Potty Training

Quick and to-the-point potty training tips

Potty Training Crash Course

Thursday, October 8, 2015 | NHS Behavior Department

New puppy? Take our crash course in potty training. Psst ... it works for older dogs, too.

Create the opportunity for success

Keep your dog confined in a comfortable crate or small area when you can’t supervise him, or use a leash to keep an eye on your dog at all times.

Timing is everything 

  • Take your dog out at times that would be consistent with a need for elimination:
  • First thing in the morning
  • After a nap
  • After playtime
  • After eating or drinking: Feed your dog on a timed and set schedule. Never free feed, especially when working to potty train.
  • Accidents happen: If you catch your dog trying to eliminate in the house, simply interrupt the behavior and redirect him outside where he can earn a treat for getting it right. 
  • Oops too late: Dogs don’t understand punishment after the fact, so if you find a mess in the house, it’s best to just clean it up and keep trying.  


Escort your dog on leash to the same outdoor location every 2 to 3 hours. Dogs usually urinate in one spot and defecate in another. Take note of the areas that your dog prefers. Familiar smells stimulate elimination. Give the dog a few minutes to sniff and take care of his business. Dogs sometimes have to go more than once. Use verbal encouragement.


When your dog begins to eliminate, give a quiet cue such as “go potty” with verbal praise. Once he’s finished, immediately give him a high value treat (example: small piece of chicken, cheese or hot dog).

If at first you don't succeed ...

If your dog doesn’t go potty outside during the allotted time, bring him indoors and put him in the crate or tie the leash to your belt loop for the next 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, return to the appointed spot and try again. Repeat until the dog potties outside.

Strive for consistency and prevention

  • Do all the above steps for at least 6 weeks. Even if your pooch doesn’t have an accident for a week in the 6-week period, continue to follow each step so the dog has a consistent routine.
  • If your pooch has an accident at any point in the 6-week period, go back to the beginning (week 1) and start from there again.
  • If your dog has not had an accident at all in the 6-week period, you’re well on your way to having a potty trained dog! Now you can give your dog a little extra room and let them work his way up to total freedom!

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