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How long does it take to potty train a puppy?

Potty training a new puppy can be a challenging but rewarding process. With consistency and patience, most puppies can be potty trained within 4-6 months. However, the exact timeline will vary depending on your individual puppy and training techniques. In this article, we’ll explore the potty training process, effective strategies, common challenges, and what to expect at different ages. Read on for tips to potty train your puppy smoothly and successfully.

When to start potty training a puppy

Most experts recommend starting potty training as soon as you bring your new puppy home, generally around 8-12 weeks of age. Puppies have small bladders when young and need to relieve themselves frequently. Beginning training early allows you to start instilling good bathroom habits right away.

That said, some puppies may not be developmentally ready to start training until closer to 12-16 weeks old. Signs your puppy is ready include:

  • Able to hold urine for longer stretches (at least 2-3 hours)
  • Signals need to potty through behaviors like circling, sniffing, or waiting by the door
  • Shows interest in treats and praise used for positive reinforcement
  • Seems aware of soiling inside vs. outside

If your pup still seems oblivious to potty training, wait a week or two before restarting. But for most puppies, earlier is better to start establishing good habits.

Setting up a potty training schedule

Consistency is key for potty training success. Set up a structured schedule to take your puppy outside frequently. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Take out first thing in the morning, right after naps and meals, and just before bedtime
  • Go out at least every 2 hours for young puppies under 4 months old
  • Stretch to every 3-4 hours for puppies 4-6 months old as bladder control improves
  • Allow access outside whenever they indicate a need to potty

You’ll also want to choose a designated potty spot outside, ideally nearby for quick access. Take your puppy to this same spot each time to reinforce the smell and cue “this is the place to go.”

How to potty train a puppy

When you take your puppy outside, there are certain training techniques to encourage and reinforce proper potty habits:

  • Use a cue: Say a phrase like “go potty” when they start to go so they associate the command with the action.
  • Reward successes: Provide treats and enthusiastic praise every time they potty in the correct spot.
  • Limit time: Stay outside for 5-10 minutes only. If they don’t go, back inside to the crate for 15 minutes, then try again.
  • Supervise or confine: Watch closely while loose indoors, or crate train when you can’t observe them directly.
  • Interrupt accidents: If you catch them in the act inside, make a sudden noise to alert them, then immediately take them outside to finish.

With frequent potty breaks, rewards for outdoor potties, and prevention of indoor accidents, most puppies will make rapid progress. Be patient, consistent, and proactive, and your efforts will pay off.

Common potty training challenges

Even with the best training, puppies may still have some accidents or setbacks. Here are some common potty training challenges and how to handle them:

Excitement urination

Some puppies, especially younger ones under 6 months, may pee out of excitement when you return home or during play. Reduce excitement triggers and greet calmly. Take them directly outside to finish peeing.

Submissive urination

Fearful, anxious pups may submissively urinate when scolded or intimidated. Build confidence with rewards and avoid punishment or overwhelming situations.

Medical issues

Infections, hormone imbalances, or anatomy issues could affect ability to hold urine. Seek veterinary advice if difficulties persist despite training.

Marking behavior

Unneutered males may mark territory with urine after 6 months old. Spay or neuter can reduce this habit in addition to training.

What to expect during potty training at different ages

Potty training progresses gradually as your puppy matures both physically and mentally. Here’s a general timetable of accomplishments to expect at different ages:

8-12 weeks

  • Take out at least every 2 hours plus after meals, naps, and play
  • Provide plenty of rewards for outdoor potties
  • Closely supervise or use crate when unable to watch
  • Have several accidents per week but start signaling need to go out

3-4 months

  • Take out every 3-4 hours plus after key events
  • Praise and extend time between outdoor rewards
  • Confine less often but still avoid extended free roam
  • Have occasional accidents but improve bladder control

5-6 months

  • Take out every 4-6 hours plus after key events
  • Phase out food rewards but provide ample verbal praise
  • Can roam more supervised time, but not yet full house freedom
  • Rare accidents, can hold urine for longer times

When is a puppy fully potty trained?

A puppy can be considered fully housetrained when they have complete bladder control and consistently let you know when they need to go out. For most puppies, this is achievable between 4-6 months of age. Key signs of potty training success include:

  • No indoor accidents for at least 1 month
  • Signals need through behaviors, whining, or waiting at the door
  • Able to comfortably “hold it” for up to 8 hours
  • Willfully eliminates in designated outdoor spot when taken out

At this point, your fully potty trained pup can transition to going out on a regular schedule rather than needing constant supervision and frequent trips outside.

Tips for smooth, successful potty training

Potty training requires time, consistency, and patience. But some key tips can help make the process smoother:

  • Keep a consistent schedule for feeding, naptime, playtime, and potty breaks.
  • Choose a potty cue like “go potty” and use whenever they eliminate.
  • Always reward desired behaviors; never punish for accidents.
  • Thoroughly clean all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to remove smells.
  • Limit access and supervise directly until fully housetrained.
  • Use baby gates, exercise pens, crates, or tethers to prevent wandering off.
  • Be patient and invest the time every day; this too shall pass!


How long potty training takes varies from pup to pup, but most will be fully trained by 6 months old. Set your puppy up for success by starting early, following a consistent schedule, rewarding outdoor potties, managing and cleaning accidents, and supervising diligently. With time and persistence, you can achieve housetraining success!