Puppies are great fun, but they also require LOTS of time and attention. Potty training is one of the biggest frustrations I come across with dog owners of new fur babies. Something every puppy owner needs to remember is that potty training is a process. The owner is going to make mistakes, and the puppies are going to make mistakes, but it will get better and easier as the puppy matures.

Steps for Potty Training with a Crate

The method of potty training I use is based on a system created by Ian Dunbar. Follow these steps for successful potty training.

  1. The puppy should have a crate and be crate trained.
  2. When the puppy is not being attended to, he should be in his crate.
    1. The puppy should be in the crate for no longer than 90 minutes during the potty training stage.
    2. Only leave your puppy in the crate for up to 90 minutes if your puppy can hold his bladder. You may have to start with 30 minutes and slowly work your way up to 90.
  3. When you take the puppy out of the crate, RUN to the door you want him to use to go outside.
  4. Take three cookies with you, and when your puppy goes potty, reward him!
  5. Bring your pup inside and play, work, and socialize with him AFTER he has pottied.
    1. When your puppy is done or you have to move on to other things, put him back in the crate with a safe chew toy or a kong stuffed with his favorite treat.
  6. Set a timer for 30, 60, or 90 minutes, and come back when the timer rings to let your puppy out for another potty break. Repeat steps 3–5.


Develop a Routine

Write down when your puppy goes potty for three days. You should start to see a pattern and be able to start predicting when your puppy needs to go outside. This is the start to you and your puppy’s potty routine. It’s very important to keep a consistent routine for your puppy.

The puppy will whimper when inside the crate. Learn to look at the time when you crate your puppy.

  • Is he whimpering 10–20 minutes after a hard play? He needs to go outside.
  • Is he whimpering right after you put him away? You may need to ignore him; he probably just doesn’t want to be confined.
  • Ask yourself this question before ignoring your puppy: Did he potty when he had the chance? If not, he may need to go outside.
  • Is he peeing every 10 minutes? He may have a bladder infection and need to go to the vet.

Take the puppy out by yourself, without other dogs or kids. Puppies forget what they are supposed to do and get distracted when there are other opportunities to play and sniff.

If You Work During the Day

If you work, and taking your pup out frequently during the day is not an option, create a special space for your puppy. It should have a sleeping area, a play area, and a potty area. Toys in the play area should be tied down with cotton string so they don’t accidentally fall into the potty area. A kong is a great toy for this.

How do you get your pup to use the potty area? Wee wee pads have a scent that attracts puppies. Using these pads will teach your puppy to go to a certain area to potty.

Try to set your puppy area up right by the door you want him to use when he goes outside. When you’re home and you see your puppy heading for their potty area, you can intercept him and take him outside.

Secret Peeing

Never swat a puppy for peeing in the house or rub your puppy’s nose in his mess. This does not help the dog with potty training. It only tells him you don’t want him to pee in front of you and can cause him to “secret” pee. A secret pee is when a puppy runs into another room or closet to relieve himself, and it can be a tough habit to break.

Potty training is a lot of work up front, but it will be worth the effort!