How long does it take to house train a puppy?
It depends! There’s no magic age or amount of time, but generally people set their expectations too high for their puppies.
It truly depends on the individual puppy and the consistency of the puppy’s owner.
With Lindsay’s weimaraner puppy, it took about 6 weeks from when we got him for the potty training to “click.”
She got him at 8 weeks old and once he was 14 weeks she realized he hadn’t had an accident in a long time. (And he definitely was not 100 percent yet. More like 80.)
Six weeks may seem fast but during that time she kept thinking, when will he “get it”?
It got really old taking him out 12 or 13 times a day, but it paid off.
So we wanted to write this post because potty training might take longer than some new puppy owners realize.
It takes 2 or more weeks on average to fully potty train a puppy
We get a lot of emails that say things like:
“I just got a puppy and I’ve been taking her out every 2 hours but she still goes potty in the house. She just isn’t getting it!”
And when we ask how long they’ve had the puppy, it’s usually a short time like 3 or 4 days or maybe two weeks.
It takes longer than two weeks (generally) to fully potty train a puppy. (Some do catch on much faster.)
It’s very simple to potty train a puppy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. On the contrary, it’s hard work. Lindsay had to take her little guy out literally 13 times a day. That’s every day. For 42 days … before he seemed to finally catch on.
Patience … patience.
3 Reasons Why It’s Easier to House Train Some Puppies:
1. Weimaraners seem pretty easy to potty train. They’re smart!
2. Larger breeds in general seem fairly easy to potty train (or are their owners more consistent? Hmm?)
3. But the main reason is that Lindsay works from home and has a flexible schedule. She could take her puppy out every hour. Not everyone can do that.
So what we’re trying to say is it took Lindsay 6 weeks to (mostly) potty train her puppy, and she had the luxury of a flexible schedule. If it’s taking your puppy a little longer, don’t worry. That’s OK! It’s not fair to compare your puppy to others. Just stick to your routine and he will get it.
Puppy Potty Training Methods:
To keep it simple, what your really need to know is:
- take your puppy out often, like every hour.
- crate/kennel him whenever that’s not possible.
- do NOT expect your puppy to “tell you” he needs to go!
1. Take your puppy out OFTEN to the same spot every time. You’re creating a habit/routine.
2. Give a highly valued treat every time he goes potty outside. Immediately after he goes.
3. Carry him out to the correct area if he’s having accidents on the way. Lindsay carried Remy out every time for about three weeks or more.
4. Crate/kennel your puppy when you can’t supervise him, and keep him on a leash or at least the same room as you when you can supervise.
5. Ignore accidents unless you catch him in the act. If you catch him in the act, calmly say “no” and carry him out to the correct spot. Reward him there! Yay! Good boy!
6. Head out the same door and take the same route every time. Remember, you’re creating a habit.
Bottom line is your puppy will catch on eventually as long as you are patient and consistent (or at least consistent!).
It does get easier.
Please share this post with anyone you know who could use some encouragement. Sometimes new puppy owners are under the impression that potty training happens much faster than it really does.
Sample potty training schedule
Hi, Barbara here. I write for That Mutt regularly. Back in 2011, my 8 week old Boxer mix puppies Missy & Buzz came into my life and my number one mission was to get them both potty trained right away! Just like Lindsay, I had a very flexible schedule as we had just moved and I was in-between jobs. Raising the puppies essentially became my full-time job for their first 5 months, so that factor allowed me to be very consistent in their potty training.
We lived in a third floor apartment back then and I clearly remember doing a lot of up and downstairs with the pups while getting them to their potty area outside. At first, I even had to carry them both downstairs. That’s because they were able to climb back upstairs a lot quicker than they were figuring out going downstairs on their own.
Missy & Buzz were fully potty trained after about 2 months, but just like Lindsay I took them outside roughly every 2 hours for their first month with me. I also gave them two potty breaks at night, as well as after every nap, meal, and playtime session. Needless to say that I didn’t get a ton of sleep that month, but it was absolutely worth the extra effort.
Bear in mind that puppies can approximately hold it for their age in months+1, so a 2 months old puppy can hold it for 3 hours, a 3 month old puppy for 4 hours, etc. However, we shouldn’t ask puppies or adult dogs to hold it for any longer than 6 hours.
Also, a puppy will need to pee right after playtime and right after they wake up, so that might influence the length of their ability to hold it.
Now here’s an example of what a puppy’s 8 week old potty training schedule might look like!
- First potty break at 6 am.
- If she plays right after that first potty break, take her back outside for another one, even if that means going outside again at 6:30ish.
- She’ll have to go again 10-15 minutes after breakfast. If that’s served around 7 am, plan for another potty break around 7:15 ish.
-> You may easily have to take your 8 week old puppy out for 3 potty breaks within her first 90 minutes of being awake.
- If you’re back inside by 7:30 and your puppy settles in for a nap, take her back outside right after she wakes up, maybe around 9:30/10 ish.
- Take her back outside around 12:30, 2:30, 4:30, 6:30, 8:30, and 10:30 pm.
- Puppies eat 3-4 meals per day, so remember to also take her outside 10-15 minutes after each meal has been served. aZ
Tip: I started a puppy potty journal when Missy & Buzz moved in. It was a daily journal where I wrote down every time I took the puppies out and whether or not they peed and/or pooped. This journal was super helpful in getting me used to their potty routine!
How often do puppies poop?
Puppies eat a lot more frequently than adult dogs and will usually have 3-4 meals a day during their first 4 months. This means that they’ll also be pooping more frequently than adult dogs.
That being said, puppies usually need to poop fairly quickly after they’ve eaten, so they’ll be needing to poop at least 4 times per day during their first 4 months.
Potty training a stubborn puppy
Some puppies might come across as being stubborn because they keep having accidents inside. However, it could very well be that the puppy just doesn’t understand what’s expected of him because he isn’t offered a consistent schedule. In this case, it’s good to evaluate the situation and set up very clear structures:
- Are you taking the puppy out immediately after meals, naps, and playtime? Try that approach and have set mealtimes rather than free-feeding your puppy. That way it’ll be a lot easier to gauge when your puppy needs to use the bathroom.
- Reward your puppy with verbal praise like “What a good boy!” and a tasty, high-value treat every single time he goes potty outside. He’ll soon make the connection between using the bathroom outside and getting a food reward.
- Could his crate be too large? Keep him crated in the right sized crate that’s not too large. You can either upgrade crates in size as your puppy grows, or you can invest in a larger one and use a divider. The reasoning behind this is that dogs don’t want to spoil their sleeping area. If they’re staying in a crate that’s too large, they’ll turn one side into their sleeping area, and the other one into their bathroom.
- If you catch your puppy in the act of going potty inside, calmly pick him up and take him outside to your preferred potty area instead. This will teach him the right spot to go potty in.
- Are you working long hours that keep you from letting your puppy out for regular potty breaks? If that’s the case, a support system will be helpful to start your puppy’s potty training out on the right paw. You could ask friends or family to help out during the first few months, and/or hire a professional dog walker/pet sitter to give the puppy several daily bathroom breaks. We recommend you do an online search for professional dog walkers in your area. Also see ThatMutt’s article  Overnight Pet Sitting Rates. The article will give you an idea of what they’ll charge and tips on how to choose the right pet sitter.
Common puppy house training mistakes
We’ve raised a few puppies and are happy to share what doesn’t work when house training them. That being said, the following training mistakes are common ones and should be avoided:
- Not being consistent. Consistency is the most important element in any dog training, including house training. The concept is the same as it is with potty training kids. If they’re not practicing daily, they’ll never get it.
- Waiting too long to take the puppy out. It’s up to us to know when our puppy has to go. Remember, that’s after every meal, nap, and playtime session. We’re all guilty of being lazy, tired or busy, but just keep the eye on the prize of having a house trained dog! We promise that’ll make it so much easier to be a little disciplined during that initial training phase.
- Scolding too firmly and scaring the puppy. Puppies are very impressionable during their first few months and don’t take well to being yelled at. It’s best to be assertive, but in a calm way.
- Bad timing when handing out the reward. It’s essential to reward the puppy at the correct time. If we’re giving the reward too late or too early, the puppy will start making the connection between the reward (treat and/or verbal praise) and whatever he’s doing when being rewarded (maybe sniffing the ground or “cleaning up” after himself). That’s instead of understanding that the reward comes because he’s taking care of his business.
- Scolding hours after an accident happens. Unless you catch your puppy in the act of peeing or pooping inside right in front of your eyes, there’s absolutely no point in scolding him hours later. Dogs simply don’t think like that and won’t be able to make the connection.
- Not using a crate or confining at all. Puppies are easily overwhelmed by too much initial freedom. We suggest using crates and/or playpens when you can’t actively supervise your puppy. Even when you can, it’s a good idea to limit your puppy’s access to certain rooms. Just keep most doors shut to decrease the likelihood of setting your puppy up for a potty break failure.
- Assuming the puppy “gets it” when he doesn’t. Your puppy might be honestly confused if he’s not presented with a very structured schedule. Repetition and consistency are key in (house) training!
- Rubbing the pup’s nose in the poop. There’s no point in doing this to your puppy as all it does is create confusion. Your puppy will never in a million years understand that you’re rubbing his nose in his poop because you didn’t want him to poop in that very spot. So please don’t! Instead, calmly clean it up and take your puppy to an acceptable potty area.
- Hitting the puppy. Even if it doesn’t hurt and/or you’re using a somewhat soft object like a newspaper, hitting your dog will only make him fear you. Instead, you want to create a bond with him that’s based on trust.
- Using pads and assuming the puppy knows to use them. No dog is going to instinctively know what a training pad is and that you want him to pee on it rather than on the soft rug in the living room. Read on for our take on potty pads and tips on how to teach your puppy to use them!
How to potty train a puppy on pads
The last mistake brings us to this section! Training pads can be a helpful tool when potty training a puppy if they’re used correctly. However, they can also make us lazy and can have the opposite training effect…Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of puppy pads:
Pros of puppy pee pads:
- Can be a practical potty area when the puppy has to stay home alone without getting bathroom breaks (this is not ideal and we don’t recommend making it a habit).
- Potty pads can save your expensive carpet or wood floors from urine stains.
- They can come in handy when it’s pouring and your puppy refuses to go outside.
- The pads come in various sizes.
Tip: Potty pads can also be a good option for older dogs who are incontinent or those who’ve had surgery and have a hard time walking. Older dogs, especially house trained ones, will need to be conditioned to the pads first, so it would be a good idea to start training before a surgery for example.
Cons of puppy pee pads:
- They’re an expensive accessory if used frequently.
- Can be counter-productive and teach the puppy that it’s ok to go inside.
- The puppy might never become truly housebroken.
- They’re not environmentally friendly as they have to be thrown out right after they’re used.
- Puppies can track their pee from the pad onto their surrounding area when they’re done using the pad.
- If the puppy is bored, he might just feel like playing with the pad, tearing it up, and possibly even eat it. The latter can result in an expensive surgery at your vet’s!
All that being said, here are our tips on how to potty train a puppy on pads:
- Create an area that’s lined with several potty pads, for example the inside of a playpen.
- Stick with this area to get your puppy used to their designated indoor potty area.
- Place the puppy on that area several times per day when you suspect that he has to go.
- Reward him with verbal praise (Yay, good boy!) and a high value treat when he potties on the pad area.
- Gradually reduce the amount of potty pads you put down to condition your puppy to use the bathroom only on the pad.
See That Mutt’s article How to train your dog to use pee pads or grass pads for more helpful tips on this topic!
How to potty train an older dog
Much of our puppy potty training advice holds true for house training older dogs as well.
Consistency and patience are certainly the most important components, but it also works in our favor that older dogs already have fully developed bladders. That means that they can usually hold it longer than puppies and won’t need quite as many potty breaks.
While puppies do have to pee on a very regular basis, older dogs may be more likely to “mark”. Barbara experienced this when she started fostering a 1.5 year old dog who was house trained. However, Wally was stressed out in his new environment and expressed this by marking the back of a couch.
Barbara got this issue under control quickly. Here’s how she did it:
- Wally was leashed inside the house for the first 10 days or so and was always in the same room as she was. He also wore a belly band. It’s essentially a diaper for male dogs.
- When Barbara couldn’t actively supervise him at home or when she was gone, Wally was crated.
- When Wally went for potty breaks outside, he got rewarded with verbal praise (Good boy!) and tasty treats.
- Once Wally was comfortable in his new home, the marking stopped. It also helped that he got to go on several structured daily walks where he got the opportunity to pee and poop.
- Speaking of poop – Wally may have been free-fed at this previous home, but when he moved in with Barbara, he started getting two meals per day. This feeding schedule made it so much easier to predict when he’d have to poop.
Wally needed to get used to a new routine, and that’s the case for any dog regardless of age who starts living with a new owner.
Barbara later adopted him and experienced the marking one more time, about a year later. That’s when she was in a new relationship and Wally felt jealous of her boyfriend, so he started marking one particular wall right outside of her bedroom. The belly band came out again and that fixed the problem.
See That Mutt’s article How to potty train an adult dog for more information on this topic.
How long did it take your puppy or dog to become fully potty trained?
Let us know in the comments.
And by the way, Remy was definitely NOT 100 percent potty trained at 4 months. He seemed to “get it” and generally could hold it for 3-4 hours, but Lindsay took him out at least that often to make sure he was successful.
Remy would’ve had more accidents if she didn’t do that. And he never “asked” to go out. Some dogs never learn to “ask.”
Let us know your experience in the comments.