How to Potty Train a Puppy in Seven Days

By Jodi Thornton OConnell

Bringing a new puppy home comes with the challenge of teaching him where and when it's appropriate to go to the bathroom. Mother dogs keep the den area clean from urine and feces until pups are old enough to follow her outside to relieve themselves. As this is a natural part of a dog's early training, you can teach a pup as young as 2 months old the basics of potty training. Above all else, understand that you need to be consistent, patient, and always choose positive over negative reinforcement.

Prepare Ahead of Time

Your pup needs consistency during the entire week of house training, so you or someone else dedicated to the process should be near him at all times. Plan an area where you will take your dog to do his business. An outdoor area should be easily accessible to the house, or he'll get distracted on the way to his potty spot. If you live in an apartment and want your dog to use training pads, select an area such as tile where any of his misses won't ruin the flooring. Invest in cleaning products that will remove the odor should he have an accident so he does not return to the same spot. Set aside one room of the house or a training crate where he'll stay contained between outings.

Constant Monitoring

You have to constantly monitor your pup's behavior to the best of your ability. Baby gates in the doorway allow you to see him (and vice versa) but not get loose. In addition to keeping him confined in a safe spot, you can also tether him to you in order to be able to monitor his behavior at all times while you're in the house.  Snap his leash to his collar, slide the loop around your belt and take him from room to room with you.

Time to Potty

Set an alarm to go off every hour for the first day while your pup is awake. Take him to his potty spot, point and give him your chosen potty command, such as the words "go potty." Be consistent with your command. Use the same words (spoken in the same tone of voice) and gesture each time, so he'll know what you expect of him. Praise and treat him when he produces results. Time outings so you take him out five to 30 minutes after eating or drinking a significant amount of water. Be sure to take him out last thing before bedtime. Your puppy will whine or move around restlessly when he needs to go out during the night. Take him out in the morning as soon as he is awake to avoid accidents.

See the Signs

By the end of 24 hours, you'll have a good idea how long your pup can wait between trips to his potty spot. The rest of the week entails being consistent, so the routine is well-ingrained by the end of seven days. When your pup is with you, watch for signals that he needs to go, such as whining, sniffing the ground, circling, and/or pacing. Some pups give very few clues that they need to relieve themselves, other than leaving the room or going over to a corner. Keeping the pup in a contained area such as a crate or small room usually elicits whining, scratching, and/or a sharp bark once the pup knows you'll respond by taking him outside to his spot. Be prepared for false alarms. Your pup will probably use the same signs to simply get your attention even though he doesn't need to "go." Please be patient with your puppy and don't get angry when this happens. If he doesn't go potty, simply bring him back inside.

When Accidents Happen

Accidents will definitely happen, so mentally prepare for them and do your part by not setting up your puppy for failure. Never leave your dog confined more than three to four hours even after the week is up. At about 6 months of age, he'll have enough control of his bodily functions to gradually get used to longer periods. The younger the dog, the more frequently he'll need to relieve himself. Should he have an accident between outings, never yell at him, put his nose in it or swat him with a newspaper. This will only teach him to fear you, and will be counterproductive to your housebreaking efforts. You also cannot correct his behavior if the accident already happened as your dog won't be able to mentally associate your present corrective actions with past events. You can only correct him right before or in the middle of the act. If he begins to squat while you're watching him, say "no" to make him stop and rush him outside to his spot. Clean up his accident using an enzymatic cleaner to help reduce odors. Most importantly, heap plenty of praise and treats on him when he does go potty in the right spot to reinforce good behavior.