready to reward your pup when they go potty in the designated areas. Treats are a great way to reinforce your puppy's behavior of eliminating in specific areas outdoors.

Try a Hands-Free Leash

Grab a hands-free leash to tether your puppy to you when they are not outside, not napping, or would otherwise not be actively interacting with you. Tethering gives you the best chance at catching those "I gotta go!" moments before they become accidents. This umbilical-style dog training can also help speed up the learning and bonding experience between you and your puppy.

Potty Training Prep Work

Once you have the essential tools, set your schedule up for success. Aside from requiring frequent potty trips outdoors while learning, puppies also need a significant amount of one-on-one time, physical activity, and enrichment. A heavy workload is often not conducive to successful house training, so plan big projects or extended work hours around your puppy's arrival and development.

If you cannot do so alone, be sure to have help lined up, such as a dog trainer, dog walker, and/or pet sitter, before you bring your puppy home. Divy up the puppy duties if you have multiple family members to ensure your puppy gets everything they need and is supervised at all times when not confined. 

Plan ahead how to expand their free space. Gradually increasing the size of their confinement area as puppies move through potty training and develop more control of their bladders is an excellent way to keep what you've taught them intact and help them generalize. Once they're reliably going potty where you want and they aren't having accidents, you can expand those areas for more freedom by using baby gates or a playpen in addition to a larger crate. Wait to give them free rein of the entire house until they've graduated into larger spaces with no accidents. 

A grey puppy squats in some grass to go potty.

An Ideal Potty Training Schedule

You can use this simple calculator to determine how frequently to take your puppy outside to potty during potty training. Take the puppy's age in months, add one to that number, and that is how many hours (roughly) your puppy can go in between potty breaks.

For example, a 2-month-old puppy should ideally be allowed to potty at least every three hours (because 2+1=3). Anything longer than three hours is asking for a potential accident which will set your potty training back. As your puppy reaches five to six months, the calculator no longer plays a role, as most puppies can then hold it through the night (about eight hours). This does not mean they can hold it for eight hours during the day when they are awake on and off.

A good rule of thumb at this age is to offer them crate naps to build comfortable independence and use the moment you open the crate door or wake from a nap as the perfect time to take your pup out to potty.

When you open the crate door, immediately take your puppy out to potty. Give them time to sniff and explore first. If they go, offer verbal praise and a tasty treat before returning inside. If they don't do their business, place them back in the crate for an additional five minutes and then repeat the same process.

Puppy parents often make the mistake of bringing the puppy back inside, placing the puppy on the floor, and the puppy then finds a comfy spot to potty inside. 

An ideal potty training schedule is primarily based on age; however, it can vary depending on how much water or food the puppy intakes at a given time and even change for health reasons. If your puppy has recently eaten or taken in a large drink of water, expect them to need to go potty in about five to ten minutes. A routine feeding schedule can help make post-meal potty times much more predictable. 

Urinary tract infections make it harder for puppies to hold their bladder or cause them to go more frequently than usual. While this primarily affects female puppies, talk with your veterinarian about preventive measures for urinary tract infections, such as nutrition, grooming around the genitals if you have a long-coated dog, and potential supportive supplements if your pup is susceptible to urinary tract infections

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

The answer no one really wants to hear is this: the time it takes to potty train varies depending on the individual. While breed and genetics can play a role due to traits like intelligence and biddability, each dog has their own experience.

While potty training depends on the teacher's effectiveness, there are some parameters to help you know if you are progressing or could benefit from some professional guidance.

The average age to bring a puppy home is nine to twelve weeks. If you hit the ground running and commit to potty training from day one, you could potentially have a potty-trained pup in less than two weeks. If your puppy is a little older when you get them, say six or seven months, you could have potty training in a week, barring no medical issues or unexpected interruptions. While these are very achievable targets, potty training that fast does require a very consistent schedule and clear communication with your puppy. 

The other factor in successful potty training is successful crate training. The two are not synonymous. Practice crate games with your puppy to help them remain comfortable with their crate and provide enrichment when they are kenneled for independent time, such as a frozen Kong with sweet potatoes lightly cooked in bone broth. A distressed puppy in the crate can throw a ripple into training plans, but a happily crated pup makes potty training significantly more manageable. 

More House Training Pro-Tips for New Puppy Parents

Ditch the Puppy Pads

Even if you are an apartment dweller with smaller breeds like a Yorkie or a Maltese, puppy pads can lengthen your potty training process since you're teaching your puppy to pee and poop inside - and not associating potty time with the outdoors. When you remove the potty pads, you must retrain your pup to only go outside. 

Don't Rely on Litter Boxes

Aside from potty pads, some pet parents with small dogs will choose to litter box train tiny dogs in high-risk environments. If you pick this method, it's still advisable to help them feel comfortable going potty outside, too. Say you spend the day at your favorite park with your pup in tow, and you want them to be comfortable lifting their leg to a tree if they feel nature call. Or, you may visit friends or family that don't care for number twos in the home, contained in litter or not. In these cases, you'll be grateful you taught your pup to do their business outside, too.

Be on Alert for Potty Cues

Remember that the more they practice going potty in your home (accidents), the more confusing it will be when you teach them to only go outdoors. Don't let them out of your sight until they are fully potty trained to avoid them sneaking a leak during those 30 seconds you were preoccupied and didn't have eyes on them. Tether them to you so you don't miss the "I need to potty" cues and can respond promptly to avoid accidents. 

Pick a Potty Spot

Even if you have a large fenced-in yard, the repetition during the initial phase of trying to show your puppy where to potty can make learning easier for your puppy. Be consistent in heading to the same area the first several times you take your puppy out, and then, if you want to, you can expand their potty area from there. 

A pug lifts his leg to pee on a red and yellow fire hydrant.

Don't Overdo It

The brain and the body learn to coordinate when to contract and relax based on hormones and communication from the bladder muscles to the brain and back again. Taking your puppy out every hour or more frequently doesn't allow their bladder to fill up before emptying. It can make it more challenging in the long run due to conditioning their body to go potty frequently. It's not just about young puppies having smaller bladders but also about the strength of the sphincter holding the urine back and the messaging system that takes place as they mature. 

Be Patient with the Learning Process

Never punish your puppy for having an accident. In the long run, it will cultivate distrust and fear toward you and can cause confusion and other unwanted behaviors. Positive reinforcement is a much more productive way to teach your dog what behaviors are and are not acceptable.

For example, say your puppy goes poop on the throw rug in the hall while you are warming your coffee up for 30 seconds in the kitchen. Then you scold that puppy at the site of the poop by dragging them back by their collar and fussing at them. Your puppy isn't learning that pooping on the hall rug is bad. They are learning that you can be scary and that something in that spot is bad.

The concern with the disconnect is that your puppy may think poop is bad (scary things happen when it's present) and start eating poop to make the bad thing disappear so you don't scare them. They may also associate the area as bad if they've gone there a couple of times and been scolded in that same place a couple of times. This can lead to becoming very defensive in that area or other similar spaces in the home.

Stay Supervised

If your pup has accidents in the house, the only solution is to commit to not leaving them unsupervised and providing the proper parameters for your puppy to succeed. Most puppies can learn very quickly where to potty and where not to potty, so long as they have the type of teaching that promotes learning for that individual. 

You can also try positioning a camera toward your puppy's crate when separated for a nap or crate time. This will allow you to see when your puppy naturally wakes up so that you don't miss your opportunity to take them outside to potty on time.  

Potty Breaks During Playtime

Extended playtime can sometimes cause the need to go potty to sneak up on your puppy. They're having so much fun with you that they may ignore the initial signs that it's time to take it outside. Giving frequent bathroom breaks during more extended periods of play or other stimulating activities can help your puppy avoid being too distracted to signal to go out before it's too late.

How to House Train an Adult Dog

If you are house training an older dog, most of the same potty training tips will apply, except for the formula for the frequency of potty breaks. Keep them supervised 24/7 when not crated. 

Potty Training Takeaways

When you first bring home a new dog, no matter the age, remember that it's a brand new home for them, and they don't know the rules of your house yet, including where you want them to potty. Take the time to teach your new best friend where to do the doo by guiding them to that specific location and praising and rewarding them repeatedly for pottying in the right place.

 A brown puppy, seen from behind, squats in the grass to go potty.

If you enjoyed these potty training tips, check out our other behavior and training articles for more professional, evidence-based advice. We love helping dog owners understand their furry besties and cultivate long, meaningful relationships. 

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