Solving Your Puppy Potty Training Problems


Puppy potty training problems are one of the biggest complaints we get from new puppy owners. And if you have an older dog, know that these same tips will apply for your dog, too!

The good news is, with a good plan and the support of a professional, potty training doesn't have to be as difficult as it might seem. In fact, most pups can be fully potty trained in just a few weeks.

Here are a few common ways that puppy potty training goes wrong, and how to get things back on track:

There's something medical that's influencing your dog's behavior.

Medical reasons for potty training problems are too often overlooked.

If your pup is only having pee accidents, is peeing with extreme frequency, and/or you see a drastic change in your dog's bathroom habits, your first visit should be to your veterinarian to check for any underlying medical issues.

You need to adjust your confinement strategy.

Confining your dog is a necessary component to successful potty training. If your pup is having accidents in their confinement area (such as a crate or a playpen) it's too large.

You can make that confinement area a safe and positive place by:

  • Never using it for punishment
  • Feeding your dog's meals in there and hiding special treats in the area
  • Not leaving him/her in there for excessive periods. (General rule of thumb is age in months + 1 hour)

During the potty training process, in times you can't actively supervise your dog and they are not "empty," your dog must be confined! This is critical.

You're missing accidents.

This is the reason both confinement and active supervision are so important to the puppy potty training process.

Every time you miss an accident, you've just extended the length of time it's going to take to potty train your dog.

In order for your dog to fluently learn any behavior (in this case, eliminating outside) they must have a clear understanding of what you want and what you don't.

If your dog has an accident and doesn't get any feedback, they're never going to understand what's expected of them.

Your dog isn't making the connection.

So how can you use feedback to complete your puppy potty training process?

If your dog has an accident in front of you, immediately interrupt with an "ah-ah!" and get him outside as quickly as possible. Do not yell at your dog, rub his nose in the accident, or punish him. You are simply interrupting and getting him outside, then praising heavily if he finishes outside.

If your dog has an accident and you miss it, simply clean it up, as there's no learning that will happen at this point.

Go with your dog outside every time during this process. You need to praise and reward heavily for pottying outdoors, and you need to know whether or not your dog is "empty"!

You need to teach your dog a way to alert you that he needs to go.

If your dog understands that they need to potty outside but is having accidents near the door, it's likely they just haven't learned a clear way to signal to you that they need to go.

In this case, it's helpful to add in a bell or other audible alert that your pup can use to let you know she's got to go. A professional can help you effectively teach a bell alert.

If you have a dog that absolutely won't potty outside, no matter what you try, check out this blog for some additional help.

42 thoughts on “Solving Your Puppy Potty Training Problems

  1. I’m having a issue we go outside and wait and tell her to go pee/poop and they won’t. Then have an accident when we get in the house

    1. You can try a few things. 1 – try a confinement area (supervised) outside, like a large playpen. Sometimes giving them a more confined space to potty in will help speed up the process, then BIG praise and reward if they go outside. Also, if your doesn't potty outside, put them immediately into an indoor confinement area for 15-20 minutes, then take them back outside to potty. They shouldn't have free reign if they need to potty, but didn't go outside. Hope this helps!

  2. My 4month old Scotty male pup wS doing great with ringing bell to go to our grass patch on our balcony of our condo. Just in the past 4 days he is peeing by door right after rings bell and by his food dish . I watch him frequently especially after eating, sleeping, and during play. This happens more so after 5:00 pm??? I have a play pen and have started placing him in it yesterday for some of the time.

    1. If he is peeing by the door, it's likely that he's trying to make it outside, but can't hold it. You may want to focus on the bell training again, but also really watch your pup for cues he needs to go. If you continue seeing lots of small pee accidents, it's always worth it to rule out a UTI with your vet.

  3. Hi!
    We are training an 8-week old puppy to pee on pads inside until fully vaccinated…. we have a crate that she sleeps in our room, a pen with her pee pad and a play area outside of the pen. We watch her like a hawk. She is great at night in the crate and we wake up every 2 hours to bring her to pads and she goes within minutes. During the day she cries when we put her on the pad (or plops on it) and then pees outside of it during play. Any advice on how to reverse this would be SO helpful! Thank you

    1. If at all possible, I recommend sticking with your preferred potty method right from the start (for example, if you plan to have her potty outside eventually, start that right now.) The pads can be really difficult to transition away from later on. Do you have access to an outdoor space not accessed by a ton of other dogs?

  4. 10 week old puppy is crate training, and was doing well going outside when we take him out, and occasionally in his pen litterbox (filled with horse pellets as that's what the breeder used). Lately, though, he goes outside the litter box, in his crate, AND lays down to sleep and play in the litter box. It's not very big, but he prefers it to the crate for naps when he isn't crated. We use reward treats and lots of praise for successes, but confused by this turn of events.

    1. I would recommend eliminating the litter box altogether, making the crate smaller (enough room to stand up and turn around comfortably, but not much more) and go back to basics on your potty training! Remember that you've got to catch those accidents in the act and get him outside ASAP 🙂

  5. We have a nine week old puppy and during the day while working from home we have kept him confined to my office or on a leash with my husband at table. We take him out frequently and praise him when he goes. Int he last 48 hours he comes in and with in a few minutes starts to per again. What are we doing wrong?? He sleep through the night no issue in his cage and no accidents

    1. You may want to go to the vet first to check for a UTI – if you are seeing lots of small pee accidents, that could be the cause! Also, be sure you are only praising/rewarding your puppy after he has completely finishing pottying. Otherwise, he might not finish completely.

    2. How are things going – my pup is doing the same (clean in crate at night etc) – we did check for a uti – all clear.

  6. Our Dobermann is good about his crate, but readily pees in the (indoor) pen, still. We try to have perfect supervision when he's in the pen, but he is still peeing in the pen when we are imperfect about supervision. We've "caught him in the act" 1 time, despite weeks of effort. (He's 3 months old.) How do we teach him that he needs to tell us he has to go, or build his understanding that the pen (and eventually the house) is his indoor space, like the crate. We snuggle in there, play, train, feed in the pen. Any tips helpful.

    1. Try making the pen smaller, and you can also fill it with some toys and other items to prevent extra free space. If accidents happen in the pen, it's too big! As he starts to do better, you can begin making it larger again.

  7. I have a 1,5 year old mixed breed that I adopted 3 weeks ago. We live in an apartment and when it’s raining and we can’t take her outside, she holds her pee and refuses to do it indoors. She even hooded it one time for 20 hours that we had to give up and took her to pee outside in the rain. We’ve put pads on the floor in a quiet space but she chooses to use them as a bed. What can I do to make her comfortable peeing inside?

  8. Have 20 week old havenese puppy. She pees outside 3-4 times and then will pee in the house soon after. She doesn't have any other accidents but seems to need to pee frequently. She holds it in her crate and at night.

  9. I'm at wit's end. 10-week old Havapoo just doesn't get it. I have peepads because I can barely get some clothes on to take her out before she goes. She doesn't seem to understand that poop goes there, too. Now she just piddles everywhere, even after I've just taken her outside.
    She absolutely hates being confined, screaming and yowling in crate or pen. Forget about leashing her indoors. I can't take her for longer walks yet because she's only had one set of shots, but she can run in the garden.
    I'm starting to suspect she does this on purpose, or we've got a battle of wills going on. Is it possible that I'm not giving enough leadership?

    1. Hi Beth! The good news is, this is likely just a case of a pup that hasn't quite gotten the gist of potty training just yet. You're going to want to find a confinement area that that she can tolerate – you can try giving her meals in there as well as a kong stuffed with peanut butter to help make a positive association with it. You'll want to remove the pee pads, as they send mixed messages about it being appropriate to potty indoors. If you need extra help, feel free to set up a virtual session with us!

  10. We have an 8 week old lab. He is not catching on to potty training at all. If we crate train, do we keep him in there at all times, even when we are home?

    1. The crate is a management strategy – use it when you can't supervise your pup as well as overnight, but it shouldn't be used all day long. A good rule of thumb is age in months + one hour for maximum time in the crate at one time (overnight they can go longer.) If you need some extra management, tethering your pup to you with a leash is another great option! Keep in mind, at 8 weeks your pup is a baby and has so much learning to do. He'll get there!

  11. Our 9 week old puppy does great in the morning. Are following a strict feeding schedule.We wake up once in the middle of the night around 1-2am and take her out. She does her job in 2-5min. Same for at 7am. But she seem to have trouble after noon. We take her out every 2 hrs, she sometimes refuses to pee and does her job once we come in (on her way to the crate). I feel like she is holding it until she she comes in. We are trying to pick her up and put her in the crate. Sometimes she pees a little outside, and then 10 min later pees again inside. Cannot seem to figure out the problem. We watch her like a hawk. As soon as she starts sniffing we take her out. The accidents are the most between noon and 7pm. Any suggestions?

  12. hi I have a 6month old maltipoo, I crate her at night time and she makes it fully through the night without going potty. But I am gone at work from 4:30am-5pm during the week & my daughter comes home from school at 2 and takes her potty. The breeder that we got her from put potty pads in the crate when she was little, and now has a problem going in her crate. She got used to laying in her poop and pee I think. When we try to put her in a play pen, with potty pad, she climbs out. please any advice that you have!!

    1. That is a lot of time in confinement for a pup! She genuinely might not be able to handle this much time being confined, especially without being able to potty. I would recommend a small, baby-gated room with pads, or a sturdier play pen with tall sides. If feasible for you, it may be beneficial to hire a dog walker to get her some additional time out of confinement during your work week!

  13. We are struggling with potty training our four month old beagle. The good news is she sleeps all night in her crate without having an accident, usually eight hours. We’re following all the potty training guidelines, keeping her in a confined area in the house where we can always be watching her, taking her outside whenever removing her from her crate or before putting her in it, when she walks away from playtime, before and after she eats, and any other time she shows signs of needing to go. She will scratch at the door to let us know she needs to get out and will often run to her potty area and go. We praise her and give her treats when she goes in the correct area. My problem is that after all of this, she will pee on the family room rug right in front of me! Often times this will happen only five or 10 minutes after she’s peed outside. I’m not sure what we’re doing wrong. Help!

    1. You may want to have your vet check for a UTI, just in case! Especially if you are only seeing pee accidents, right after she has already peed. If that comes back clear, you will want to really focus on watching her right after she comes back inside so you can interrupt those accidents and get her back outside.

  14. We have been bringing our 10 weeks old puppy to the potty training mat or outside once he wakes up, 15 min after eating and drinking and 2 hourly after he has gone to sleep at night. However, he doesn’t per or poo at any of these tries. We then have to keep putting him back in his crate. We are not sure why he isn’t going. Please help.

  15. Hello! I have a 10 week old Shih Tzu. I just got him today and I’ve been trying to teach him to use the puppy pad as I live in an apartment. He had an accident this morning and I just said “ah ah” and took him to the pee pad where he didn’t pee. I would just like some tips on how I can get him to use a pee pee pad regularly in the apartment. I make sure to keep the pee pee pad in the same spot all the time. Any tips?

    1. Hey Phillip! Is your goal to permanently have him use a pee pad, or just while he's still young? We recommend only using pee pads if that's your long-term plan – otherwise it can be difficult to wean off of them. With that said, in the scenario you're describing, he was likely "empty" by the time he got to the pad. Try to catch him SUPER quickly so he needs to finish wherever you place him. I would also recommend putting the pad area inside of a playpen, so that there is a clear structure to where he should go. (Keep the playpen door open.) You can even put some treats in the pad area to encourage your pup to explore around there. Another great way to start is by putting your pup in the pen, door closed, first thing in the morning so you have an almost guaranteed pee inside of the pad area.

  16. Hi.
    Having trouble with a 16 week old golden retriever. He was doing wonders and sitting at the door when he needed to go and holding from 8-12:30, now he’s started to go anywhere he wants inside (only wee). He doesn’t have issues when we’re home because we’re on top of him for going outside and lots of praise when he does but when we’re at work he is going on the floor even if we leave his pee pad out which he sometimes uses and not others, vet has cleared him. He’s also stopped indicating he wants to go out by sitting at the door. I’m at my wits end I have no idea what I’m doing wrong.

    1. I would suggest stopping use of the pee pad, as it is taking away the need for him to "hold it." I would recommend a crate or small playpen while you're at work, with no pee pad inside. If you have any accidents in the pen, you'll need to make the space smaller. Good luck!

      1. Thanks! That’s what I thought I’d need to do but felt bad about having him in a crate (silly I know). I’ll try the pen.

  17. Hello! I have a 4 and a half month old beagle who refuses to potty outside. We got her 2 weeks ago from someone who kept her outside in a small pen with only a concrete pad. She has yet to poop outside but has peed a handful of times outdoors. She flips out in a kennel and will soil it. One time she pottied literally 3 minutes after I put her in the kennel. We supervise her indoors, take her out regularly, and have praised her heavily the times she does go outside. Since she hates the kennel we've let her sleep in our bed, and she always makes it all night without going. We've started confining her to the garage while we work because at least in there she doesn't *have* to sit in her own filth. But she has the bladder and bowel control to hold it for a long time. We've had her outdoors a full 10 hours one day waiting for her to potty, and when we finally gave up she went as soon as we got inside. We've interrupted potty accidents and taken her immediately out, but she refuses to go. I don't know what to do!

  18. We have a 3 month old Vizsla puppy and she is just not getting the peeing outside thing. She poops outside great. She will just pee a little and then once inside finish her pee. I try to be on her all the time when home, but in an instant she will just pee. She even will pee in her crate, it’s like she doesn’t care. I have made the space in her crate just big enough for her to stand and turn around. She will just pee in her bed. We do put her in the crate at night, but will only last 3 hours at the most. Any help would be appreciated.

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