How to Train a Stubborn Dog Who Won't Potty Train

You love everything about your new puppy, from his little, wet nose to his wagging tail, but you certainly don't like the messes that he leaves you on your carpets and floors. It may seem like your puppy won't potty train when he continually has accidents within the home, but there are steps you can take to get your little pup going where he should in no time at all. With regular training and lots of chances for success, your tiny pup will be successfully going where you want him to reliably.

German Shepherd puppy with leaves in her mouth, enjoying sitting in the grass on a sunny day.
It may seem like your puppy won't potty train when he continually has accidents within the home, but there are steps you can take to get your little pup going where he should in no time at all.
credit: Barbie Lee/iStock/GettyImages

Puppy won't potty train

It might seem like your puppy won't potty train, but maybe you're not giving her enough chances for success. Potty training may take up to six months, so patience is definitely required. Two things can set you on the path to success, though. First, feed your pup on a schedule so she'll eliminate at consistent times each day, and second, plan on lots of bathroom breaks.

Little pups have little bladders, so they'll need to go out every two hours to start with, recommends the Humane Society of the United States. That may seem like a lot, but it ensures your pup reliably eliminates where you want her to. Little pups may even need a bathroom break once in the middle of the night, at least to start with until they are able to hold their bladders throughout the night consistently.

You'll also want to take your pup out first thing in the morning, right after meals, and just before bedtime. Remember, the more chances you give your pup to go where you want her to, the better your chances at the potty training being successful.

Crate train your puppy

One of the best ways to stop accidents within the home and ensure success is to use a crate when potty training a stubborn puppy. Choose a crate that is large enough for your pooch to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably within. For growing puppies, look for an expandable crate that can grow with them as they develop into their full adult size.

The key to crate training is to give your pup just enough room to be comfortable, but not enough room to eliminate within the crate and be able to sit away from that elimination. Make the crate comfortable, giving your pup some toys to play with and a cozy blanket. You want your pup to associate the crate with positive things, not negative ones, recommends Cesar's Way.

Feed your pup within the crate to start with, recommends PAWS. Once your pup is reliably eating within the crate, try closing the door for 10 minutes to start, then increasing the time for up to 30 minutes. Eventually, you can leave your dog within the crate overnight to prevent accidents, but remember not to keep pups under 6 months of age crated for more than 4 hours at a time.

Choose a comfortable spot outdoors

If your puppy doesn't seem to want to go to her outdoor spot to eliminate, there might be a reason for that. Maybe there is inclement weather like rain and snow that's making it uncomfortable for her to eliminate. Or, maybe there are scary noises like traffic and other things spooking her.

Pick a spot that's quiet, away from noisy traffic, and sheltered from the weather with an overhang. Once you find a spot your pup seems comfortable with, continually go back to that spot. When it comes to training, consistency is the key to making it work. Plus, the scent of his urine and feces will prompt him to come back and eliminate in that spot again.

Reward the behavior you want

You might be thinking "my dog won't potty train," but maybe that's because you're not rewarding the behavior you want. When your pup eliminates outdoors in her designated potty spot, give her a reward, recommends WebMD. That reward might be a tasty dog treat or a walk around the neighborhood.

Praising your dog lets her know when she's done just what you want and encourages her to do it again. You can also begin to associate a command with the behavior you want, such as "Go Potty." Say the command, wait for your puppy to do her business, and then praise her and treat her. This way, when you say the command, your pup will immediately associate it with going to the bathroom.

Watch your pup between potty breaks

Puppies have a tendency to sneak away and eliminate in the far corners of your home if you don't monitor them between bathroom breaks. A great way to prevent this is to tether your pup to your waist with a long leash. This keeps him within your visual range so you can watch him for signs that he needs to eliminate.

If you notice that your pup is sniffing around, circling, scratching at the ground, or whining, head out immediately to your pup's potty spot and allow him to go. Not only does this prevent an accident, but it sets your pooch up for success. Remember to treat him once he's done his business.

As your puppy becomes older and more reliable within the home, you can start to let him off of his tether. But, if you aren't home to supervise your pup during the day, have a dog walker come in at least one to two times while you're at work to allow your pup some additional potty breaks.

Clean up accidents promptly

If it seems like your stubborn dog won't listen and keeps going in the same places indoors, it could be because of lingering odors. The smell of your pup's poop and urine can tempt her to eliminate within your home again if you don't clean it away promptly. Blot up the urine and place the feces in your pup's outdoor potty spot so that the smell will work its magic there, rather than on your couch.

Clean solid surfaces with a cleaner that doesn't contain ammonia, an ingredient that can mimic the scent of urine. For carpets and furniture, use an enzymatic cleaner to completely break down and eliminate the scent of urine and feces for your pup. These types of cleaners don't require rinsing either, just some time to air dry.

Don't punish accidents

Accidents can be frustrating, but punishing your puppy will only cause him to fear you and can actually slow down the training process, warns the American Kennel Club. Instead, clean up accidents promptly with enzymatic cleaners if you find them after the fact. If you catch your pup in the act, clap your hands to stop him mid-accident. Then, promptly take your pup out to his potty spot to finish.

When your pup finishes eliminating outdoors, praise and reward him. Then head back inside and clean up anything he managed to do before you went outside, without punishing your dog. Remember, your pup won't connect the punishment with the behavior you don't want and may actually think you're punishing him for going where he was supposed to outside.