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Ask The Dog Trainer: How Can I Potty Train My Puppy?

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Question: How Can I Potty Train My Puppy?

By Bill Mayeroff of FetchFind

Question: Today’s question comes from Nadine, who is looking for advice about potty training her three-month-old chocolate lab puppy. Nadine writes: “She is using puppy pads at the back door and she goes out regularly in the garden, but is still having wee and poo accidents in the house about four times a day. How can I discourage her and get her to use the puppy pads and the garden?”

Answer: I’ll start with a question: Is your puppy healthy? If so, great and you can skip to the next paragraph. If not or you don’t know, I’d recommend getting her to a vet. Medical issues can affect your pup’s behavior and it’s important to make sure she’s healthy before beginning any sort of training.

Assuming your dog is healthy, we can move on to your question. But first, an important reminder: Your pup is three-months-old. It’s going to be several more months before she has full control of her bladder and bowels and can hold it for any length of time. What this means is that you need to be taking her out a lot. I’d say every couple of hours at least. And when you take her out, make sure she completely empties herself. Also, at first, give her a treat after she goes to the bathroom outside. Eventually, the act of relieving herself will be reward enough, but at first, reward her for relieving herself outside.

Now let’s talk about the accidents in the house. First and foremost, remember that punishing her for going to the bathroom inside won’t help. If you see her doing it, try to interrupt her and get her outside, but if you don’t and you just find one, you just have to suck it up and get to cleaning. Punishing her won’t help.

Let me ask you something. When she has accidents inside, does she have them in the same spots? If so, don’t let her get to those spots. I know that sounds overly simple, but it works. If she’s using the same spots, she’s decided that those spots are where she’s comfortable going to the bathroom. She’s less likely to use the bathroom in spots she’s not comfortable. If you can’t keep her away from those spots, then make sure she’s always supervised when she’s around them.

Ask The Dog Trainer: How Can I Potty Train My Puppy?

ask the dog training house training

Now I’m going to talk about my favorite tool for potty training your puppy – the crate. Are you using one? If not, you should be. A crate should never be a punishment. Rather, it should be a space where your puppy feels safe and that she feels is her own. At three months old, your pup is far too young to have free rein of the house. If you’re not able to watch her, she should be in the crate (this includes overnight). She should have enough room in it to sit, stand, lie down and turn around, but nothing else. When she’s in it, give her a special toy or treat that she only gets when she’s in the crate. She’ll soon figure out that being in the crate means she’s safe. And by limiting the amount of space she has in it, she’s less likely to go to the bathroom in it because dogs don’t like to soil spaces where they sleep.

Don’t feel guilty about putting her in the crate, by the way. Dogs love having a safe space like that. I haven’t closed the door on my dog’s crate in about four years (I’ve had him about 5 ½ years) and I still keep it set up and he still goes in it because it’s a space just for him.

I’m also going to suggest that you stop using the puppy pads. Here’s why. It sounds like you have a yard or some sort of outdoor space where you can take your puppy to go to the bathroom. You say she’s already having accidents inside. I worry that the puppy pads will just reinforce the idea that going inside is ok and she’ll have trouble distinguishing them from the rest of the floor. You have an outdoor area. I’d say use it.

If you still want to keep using the pads, though, that’s fine. Just like you take her outside, take her to the pads. If she relieves herself on it, reward her. If not, take her away from the pad and try again in a few minutes. Just incorporate them into your rotation of trips to the bathroom.

That said, I’m going to again suggest not using the pads at all. I just think it will be easier, but it’s up to you.

Finally, I have one word for you: PATIENCE. Remember, your puppy is just that – a puppy. She’s only three months old. She’s going to have accidents for a while, though with time, they’ll decrease and (ideally) eventually end.

Try your best to keep from getting frustrated and just remember that with time and effort, your puppy will grow into a wonderful and well-behaved dog. If you need more help, a reputable dog trainer can provide assistance in your home. Contact us at to locate one in your area. Enjoy your new furry family member!



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