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Home Training and BehaviorBasic Training Puppy Potty Training 101: A Step-by-Step Guide with Positive Reinforcement

Puppy Potty Training 101: A Step-by-Step Guide with Positive Reinforcement

by Dan Turner

Bringing a new puppy home is like adding a bundle of joy to your family. But let’s be honest, it also means you’re signing up for the challenging task of potty training. I’ve been there, staring at those big puppy eyes, wondering how to start the process without losing my mind.

Step 1: Prepare your space

When I first embarked on potty training my new puppy, I quickly realized how crucial it was to have a well-prepared space. The goal was to make it as easy as possible for both of us, ensuring my puppy knew exactly where to go when nature called. So, how did I do it? Let me walk you through.

The very first thing I did was choose a designated potty area. This could be a specific corner of the backyard or a particular spot on the patio if you’re living in an apartment. The key is consistency; I made sure to always lead my puppy to the same spot. This helped create a habit, reinforcing the idea that this was the place to go.

Next up, I puppy-proofed my home. I’m talking about securing electrical cords, moving plants out of reach, and ensuring nothing harmful was lying around. Puppies are curious creatures, and the last thing I wanted was for my little adventurer to get into trouble during potty breaks.

I also invested in some essential supplies:

  • Puppy pads: For those early days when accidents are inevitable.
  • Enzyme cleaners: To effectively clean and remove odors from accidents, ensuring my puppy wouldn’t be encouraged to return to the same spot inside.
  • Baby gates: A lifesaver for restricting access to certain areas and guiding my puppy towards the designated potty area.

With my space prepared and everything I needed at hand, I was ready to tackle potty training head-on. It’s important to remember that patience and consistency are key. Puppies thrive on routine, so sticking to a regular schedule for potty breaks can significantly help. Initially, I took my puppy out every hour, after meals, naps, and playtime. Over time, as my puppy grew and could hold it for longer, we adjusted the schedule accordingly.

Another vital part of preparing your space is creating a positive environment. I peppered our training with lots of praise and treats for successful potty breaks outside. This positive reinforcement helped my puppy understand what was expected and encouraged them to repeat the behavior.

Preparing your space might seem like a lot of work upfront, but it’s an investment in creating a smooth potty training process. By setting up your home and outdoor area thoughtfully, you’re laying the groundwork for success. The efforts pay off when you see your puppy confidently understanding where it’s appropriate to go.

Step 2: Establish a routine

After setting up the perfect space and getting all the necessary supplies, I found that establishing a consistent routine was the next crucial step in potty training my puppy. This didn’t just help my puppy understand when and where to go potty but also helped me keep track of their progress more effectively.

I quickly learned that puppies thrive on routine. So, I started by taking my puppy out first thing in the morning, after every meal, after playing, and right before bedtime. I made sure to always use the same door to go to their designated potty area, reinforcing the connection between going outside and going potty.

One thing I found particularly helpful was creating a feeding schedule that aligned with potty breaks. Puppies usually need to relieve themselves shortly after eating, so by feeding my puppy at consistent times each day, I could predict when they’d need to go out. This helped me prevent accidents and made the training process smoother for both of us.

Here’s a basic schedule I followed:

Activity Time
Wake up & Potty 7:00 AM
Breakfast 7:30 AM
Morning Potty Break 8:00 AM
Playtime 9:00 AM
Mid-Morning Potty Break 10:30 AM
Lunch 12:00 PM
Afternoon Potty Break 12:30 PM
Playtime/Training 2:00 PM
Evening Potty Break 5:00 PM
Dinner 6:00 PM
Final Potty Break 9:00 PM

I also kept a diary to record the times when my puppy ate, slept, played, and went potty. This not only helped me spot any patterns but also allowed me to adjust the schedule as my puppy grew and their needs changed.

Being patient and consistent was key. There were times when my puppy didn’t go potty during a scheduled break, but I remained patient and tried again later. I always praised and treated them immediately after they did their business in the correct spot, which helped reinforce the behavior.

Step 3: Choose a potty spot

When I first started the journey of potty training my puppy, choosing an appropriate potty spot was a game-changer. Let me share how I approached this stage.

I picked a spot close enough to the door so it wouldn’t feel like a marathon every time my puppy needed to go. However, it was also important to ensure this area was quiet and free from too many distractions. Puppies can get easily sidetracked, and you want them to understand this spot is for one thing: potty time.

Significance of Consistency

Here’s why consistency matters so much:

  • Establishes a routine: Just like humans, puppies thrive on routine. Using the same spot every time helps your puppy associate this area with potty time.
  • Reduces accidents: The fewer the options, the less likely your puppy will be confused about where to go.
  • Eases cleaning: Knowing where your puppy goes makes it easier to clean up and maintain hygiene.

Making The Spot Appealing

You might be wondering, “How do I make this spot interesting for my puppy?” I had the same thought, so here’s what worked for me:

  • I started by leading my puppy to the spot on a leash during our scheduled potty breaks. This helped reinforce that this was the place to go.
  • I made sure to use positive reinforcement. Every time my puppy did their business in the right spot, I was ready with praise and a treat.
  • Keeping the area clean was essential. Puppies don’t like to go in dirty areas, so I made it a habit to clean up immediately after each potty break.

Remember, patience is key. 

By focusing on choosing a suitable potty spot and making it appealing to your puppy, you’re setting a solid foundation for potty training. This step not only helps streamline the process but ensures your puppy knows exactly where to go. It’s all about creating a positive and consistent experience, so your puppy feels comfortable and confident in their new routine.

Step 4: Use positive reinforcement

First off, it’s vital to decide on the rewards. For my pups, treats work wonders. But it’s not just about treats; praise and playtime are just as effective. Remember, every puppy is different. Mine goes absolutely bananas for a bit of extra cuddle time, while others might prefer a squeaky toy. It’s all about finding what best motivates your furry friend.

Timing is crucial. The moment your puppy finishes going potty in the correct spot, I reward them immediately. This instant gratification helps them connect the dots between the action of going potty in the right place and the reward. If you wait even a couple of minutes, that connection might not be as clear to them. Immediate praise and treat make all the difference.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Decide on a reward: Treats, praise, playtime.
  • Timing: Reward immediately after your puppy goes potty in the right spot.

Adopting this method has significantly sped up the potty training process for my puppies. But it’s not just about the speed; it’s about building a positive relationship with your pup. They start understanding what’s expected of them, and the bond between us strengthens.

Remember, every puppy will have accidents. It’s part of the learning process. What’s important is how you react to these accidents. Never punish your puppy for making a mistake. Instead, calmly clean it up and resolve to keep a closer eye on them. Punishment only instills fear and confusion, which can set back your training efforts.

Step 5: Deal with accidents

Accidents are a normal part of the potty training process. No matter how closely I follow the steps or how diligent I am, there’ll be times when my puppy just can’t hold it. The key is not to get frustrated or discouraged. I’ve come to understand that how I react to these accidents can significantly impact my puppy’s learning progress.

If I see them starting to squat indoors, I gently interrupt them with a calm “oops” or a soft clap and immediately take them outside to their potty area. This way, I reinforce where it’s appropriate to go without instilling fear.

If I find an accident after it’s happened, there’s no benefit in scolding or punishing my puppy. They won’t connect their earlier action and my current reaction. Instead, I clean the area thoroughly to remove any scent marks that could entice them to use the same spot again. I’ve learned that enzymatic cleaners work best for this, as they effectively break down the odors and stains.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the cleaning supplies I’ve found most effective:

Cleaner Type Pros Cons
Enzymatic Breaks down odors and stains May require multiple applications
Vinegar Solution Cheap and easily available Strong odor
Ammonia-Free Safe for pets Not as strong

It’s also been helpful for me to keep a log of when and where accidents happen. This allows me to spot patterns or triggers that I might need to address. Maybe my puppy consistently has accidents late in the evening or in a certain room. This information can guide my adjustments to their potty training schedule or my supervision routines.

Remembering to manage my expectations has been pivotal. Potty training is a process, with progress and setbacks. I’m building a strong foundation for my puppy’s behavior by staying patient and consistent. Every mishap is an opportunity to learn and adjust my approach, moving us closer to our goal of a fully potty-trained pup.


Potty training a puppy is no small feat, but with patience and consistency, it’s achievable. Remember the power of positive reinforcement and how crucial it is to reward your puppy immediately after they do their business in the right spot.

Dealing with accidents properly is just as important—stay calm and clean up thoroughly. Keeping a log can also help you spot patterns and adjust as needed. Above all, keep your expectations in check and remember that every puppy learns at their own pace. Stick with it, and soon enough, you’ll enjoy the rewards of your hard work.


Dan Turner

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