Ky Country Doodles

There are 4 elements to be found in every successful puppy potty training regimen:

1. Confinement 
2. Training 
3. Timing 
4. Praise

What we are going to do here is break down each of those elements on an individual basis, as well as touching on what to do in special cases.


Confinement is one of the most crucial elements in potty training puppies and also potty training dogs who have yet to be fully acclimated. A good cage or crate is absolutely the most effective place to confine your dog. In the early stages of training, it’s important that you leave the bottom of the crate bare, which means not laying down a blanket or paper. All you will achieve by adding that is giving your pet something to destroy. Most puppies WILL NOT eliminate in their sleeping space, but it’s important that the cage or crate be just big enough for him to lie down and turn around in. If you go with a larger space, he may eliminate in the corner and then sleep at the other end. If you have a puppy that is going to grow into a much bigger dog, you can partition the crate and expand the space as he grows.

Using a Leash and Words

It’s always a good idea to use a leash when training your puppy or dog where to eliminate. This allows you to keep him close and in control of where he goes. The slightest little distraction will set a puppy off and running, all of which combines to take his mind off why he is out with you in the first place. If you see him get distracted, a gentle tug on the leash will get his attention right back to the task at hand. The leash also allows you to lead your dog to the exact area where you would like him to eliminate. Taking him there every time lets him learn where he is going and why.

You should also consider teaching words for elimination. You puppy will pick these up very quickly, and will soon become aware of what you want him to do, and when you want it to happen. You could use something like “go potty” for urination, or perhaps “go poop” when it’s a number two. It doesn’t really matter which words you use, as long as you keep them consistent and only use them for elimination. There will be a lot of repetition, but it does pay off.

For example, if OUTSIDE is the word you use for elimination, you can use it in different phrases, such as “Are you ready to go OUTSIDE?” “Let’s go OUTSIDE,” etc. As long as you have OUTSIDE in there every time, that word will resonate and make it clear what it is you expect from him. Over a period of time, you will start to get a response to the word, with barking and tail wagging common signs of comprehension.

Training and Praise

The easiest type of leash to get on and off your dog is a slip style leash. If your puppy is having a hard time adapting to the leash, slip it on anyways, but carry him outside, making sure to use the phrases that you have been teaching him for elimination. Always place the emphasis on the key word when you speak, which will generally be OUTSIDE. Once in the area you want him to go, change your tone and start using the phrases that you have decided upon for urination and defecation. Keep him focused by giving a gentle tug on the leash when he becomes distracted. Let him sniff around and explore a little as you tell him to “go potty,” making sure that the tone of voice you use is encouraging. Once he has eliminated, switch to a happy tone and use words of praise to show him you are pleased, “good go potty”. It is better to stick with words of praise as opposed to petting and treats, as those can often get in the way of the act itself. Most dogs pee first then poop later. If you give a pet or a treat after the pee, it will take his mind off the poop. Get used to your dog’s habits so you will know what to expect each time.

It would seem to go against common sense, but winter is actually the easiest time for potty training puppies. No-one likes being out in the cold, least of all your puppy. There are also fewer distractions.


Learning how to eliminate appropriately means that your puppy earns freedom. You puppy should only be free from the crate when he has learned how and when to eliminate outside. Once he is granted that freedom, it will still be up to you to supervise his movements, so that you can nip any inappropriate elimination behavior in the bud. There are plenty of ways to dictate where he goes when free, with baby gates and short leashes (supervised when in use) helping keep him in an area where you can get to him quickly if need be. If you don’t do this and end up grabbing him, it may make him fearful. These methods of restricting freedom areas also helps you catch and correct things like chewing, digging, eating the wrong things, and a host of others.

Your best chance of success comes if you can anticipate his needs!

Generally speaking, the amount of time that the puppy can be left in a crate without being allowed out is about the same as his age in months:

2 months old = 2 hours of confinement without a potty break
3 months old = 3 hours of confinement without a potty break
4 months old = 4 hours of confinement without a potty break
etc. – up to about 6 – 8 months of age.

When you have a change in what he does actively (walking, eating, playing, etc.), you need to take him outside ASAP!

Watch for the signs that he will give you that will show he is ready to eliminate. These include an abrupt stop in play, sniffing, circling, running out of the room, and giving you a specific look. You may not spot these in the early stages, but they will soon become familiar.


It’s not the end of the world if your puppy eliminates in the home or the crate. If you catch him red-handed, make an abrupt clapping noise and say “uh uh” in a firm voice to let him know you are unhappy. Let him know that he is behaving badly and that he should be doing this outside. You then soften your voice and tell him it’s time to go OUTSIDE. This is repeated in an even friendlier tone until he follows the command (“go potty”). Be sure to praise him when he finishes the job outside (“good dog, go potty!”).

The important thing to remember here is that this only works if you catch your puppy in the act of elimination. Chastising him after the fact, even just a few seconds later, only let’s him know he will be in trouble for the act. It doesn’t teach him what he should be doing. Dog behaviorists show how this works by running a little test. They will take a piece of poop from the yard and place it in the middle of the floor in the house. Once the owner comes back in the house, the dog immediately runs and hides. He will find a space that he believes to be safe, usually where a toy or bone is located. If the owner then gets the dog, drags him back, and rubs his face in the mess, the puppy simply believes that he is being punished for playing with his toy or bone.

Timing is a major part of proper potty training. This means catching him the act and correcting, followed by praising him for appropriate behavior. When he does things right, you must always be consistent with your praise. This is still the case even after they are trained, as accidents can still happen.

Here is a little something that you need to remember when potty training your dog:

If you puppy has NEVER eliminated in the house, he has never been caught and corrected so that he can understand it is wrong. You can’t effectively train your dog without accidents ever happening.

How To Potty Train a Puppy

Whether we like it or not, puppies need to eliminate. It can be frustrating for an owner, as puppies are not able to understand the boundaries yet, which means elimination happens in places it shouldn’t. When they need to go, they go, and you need to be aware of that as an owner. This is actually the approach that puppies take to everything, including eating, sleeping, and playing. They think of very little outside of those things. What that means is that it fall on you, the owner, to tech your puppy responsible behavior. You need to teach them what your requirements are, unless of course you just want them to keeping doing things the way you don’t like.