Becoming a new puppy parent is exciting, but it also comes with a few challenges, not the least of which is potty training. However, with a solid knowledge of puppy bladder control and development, housebreaking your new pet does not have to be a daunting task. If you're wondering when exactly your puppy will become house trained, there's no one-size-fits-all answer; it's up to a combination of you and nature. The good news is that most puppies can start to develop good bathroom habits, including knowing when and where to pee and poop, even before they have complete bladder control.
When can puppies control their bladder?
Puppies usually have full, voluntary control of their bladder by the time they reach 7 months old. As puppies grow and develop, so do their organs. This includes the urinary bladder, which will gain both strength and capacity as a dog approaches adulthood.
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In the beginning, you will want to take your dog outside to relieve themself as many as eight to 10 times each day. The frequency will gradually decrease as they mature. Be patient and work with your puppy's individual growth rate and temperament. You can also create a puppy bladder control chart on your calendar to remind you of each new phase of potty training. A general rule of thumb is that puppies can control their bladder for one hour for each month of age. Keep in mind, though, that these are approximations, as every puppy is different.
Puppy bladder control chart
- 1-month-old puppy: 1 hour
- 2-month-old puppy: 2 hours
- 3-month-old puppy: 3 hours
- 4-month-old puppy: 4 hours
- 5-month-old puppy: 5 to 6 hours
- 6-month-old puppy: 7 hours
- 7-month-old puppy: 7 to 8 hours
- 8-month-old puppy and older: 8 hours
Puppy potty training tips
In addition to understanding the basic timeline for development of puppy bladder control, there are a few other things pet parents can do to make the potty training process go smoother.
Designate a relief space
If you're away from home during the day and your puppy is alone for a few hours, you will need to confine them to an area you can cover with material that can withstand urine (such as potty pads, or "pee pads"). You can use baby gates or a dog crate depending on your space. Make sure the area provides a place for the puppy to pee as well as a place for them to rest, eat, and drink away from the urine. After the first time or two that a puppy pees in an area where they want to relax or eat food, they will soon learn not to do that provided they have an alternate toilet area.
Follow your veterinarian's advice about crate training as well as the size of space and amount of daily exercise your particular puppy needs and how long you can safely leave them alone. This will help you determine if you should get a professional pet sitter, neighbor, or friend to take the puppy outside while you're at work. Note that before puppies are fully vaccinated (usually at about 4 months old), you should be very cautious about exposing your pet to outdoor environments or other animals. Follow your veterinarian's guidelines on the best way to safely get your puppy used to going outside.
While some dog trainers recommend removing a puppy's water bowl at bedtime to decrease the chances of them urinating indoors, allowing free access to water is better for your dog's health and hydration status. Providing at least a small amount of water overnight will help prevent dehydration (which can lead to a variety of health problems) as well as behavioral issues surrounding water intake.
It is not advisable to use a doggie diaper without talking to your veterinarian because a puppy might chew off the diaper and possibly choke on the material, or they can develop an intestinal obstruction from ingesting part of the diaper.
Introduce a house-training schedule
To help start the housebreaking process, create a routine for eating, playtime, and bathroom breaks. This will help the puppy learn when it's time to pee and that it's OK to pee. If possible, try to take the dog to the same area each time so this location also becomes part of the routine, and the puppy knows why you've taken them to this spot.
Watch for potty break signs
In addition to creating a routine for your young puppy, watch for habits they might develop in relation to relieving themself, such as scratching at furniture, circling, sniffing, whining, or barking. The most obvious sign your pet wants to go out will be going to the door and barking. Some dogs will even grab their leash and bring it to you.
Reward your puppy when they pee outdoors
Don't scold a young dog when they urinate at the wrong place or wrong time. What the puppy is doing is natural (and often involuntary) and not disobedient. Punishing a puppy will only cause unnecessary stress and confuse the puppy.
Instead of scolding a puppy for peeing indoors, use positive reinforcement for good behavior. Make sure to reward them when they "go" outdoors. Do so right after they relieve themself — not after you're back inside — so the puppy clearly understands that they are being rewarded for appropriate bathroom behavior.
Other reasons puppies pee
Just as with humans, puppies (and adult dogs) can experience incontinence, which is an inability to control their bladder. Your puppy might also pee in response to stress. Some dogs, especially those who have been abused, will also urinate as a sign of submission. This is often the case when they meet new people.
As a puppy ages, they can also suffer from a variety of medical conditions or anatomic abnormalities that might cause urinary incontinence, including urinary tract infections (UTI), bladder tumors, or ectopic ureters. If your puppy doesn't seem to be taking to housebreaking, make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out health problems.
Potty training a puppy can be a stressful process for pet parents, but it doesn't have to be hard. Knowing the basic timeline of puppy bladder development and how long your dog should be able to hold it based on their age can help house training go smoother. Additional tips for success include establishing a reliable routine, designating a specific space for the pet to relieve themself, and rewarding appropriate elimination. If you are having trouble potty training your puppy, contact your DVM for advice and to make sure your dog is not experiencing a health issue affecting their house training.