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Potty Training

Potty Training Your Puppy or Dog Rocky Junior's Dog Training Service Puyallup WA Tacoma WA Dog Training

Potty Training is a task many dog owners find difficult and become frustrated with, almost always due to a lack of knowledge and proper technique.  Since most trainers, including me, don't normally teach potty training as a matter of course, I've decided to give everyone a free lesson in potty training for both puppies and adult dogs.


What's the second word in the phrase "Potty Training?" . . . Training, and yes, in order to effectively potty train a dog or puppy, sound training methods need to be used.  Dog learn from the immediate outcomes of events, so you need to actually be with your dog when he potties outside, so that you can administer positive reinforcement for the dog performing the desired behavior for you.  If you let your dog out and then praise and/or reward when the dog comes back in, your dog is learning nothing.  Why, you ask?


Dogs have a very narrow learning window of 1 second or less, meaning we need to "mark" behavior very quickly when it happens.  Proper marking involves saying the word "Yes" or using a clicker at the time the behavior is occurring (though I don't recommend using a clicker unless you've been trained in its proper use). We follow the marking with a treat and praise.  Without effective marking we risk that the dog will learn nothing. Here's a free guide to help you effectively and positively potty train your puppy or adult dog.


  • ​Puppies do not have the physical ability to "hold it" for long periods of time.  Dogs in the 6 to 12 week age range will need to potty very often; because of their young age, when they need to go, they go, just as with human babies.  So please, do not have unrealistic expecations.  Most puppies cannot and will not be fully potty trained and reliable until they are 5 months of age, or even older.  Accidents will happen!


  • Never punish a puppy for having a potty accident - rubbing your puppy's nose in it, yelling at the puppy, hitting the puppy, or using any kind of force or intimidation are responses your puppy will not understand! Instead, scold yourself (or smack yourself with a rolled-up newspaper) for not supervising your puppy.


  • ​If you catch your puppy in the act of pottying inside, make a loud noise to startle the puppy (this will normally stop the eliminating), then pick up your puppy, take him outside, watch him finish pottying in the proper place and mark and reward the puppy's success, using positive reinforcement.  Then, of course, clean up the accident, so that you can ensure you don't cause failure for your dog (more below).


  • Please keep in mind that dogs do not understand negative reinforcers, which can damage the dog-human relationship and cause all kinds of misbehavior in dogs, including aggression.  That's why modern, educated trainers only use positive reinforcement techniques, which work well and do not damage dogs.  Kindness and patience work wonders!  And now, on to the recommended steps to potty train your puppy or adult dog . . . 

  • Take your puppy outside to go potty first thing in the morning and right before bed.  Puppies need to go fairly soon after waking up, as well as before bed - set yourself and your puppy up for success by taking the puppy, preferably on leash, outside and urging the puppy to "go potty."  When the puppy does go potty, mark with a "Yes" and administer positive reinforcement (a treat and praise - be enthusiastic!). 
  • Take your puppy out to potty ONCE PER HOUR when you are home.  Say "Let's go potty" as you exit with the puppy, preferably on leash, and continue to say that phrase until your puppy does go potty.  Again, mark right away and then reward.  You can use the praise "good potty" during your praise, helping your puppy (or adult dog) to associate the word "potty" with going outside to potty.  
  • Puppies also need to potty soon after eating, drinking water and, especially, after exercise and play time.  Exercise stimulates the need to eliminate in puppies and dogs.
  • Watch for signs your puppy needs to potty - sniffing the floor, turning in circles and squatting are all signs the puppy is about to go.  Supervise your puppy so you can intervene in time, getting the puppy to go outside and receive positive reinforcement.
  • If you catch your puppy in the act of pottying inside, stomp your foot on the floor once or make a loud noise.  This will have a startle effect on the puppy, and normally stops the elimination.  Pick up your puppy, take him outside, supervise him pottying in the proper place and mark and reward.  In this instance, the puppy learns that going potty outside results in good things happening, but going inside does not.
  • If your puppy has a potty accident inside and you do not witness it, you can do nothing but properly clean up the accident.  Dogs have a 1 second learning window and your puppy will not understand anger or any punishment.  Neither is recommended or helpful. Instead, suck it up and clean it up.  Accidents happen!
  • Use the correct specialty cleaning products to clean up pet accidents.  Typical home cleaning products and vinegar and water concoctions will not remove residual odors that only our dogs (and cats) can smell.  When pets smell these odors they are compelled to eliminate on those same spots, right where the accidents happened.  Failure to properly clean up pet accidents is the number 1 cause of potty training failure, just ahead of failure to supervise the puppy and failure to use training principles in potty training.  
  • I recommend that you use Nature's Miracle or a similar specialty cleaning product, which can be found at pet specialty retailers like PetSmart and Petco.
  • Never punish your dog - again, dogs do not understand negative reinforcers and you will very likely do much more harm than good.  Dogs aren't people, and they do not understand our language (or our anger) - using harsh methods with your dog will only harm your relationship with your dog and very possibly create behavioral problems.  Keep things positive, be kind, and seriously consider the help of a professional - it's the right thing to do, and both you and your dog will be very glad you made that good choice.
  • Adult dogs are potty trained in the same manner as puppies - but long term, lasting results come much quicker because the dog already has the physical capability to hold it for longer periods of time.  Rocky the Rottweiler was six years old when I rescued him in 2006.  He hadn't been potty trained, and had a host of serious behavioral problems that you can read about on the OUR STORY page.  Rocky's potty training only took one week, and during the 4 1/2 great years I had with him before his passing he only had one accident - that occurred on an unusual day when he'd been left inside for nearly 20 hours.  
  • Potty Training is achievable when you use the right techniques and training principles. Keep in mind, though, that improper elimination in a potty trained animal, whether dog or cat, can be a sign of illness - since pets can't speak, they tend to express themselves through behavior.  If you suspect illness in your dog (or cat or other pet), please have your pet seen by a veterinarian.  If your dog is over 5 months of age and has not been spayed or neutered, the dog's estrogen (in females) or testoserone (in males) can and will cause behavioral problems, including marking behavior.  Please have your dog altered to avoid / eliminate this problem, as well as the potential for unwanted puppies.  
  • Thanks for visiting our potty training page.  Rocky Junior and I hope this has been helpful for you, and we hope to see you in training soon!
Potty Training For Dogs Rocky Junior's Dog Training Service Puyallup WA Dog Training Puppy Training

Rocky Junior, 5 Weeks Old 


Potty Training Nature's Miracle Rocky Junior's Dog Training Service
Potty Training for Puppies and Adult Dogs - Rocky Junior's Dog Training Service Puyallup WA


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