How To Potty Train A Puppy

how to potty train a puppy

Once you have brought your new puppy home you’ll want to get him potty trained as fast as possible! How to potty train a puppy is a complete guide to that process

We’ll look at when to start, how to do it, and how to cope with problems. And finish off by giving you the keys to success with our top potty training tips

This is one of our bigger guides, so do use the menu to skip to the sections you need today

There are three key potty training puppy stages

  • Learning where to potty
  • Learning self control
  • Independent toileting

We’ll be looking at each stage in turn

You can use the links in the green menu to skip to the parts that interest you most, or just read through from start to finish.

Puppy potty training methods

I’ll show you two different methods of training, one for puppy parents that are able to be at home for their puppies, and one for puppy parents that go out to work.

Let’s look first at what we are aiming for when we house train a puppy and how long it will take to get there.

Puppy toilet training – what is involved?

Potty training and house training are interchangeable terms. Both terms are all about the puppy toilet training process, or teaching your puppy to be clean and dry in the house, and to empty his bladder and bowels outdoors.

Occasionally you’ll hear the more old fashioned term ‘house breaking’, which again means exactly the same thing.

Whatever you decide to call it, your priority will be to make sure that your Labrador puppy never poops or pees in your home, and that is what this article is all about.

Potty training dogs – why is it necessary?

Before we find out how to potty train a dog, we should probably find out if is really necessary to have a structured potty training process, or whether dogs will potty train themselves naturally without our help.

It’s true that in a small enough house, and with the door to the yard open all day, every day, most puppies will naturally empty themselves outdoors because this is the furthest point away from their nest or sleeping area.

But many modern homes are large and it is easy for a puppy to pee well away from his bed without going outside.

When puppies are very new, they have little control over their small bladders, and they have no idea that there is a right place and a wrong place to go to the toilet.

[wp_ad_camp_5]If they want to ‘go’ they will just move away from their bed and ‘go’. No matter where they are. Indoors or out, its all the same to them.

So if you don’t get involved in potty training, the chances are that your dog will get into the habit of peeing in the house.

This means you are going to have to teach your Lab puppy where he needs to be before he takes a pee. The same applies to pooping of course.

 If you can avoid accidents as much as possible from the start, you will make faster progress – this means the more effort you put in at the beginning the better things will be.

How to potty train – your starting point

You can make a start with potty training right from the very first day you bring your puppy home. In fact, it is important that you do this and that you make an effort to avoid ‘accidents’ even in those very early day.

This is because puppies naturally like to pee where they have peed before. And so it is better not to build up any kind of history of peeing in your home if you can avoid it.

If you go out to work during the day and are planning to leave your puppy alone for more than an hour or two, you’ll need to let your puppy go to the bathroom indoors, and we’ll be looking at the best way to do that and still end up with a house trained dog.

How long does potty training a puppy take?

0001-122706690There are two main methods of house training and we’ll be looking at both of them here.

If you use method one, and crate train your puppy, you will make rapid progress within three to four weeks.

If you use method two and train your puppy to pee on puppy pads or newspaper, he will need to learn to pee outside when he is older and can wait until you get home.

This is a gradual process that can take several months.

How to potty train a puppy – method 1

Method one is a great system for anyone that can take time to be with their new puppy for the first few weeks. The system is based on avoiding accidents from the start, as this makes the process faster and simpler. It is set out in three clear stages

  • Stage 1- establish the toilet area (8-9 weeks)
  • Stage 2 – learning self control (10-12 weeks)
  • Stage 3 – extending the clean zone (3-6 months)

These Stages are also set out in detail in my Happy Puppy Handbook, let’s take each one in turn.

Potty training Stage 1 – establish the toilet area

This stage is all about teaching your puppy the right place to wee and poo. While at the same time, preventing him from emptying himself in any of the wrong places.

During this phase, restrict your puppy to a small area of your home and one that has washable floors.

Your first job is to get your puppy to his outdoor toilet area many times each day especially on the following occasions:

  • After waking
  • After eating
  • After playing
  • Anytime his bladder is full

Your second job is to supervise or contain your puppy when his bladder is filling up.

You can do this by crating him for a few minutes, or by cuddling him in your arms. I recommend the cuddle option for the first few days, that way you can introduce the crate gradually once he has settled into his new home.

How are you supposed to know when your puppy’s bladder is full?

Well you won’t know for sure, but the clock will give you a good idea. If your puppy needs to wee every 30 minutes, then its a pretty good bet that his bladder is starting to get full if his last wee was more than twenty minutes ago.

A complete and simple guide to potty training your puppy - from the Labrador SiteAs you can see, there is some guesswork involved in house training a puppy, but not too much. And you will soon get to know your puppy’s natural rhythms.

How to house train a dog using a crate?

You can find out a lot more about crate training and the role it plays in rapid house training on this page: How to crate train your Labrador puppy

Remember, if you are going to use a crate to help you house train your puppy, it’s really important to use it properly

You will find instructions in the article I linked to above,  to help you train your puppy to go happily into his crate and stay in there without whining until you let him out.

The crate training article will help you avoid separation anxiety, bedwetting and other potential crate training problems, and help you get the best out of crating your puppy without upsetting him.[wp_ad_camp_4]

House training a puppy – using rewards!

If you put plenty of effort in, and take your puppy out a great deal in those first few days, he will quickly learn that the place you have allocated to him for potty purposes is the place to pee.

And he’ll happily empty himself when he is taken there.

You can praise him and give him a little treat for doing so.

Using an alarm

In busy families I recommend setting an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to take your puppy out 30 minutes or so after the last time.

It is easy to forget otherwise.

Most puppy parents do really well in Stage 1. It is in Stage 2 that some people find themselves struggling. But don’t worry, I’ll explain why, and how you can get back on track.

How to potty train puppy Stage 2 – learning self control

During stage 2 your puppy will begin to develop some self control – to learn to wait a few minutes before emptying himself when his bladder starts to feel full.

Just like in Stage 1, your job will be to make sure your puppy gets to his toilet area frequently enough that he isn’t forced to wet himself indoors.

How to toilet train a puppy that is having accidents..

At some point during this stage, many puppies will be able to last an hour or so between wees.

This is where puppy parents often relax their vigilance and where puppies start having accidents again in the house.

If this happens to you, don’t panic, simply go back to shorter gaps between trips to the yard for a few days, and then start to space out those trips again but more gradually this time.

Supervise puppies that might need a wee soon!

You will find that you don’t need to supervise your puppy so closely now in the first twenty minutes or so after his last wee.

But you will still need to supervise him when his bladder starts to get full, or when the time is approaching for his next trip outdoors.

If your puppy is now used to his crate, you can now use the crate to help stretch out the gaps between toilet trips.

Because provided you don’t make him wait too long, your puppy won’t wee in his own bed.

How to potty train your puppy Stage 3

This is where all your hard house training work starts to really pay off and you can start to really stretch out the gaps between toilet breaks, and to introduce your puppy to the rest of your home.

Remember to take it slowly, and if accidents occur, to go back to shorter gaps between trips outdoors for a few days.

During this phase, you can gradually introduce your puppy to larger parts of your home but keep him off your carpets unless closely supervised for at least another month.

Potty training a puppy in 7 days – is it possible?

Potty training isn’t most pet parents’ favorite job so it isn’t surprising that people want to know how to potty train a puppy fast, and are attracted to titles like “How to potty train a dog in 7 days”

But is that really achievable?

A dog is not really fully house trained until he can comfortably wait several hours between wees, understands that the place to pee is always outside, and will try his best not to pee in the house if your are late home for some reason.

This point is usually reached for most puppies at around six months old.

Many people think that they have finished house breaking a puppy because their three month old puppy hasn’t had an accident for a few days, if at all.

how to housebreak a puppy – the conscious control stage

This kind of success is great, but it is more a case of good management and a puppy with good bladder control, than a puppy that has learned the kind of conscious control that comes later.

So while you can certainly learn to avoid accidents and manage your puppy’s toileting behavior in a week or two, he isn’t truly potty trained at this point.  So try to be patient.

By three months of age many three month old puppies will be clean in a restricted area with some help and supervision from their grown up.

And by six months old, most puppies will be able to last two to three hours between visits outside, some with good bladder control will last longer.

How to stop your puppy peeing or pooping in the house

Of course mistakes will occasionally happen,  it can’t be helped,  but repeated mistakes will set back your training considerably because pups like to pee where they have peed before.

If you are not careful it can be a downward spiral, so take action right away

There are two important ways to stop your puppy messing in the house.

  • Take him out more often
  • Clean up more thoroughly

Remember, his bladder is small and his memory is short. Unless you remind him frequently, your pup will forget he needs a wee until it is too late and he can’t even make it to the door.

Every puppy is different

It is annoying if your friend’s puppy house training is going better than yours. If their puppy can last an hour between wees, and your puppy can’t.

Does the dog in your life have a cat in theirs? Don't miss out on the perfect companion to life with a purrfect friend.
The Happy Cat Handbook - A unique guide to understanding and enjoying your cat!

But your puppy is what he is.  And when you are learning how to potty train, you need to consider the dog in front of you, rather than the national average.

And if he has an accident 25 minutes after peeing in your yard, he needs to go out again after 20 minutes next time.

Remember too that puppies can smell the tiniest trace of urine and that they think it is important to pee where they have peed before.

Clearing up accidents thoroughly

Once a puppy has had an accident on the floor you need to remove all trace of it.  And this is difficult bearing in mind your puppy’s extraordinary sense of smell so you will need to be thorough and diligent in this.

You can buy special cleaners for this purpose which do not contain any substances which might attract a puppy to repeat the accident in the same place.

Why you should not punish your puppy for potty training accidents

In the ‘old days’ people had very different views on how to house train a puppy. Accidents were considered to be the dog’s fault, and puppies were often punished for accidents in the house.

The puppy was shown the puddle or ‘parcel’ and smacked or had his nose rubbed in what he had done.

This was not just a horrible thing to do to a puppy, it was also completely ineffective and puppies did not get house trained any quicker than they do today with kind modern methods.

Punishment will slow down your potty training progress

In fact punishment can slow down puppy toilet training as it a) encourages puppies to ‘hide’ when they wee – so that they won’t get into trouble.

And b) it makes the puppy afraid to pee in front of you.

This means you will have an even longer wait when you take the puppy outside to his allocated ‘bathroom’ area.

Puppy won’t pee outside?

Not wanting to pee outside is a common toilet training puppy problem and one we look at in more detail in this article. Keeping your puppy company is the key.

greenies for dogs
You need to go outside with your puppy and wait there with him until he has done a wee.

This may take longer than you would like.

You probably have better things to do than stand outside in your yard while your puppy chases butterflies or plays with your shoe laces. But stay outside you should, until he has done that wee.

If he doesn’t ‘go’ – supervise!

If you just can’t bear it any longer and must come indoors, and your puppy has not relieved himself, you need to supervise him very closely.

Hold him in your arms – or put him in a small crate for a few minutes before going back out to try again.

Don’t worry, you won’t still be doing this in four years time – this is a new puppy problem – it will pass.

And if you teach your puppy to pee on command, it will pass even quicker!

How to teach your puppy to pee on command

Each time your puppy empties himself in your chosen spot you can use a special word  or words (I use ‘hurry up’  said in a jolly and upbeat way)

After a few weeks you will find that when you say this word,  your puppy will start to feel the urge to empty himself.  This is because the word has become associated in his mind with the act of going to the toilet.

In a couple of months or so,  many puppies will have learned to ‘wee’ on command through this simple technique.

Potty training a puppy at night

Puppies vary in how long they can last at night without a wee.  Many pups are nine or ten weeks old before they can last all night (say around midnight until 6 or 7 am) without a wee.

[wp_ad_camp_1]Some pups are even older and a few pups can last six or seven hours from around eight weeks old.

What you need to accept is that this is not something you can control.

The puppy has the bladder he has, and you cannot influence that. What you can do is make it easy for him to be clean,  by taking him outside to his toilet area very early in the morning,  and even in the middle of the night ,  if that is what he needs.

Night waking and nocturnal bathroom breaks

To be on the safe side with a new eight week old pup, I recommend you set your alarm for 2am or 3am (depending on when you go to bed)  and take your puppy to his outdoor toilet area.

Don’t make a fuss of him, be very boring. Just wait for him to do a wee, tell him what a clever boy he is, and pop him back into the crate.

He may protest a little in the hopes of some more interesting company, but should soon settle back down to sleep.

Getting more sleep

Repeat this for the first few nights,  but gradually push forward your trips in the small hours until he is going six hours or so without a wee.

Once he get to around ten weeks old you may be able to stretch this out to seven hours,  though  some pups will need another two or three weeks to get to this point.

Many young  dogs will not be able to last more than seven hours until they are six months or so. Let’s take a look now at how to potty train your dog if you go out to work during the day.

How to potty train your puppy if you work full time – method 2

You can’t leave a small puppy in a crate for very long. He needs to be able to empty his bladder at regular intervals, and he needs company.

Here are some articles which will be of interest if you are thinking of getting a puppy and work full time:

So, if you are going to go back to work you need to arrange someone to look after him, or to come in at intervals throughout the day to play with him and take him out.

Because you won’t be able at first to coincide the visits from his carer with when he needs a wee, you’ll need to teach him to wee on puppy pads or newspaper.

Teaching your puppy to pee on the puppy pads

The simplest way to do this is to restrict the puppy to a smallish room with washable floors

Cover the floor with puppy pads to begin with.

If you don’t have a small room with a washable floor, you’ll need to put up a sturdy puppy play pen to contain him.

Now over the next few days, reduce the area of the floor that is covered with puppy pads by half.

You should find he begins to make an effort to pee and poop on the part of the floor that is covered – but it needs to be a sizeable part to get this good habit established.

If he is in a puppy pen, put his bed at one end and the pads at the other.

Reducing the toilet area

By the end of the first week, you can begin to reduce the part of the floor that is covered with puppy pads right down to a small area, preferably near the back door.

By the time that the puppy is capable of waiting until someone comes to let him out – you’ll be able to move the pads outside.

It is usually best to do this when you have some time booked off work – or during a long weekend when the weather is fine.

You’ll know that your puppy is capable of waiting when he is clean and dry most times he is left, even with the puppy pads there.

What is the fastest way to potty train a puppy

Method 1 – is the quickest way of house training a dog if you are starting with a puppy. With method 2, you have to train him twice, once to use the pads indoors, and again when it comes to learning to pee outside.

I recommend you only use method 2 if you know you will have to leave your puppy for more than an hour or so in the first three months of his life, on a regular basis.

Don’t forget, the time between bringing your puppy home and him reaching 3 months of age is only 4 or 5 weeks. If you can possibly arrange for you or other members of the family to take a few weeks off work at this point, you will have an easier time of it.

Labrador puppies need company and socialisation

I should also at this point mention how important it is for Labrador puppies to have company when they are small and to be taken out for socialisation purposes.

You really can’t leave a puppy alone all day, every day, he needs to be cared for by someone, even if that someone isn’t you.

Combining full-time work with a puppy

If you work full time do read my article on combining a puppy with full time work before committing yourself to a puppy.

Working won’t necessarily stop you having a puppy but unless you have some very helpful family and friends, you will probably need some form of doggy day care, at least in the first few months

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Potty training tips – the keys to success

As you can see, dog toilet training is quite a bit topic. So let’s sum up the above information with a few helpful puppy potty training tips.

  • Do take your puppy to his toilet area very frequently to begin with
  • Do wait with him there until he has done a wee
  • Do supervise your puppy closely when he has not had a wee for a while, or crate him for a short period
  • Don’t leave your puppy in a crate for too long (see the chart)
  • Don’t punish your puppy if he has an accident
  • Do clear up accidents quickly and thoroughly
  • Do keep small puppies off carpets and restrict them to washable floors

How to get help with potty training problems

I have written an in-depth article that covers all the common puppy training problems that new puppy owners experience.

Do check it out if you run into problems, you may find it helpful to read it when you have finished this one.

Do also join the forum where we have lots of other puppy parents and many experienced labrador owners who provide help and support to you and others with new pups.

You don’t have to do this alone, and we’d love to meet you

The key to successfully housetraining a puppy

The best way to potty train a puppy depends on your lifestyle and the amount of time you have to leave your puppy unsupervised. Read through the two methods to discover which is the right one for you and your family.

The key to successfully and swift dog potty training is avoiding mistakes. Labradors are creatures of habit, and if a place is an unfamiliar place to wee, then the dog will not want to wee there.

If your dog has never pooped on your carpet by the time he is three months old, the chances are he never will.

Remember that pups have very small bladders and very little control over them.  When they need to go,  they need to go now!

This is why your best line of attack when toilet training a puppy is to pre-empt them with plenty of trips outside.

Good luck with potty training your puppy and do let us know how you get on!

How to potty train your puppy – more information

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

Published in April 2014, the Happy Puppy covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.

The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, crate training, socialisation and early obedience.

The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.

This article was extensively revised and updated in 2017  

Previous articleBest Dog Carriers For Labradors
Next articleBest Dog Shampoo For Labradors
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.


  1. hey. I have 4 month old yellow lab, hes doing great with house training but if I’m not constantly watching him, He will go to the door and wet without letting me know. How can I get him to communicate his need to go out to pee? Hes never had a poop accident in the house, and hes very smart but if I do not initiate our going out, he doesn’t tell me verbally. But most all his accidents are by the door. He is crate training and that is going well now and he doesn’t have run thru the house. However, We do have an open floor plan so his run space is larger than average room. I am looking for suggestions and options to train him to not just go to the door but tell me hes there waiting to go out.. I really want to do his training right and be very thorough with him.. Any suggestions or ideas???

  2. Hi There, Thanks for all of this great information for starters 🙂 I have a 6 month old chocolate lab Bailey. He spent the first 3 months going to puppy daycare three days a week. Daycare was all inside and hard floors, it seems now that Bailey thinks he can only wee and poo on hard floors. On the weekend I installed a doggy door so he can go in and out as he pleases. Sometimes he won’t wee on the floor but will still poo and vice versa. I don’t get angry at him and I use Biozet enzyme cleaner to clean up after him. I am at a total loss and really need any help I can get. Thank you in advance 🙂

  3. Hello, I have a 10 week old chocolate lab named Moose. I had to return back to work full time so I have created a 6’x6’ space for Moose that has his crate, puppy pads as well as space to play and stretch. I get Moose up at 5:00am to use the bathroom and eat breakfast and then I leave for work around 5:45am. I’ve arranged for my father who doesn’t work to come by and let Moose out at 9:00am, 11:30am and eat lunch, and again at 2:30pm. Then I get home at 5:00pm and he is out the rest of the afternoon and eats dinner. However during the day he is peeing on the puppy pad and then playing in it so everyday I get home I have to completely clean him and the pen area. Any suggestions on how to get him to stop playing with the puppy pads or do I just need to wait this out and until he gets more control of his bladder and waits to go outside??? Thanks for any advice.

  4. Maybe someone could help me please. I have a 14 week old yellow lab. He has no problem holding himself in the crate and most of the time when loose in the house. However, when he does have a urination mistake when loose in the house it’s always on his own bed. No other place. It has only been 3 times since we got him a month ago. But it’s 3 times too many. We have now taken his bed away but I feel bad that he doesn’t have a comfortable place to lay. Has anyone had this problem or if anyone has any suggestions please feel free to help. Thank you so much!

  5. How can I make my puppy go outside by his own without escaping? He always tries to escape and I want him to stay in the area I want him to stay. How can I do that?

  6. Having raised and trained various dog breeds for many years, I must state that the content within these pages represents some of the best Labrador information I have ever seen or read.
    None of us should consider that we know everything and/or retain all information indefinitely, thus I find this reading both insightful an a reaffirmation of accumulated knowledge useful for everyone.

  7. I just rescued my 9-11 week old black lab. My friend found her in a box with her litter and she was the last one. She barkes really loud when i try to confine her to a potty place but she wont go if shes confined. she hasnt had her shots yet and i dont want to take any chances with getting her sick. i have an app scheduled tomorrow but i would bennefit from some assistance for potty training because i rent a house and shes had so many accidents already.

  8. Hi Pippa. Have a 5 minth old lab. Read all tge awesome posts. Pup was introduced to “his spot” on day one. We take him out very frequently, as he “rings bell” on bk door. Sometimes WAY to often, ie twice in half hour, to wee. Even often, he aways does go wee. Sometines, regardless of how frequent, he starts going on way to the “spot “. 1st, my husband feels hes being spiteful, because “he knows where his spot is”, is he? 2nd, how can we stop him from going “on the way”, and wait to get to the spot.