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(As featured in Dog Dish Magazine )

Potty training can be an exhausting but totally necessary task for dog owners. Here are some do’s and don’ts that will set you and your pooch up for success whether your dog is 8 weeks old or 8 years old.

As a general rule of thumb your puppy should be able to “hold it” one hour for every month old they are. This is not a cookie cutter rule and can vary from dog to dog. But as a general guide if your dog is three months old, you can not expect the puppy to hold their bladder for more than 3 hours even if the dog is crated when you are away. On average a normal healthy adult dog is able to hold their bladder for 8 hours or more once they reach maturity. Always have your dog checked by a veterinarian first if you are having unresolved potty training issues to eliminate the possibility of an underlying health problem.


Consistency is the key to all things potty training. If you are not willing to put effort into establishing this you will fail. Dogs are not able to talk to us to let us know they need to go. So setting up a routine for your dog will be your best bet in preventing accidents inside your home. When you are potty training a dog it is important to make sure that your first priority when you get out of bed in the morning or walk in the door from being gone is getting the dog outside as fast as possible.

Once the dog has gone outside to potty it is important to reward the dog outside 1-5 seconds after the elimination happens. The dog has to be able to associate the treat with the action of eliminating outside. If you call the dog inside for his congratulatory treat, then he will not associate the reward with going to the bathroom outside but instead will create a dog that will not want to stay outside.

While you are home I suggest giving your dog the opportunity to potty every 20-30 min in the beginning of the training process. The more opportunities you give the dog to do their business outside and then reward them for it the more likely they will be to repeat this behavior. Dogs typically will look for two separate spots to urinate and defecate. They typically do not like to do both in the same place.

Give food and water on a schedule and stick to that schedule. This will help make your dog more predictable. If you allow your dog to free eat and drink all day they will constantly have food and water going through their system and it will be hard for you to know how much they have been consuming. If they do not eat their full portion at breakfast save it and combine with dinner each evening. Your dog’s body is programmed to defecate 5-30 minutes after they consume food. By feeding on a schedule it allows you to be more prepared for this.

I suggest sitting the water bowl down several times a day and letting them drink as much as they need, but pick it up after and then every few hours. You will want to pick up water for the last time about 2 hours before bedtime. When your dog starts to mature and hold their bladder than you can leave the water down 24/7. This is just for establishing routine at the beginning of the potty training process

Use a timer and a family schedule. It is easy to get distracted with our busy lives after work and school. Set your microwave timer to go off every thirty min to remind you to take the dog outside. Assign family members to certain times of day that they are in charge of this. It is a great way to teach kids responsibility and make them feel invested in the dog’s well being. Again, give the dog as many chances to do the right thing as possible while you are home.


This is very important. If you are not able to keep an eye on your non potty trained dog then it is a recipe for disaster. Not supervising the dog gives them a chance to sneak away and potty in another room, or out of your eyesight. Have a designated place your dog can be comfortable when you are not able to focus on them. I suggest crate training or using a dog playpen appropriate for your dogs size. Using baby gates to block off areas of the house is also a great idea. The dog need to be close enough to you that you are able to notice the signs of needing to potty. Sniffing, Pacing, circling in one area, and restlessness are all red flags that your pup needs to eliminate! Not all dogs will bark or scratch at the door to tell you they need outside. Using a tether is another option to keep them close by but never tether your dog and leave them unattended!


You have to make sure that you are rewarding your pooch every time they do the right thing. Do not play with your dog outside until they have eliminated. Once they have gone successfully you can reward with treats then a fun game of fetch or other game. If they really want inside, then their reward is a race back to the back door. Make it fun for them!

If a dog makes a mess on the floor and you weren’t there to see it you have missed your teaching opportunity. Clean it up with a product made for pets that has enzymes to break down the substances. Do not use cleaners with ammonia because they tend to just mask the odors instead of breaking them down. You only have a 2-5 second window to reward or redirect. So if you didn’t see it happen don’t yell and scream just reign in your supervision so next time you can catch them in the act or even better prevent it!

Do not rub your dog’s nose in their waste. This method is extremely outdated and does not produce results. The only thing it will do is make your dog scared of you. Be assertive. If you catch your dog in the act of eliminating in the house interrupt the behavior quickly by clapping your hands, or stomping a foot and them immediately redirect them to the positive place for them to eliminate. If you use too much force it will create a dog that will hide from you to potty. Being assertive is not the same as being aggressive!

In conclusion, take the time to set up a routine for your dog from day 1. Give them lots of opportunities to go outside and remember to always reward your dog for doing the right thing. By putting in a little more effort at the beginning of the process you are setting yourself up for years of happy accident free dog ownership!

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