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Dog Authority

Holistic & Practical In-home Dog Training & Dog Behavior


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Potty training is one of the first things new puppy parents want to make sure they get a handle on. Puppies are still growing physically and mentally making them not mature enough to regulate their food intake or water intake, nor be able to “hold it” for very long. The key ingredients to potty training a puppy is using a food and water schedule, setting up boundaries, praising at the right time, consistency among all family members, patience, and a good diet.

Potty Training a Puppy

Water Schedule

Don’t leave water down for them. You have probably heard dogs should always have access to water, but that statement tends to be geared for healthy already potty trained adult dogs, not young puppies. A good rule of thumb is to give them a bowl of water for no more than 5 minutes at a time. The time limit helps to program the puppy’s internal clock. You should give them access to their water bowl several times a day, but always with the time limit. Generally your pup will need to relieve themselves within 10 minutes if they have been playing or exercising or up to 20 minutes if they are calm.


Food Schedule

DO NOT FREE FEED! If food is available all the time, then the puppy can eat all the time, which means it will have to pot- ty all of the time. Give them no more than 20 minutes to eat. After the allotted time pick up the food and don’t give them more until the next feeding. Some puppies will want to go out to relieve themselves right away and others may take an hour or so before they will have a bowel movement. A good rule of thumb is to plan on making sure you have allowed an hour between when you have picked up their food and the time you leave the house. As a precaution for potential bloat, dogs should wait an hour before they are allowed to play after eating.



Until puppies learn to signal they need to go potty and to always potty outside, having boundaries is necessary.  This can be accomplished by using a crate and limiting the areas your puppy can go by themselves.



You should give praise at the right time. Puppies have very short attention spans and get distracted easily. While your puppy is going potty that is when you calmly praise. If your praise is too exciting sounding you will interrupt him/her going potty. It is also a good rule of thumb to use the command while praising. “Good boy going potty.”



Everyone in your household needs to use the same steps. Everyone should uses the same potty command, use bells if you are using bells, and watch for signs the puppy needs to go outside.. Puppies learn much faster if everyone is consistent. Patience

The key to every aspect of puppy training is patience. Be patient with your puppy because they are still mentally and physically growing. Their bladder will eventually be able to “hold it” much longer and they will learn to signal they need to go out to potty. Be patient with yourself as well because you are bound to make mistakes leading to your puppy having accidents. You will both get the hang of it!


How often should I potty my puppy?

Potty your puppy after he/she eats, drinks, sleeps, exercises, or plays. They can be expected to hold it for as many hours as they are months in age. For example a 3 month old puppy would equal 3 or 4 hours.  This only applies if they are not playing or on the move.


How often should I feed my puppy?

You should check with your vet to see how often you should feed your puppy because it depends on age and sometimes size. Very young puppies eat 3X a day. Ask your vet when it is ok to go to 2X a day feeding.


How much should I feed my puppy?

Generally you let young puppies eat all they want in the allotted amount of time. The back of the food bag can give you an idea of the amount or check with your vet.


How do I get my puppy to signal he has to go potty?

Put a bell on the door you take him/her out. Be sure the bell hangs low enough for him/her to hit with their nose or paw. Every time you take your puppy out to go potty get him/her to touch their nose or paw to the bell. You can put a treat right next to the bell and once he/she touches the bell, praise, and go right outside. Some dogs will touch their nose or paw to the bell if you touch it. Example: “Rocky do you need to go potty?” Once he touches the bell I would say, “Good boy let’s go potty.” Open the door and go. He/She should learn this pretty fast if you practice every time you take them out.


What do I do if I find an accident in the house?

DO NOT rub your puppy’s nose in it, yell at the puppy, or hit your puppy. These will only confuse and scare your puppy. Plus you could possibly teach the puppy to just not get caught and potty someplace out of sight. If you see your puppy starting to go potty just use a sound to interrupt your puppy and then quickly take him/her outside. Don’t yell or scream, just a simple and calm sound effect with get their attention and stop them from continuing to potty. If you do not see them and only find the accident, calmly clean it up being sure to use a cleaner with enzymes in it to break down and eliminate any smell or stain. The cleaner is important because if you use the wrong one the smell will still be there even if you can’t smell it which will encourage the puppy to potty there again. Keep in mind finding an accident is a reminder that you need to keep an eye on the puppy at all times or  confine them when you can’t.

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