Potty Training 101

Successful potty training will depend on your ability to provide three things: familiarity, crate schedule and limited freedom.


Footing: Pups will seek three things when they need to potty: familiar footing (texture), familiar scent and familiar environment. Some breeders use potty pads, wood pellets, wood shaving, outdoor grass area, concrete blocks and or graveled areas to train their pups. Ask your breeder what substrate your puppy is familiar with and provide that for your pup. You can easily introduce your puppy to the substrate you wish to use throughout the puppy’s life. For example: if your puppy is familiar with wood shavings, ask your breeder to bag up some fresh shavings with a bit of used (scented) shavings. Take the bag home and spread it in the corner of the yard in which you wish to train your dog to use as his potty area. Eventually, the shavings will either blow away or be picked up with waste and your pup will gradually grow accustomed to the permanent substrate. (see Install Your Own Doggy Latrine.)

Familiar Scent: Ask your breeder to bag up a bit of used shavings, pellets, potty pad which will have the scent of both him and his littermates. You do not need much! A single pad, a handful of shavings or pellets within a bag of fresh will do the trick. If your pup is to be using concrete, gravel or grass, ask your breeder to dampen a paper towel with a bit of urine, collect a small segment of feces and bag in a ziplock. When you get home, deposit the feces on the area dedicated to his potty needs and wipe the ground with the damp paper towel. Dogs have incredible noses. Your pup will be able to smell this familiar scent.

Familiar Environment: Ask your breeder to describe the materials that have been used to enclose the puppy potty area or yard. If it is chain link, try to use chain link to enclose your puppy’s area. If you have a wooden fence, dedicate a far corner of the yard as the pup’s potty and use chain link to enclose the additional two sides needed. The materials can be temporary, too. If the pups are used to going under evergreen trees, hang a few boughs from the fenced area. One pup I know was enclosed by snow fencing. I lined one side of her potty are with snow fencing placed against the permanent chain link and wood fence. I gradually rolled it back until the pup was using the potty reliably and then discarded the snow fence completely. A small portion of familiar materials will be all your pup needs.


The crate is your very best friend during the weeks of intense potty training. Using a crate schedule will employ the pup’s instincts to initiate control of eliminations.   

 1) Feed your pup at the exact time each and every day. Pups tend to potty within 15 min of a meal. If you feed at the same time, they will potty at the same time. This give you a certain amount of predictability of your pup’s potty requirements.  

 2) Puppies play hard and sleep harder! Once they have a play time (post potty), they will be ready for a solid sleep. Always put your puppy in her crate for sleep. It is against a dog’s instincts to wet/soil in their sleeping area. Because your pup is in her crate, she will be inclined to ‘hold it’ while she settles herself for sleep and, when she wakes, she will wait for you to take her to the potty.  

3) I always offer water immediately after the pup does her business and a small amount just before she goes into her crate.  

4) Always take up your pup’s water supply one hour before her night time sleep.  

5) Be aware of your pup’s time in the crate. I generally leave them to sleep in their crate for two hours before getting them up for potty and play. Some pups are sawing logs for three hours before they are ready to wake. Because each puppy is unique, check on your pup every once in a while once they have been sleeping for two hours.  

 6) I recommend leashing your puppy before you take them out of the crate and then carry your puppy to the potty area. (NEVER leave a leash on a puppy while in the crate. It is also advised you remove their collar while in the crate.) To keep your puppy calm, I recommend you do this activity without eye contact, affection and talk. These are very distracting to your puppy and you want her to be able to concentrate on her business.  

7) Once you get to the potty area, place your pup on the ground and stand quietly, making no eye contact or noise. Watch your dog’s behavior closely. Some pups spin around their front feet to get compfy for a poop. Others travel in circles to locate the perfect spot. Some will smell along the perimeter of their potty area and pee/defecate along the fence line. Learning our dog’s ‘tells’ will help you know when your puppy is needing to relieve himself when he is indoors. When you see your pup go, be ready to give him a quick praise and pat for a job well done.  

 8) A fun playtime should follow your puppy’s potty deed. Keep in mind that many pups are known to potty twice before they are actually finished. Take time to observe and learn your pup’s habits.  

9) Make certain you do not make playtime a hyper event, especially if you are intending to have a calm submissive dog. You can play hardy without becoming hyper. Take breaks to snuggle with your pup and continue the handling skills your breeder started with your puppy.  

10) Don’t forget to offer water to your puppy. Once your puppy appears to be tired out by playtime, give him a nice cuddle and place him in his crate for a nap.  

Your potty/crate schedule will be similar to the one below but you will have to adjust it slightly to suite your family schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, the crate training provided by your breeder and the individual pup’s ability to hold his bladder, a puppy can be left between 2-4 hours at a time in the crate. As your puppy becomes more and more reliable, you can begin to extend his time out of the crate by 15 minute intervals. Don’t rush it! Your puppy is growing by leaps and bounds during his first year and requires loads of sleep. As long as you are providing exercise, mental stimulation through obedience skills and socialization during his time out of the crate, he will be happy to have that time to sleep.      


6:00 am Potty, feed/water, potty, playtime, quiet snuggles/handling   

6:30 – 7:00 am Nap time in crate   

9:00 am Potty, water, playtime, quiet snuggles/handling  

11:00 am Nap time in crate  

12:00 noon Potty, feed/water, playtime, quiet snuggles/handling   

1:00 pm Nap time in crate   

3:00 pm Potty, water, playtime, quiet snuggles/handling   

4:00 pm Nap time in crate   

6:00 pm Potty, feed/water, playtime, quiet snuggles/handling   

7:00 pm Nap time in crate   

9:00 pm Potty, water, playtime, quiet snuggles/handling  

10:00 pm Night time sleep Midnight…                       

***For the first few weeks to months, I recommend the pup is quietly and unceremoniously taken to the potty at midnight and placed directly back into her crate with no affection, talk or eye contact. You do not want your puppy to view this as playtime. It is best to keep the task as quiet and calm as possible.         


For the first few weeks of bringing your puppy home, it is highly recommended that you limit your puppy’s freedom to one room. Typically, that is the kitchen due to the hard, easy-to-wash flooring that is found in nearly all kitchens. Hard surfaces are not absorbent and therefore not your puppy’s first choice for a prime pee spot. It is also very easy to clean and there are numerous cleaning solutions that are formulated for all varieties of hard floor surfaces that will break down the enzymes that are present in urine and responsible for attracting the puppy to that spot in future.   

In addition, you want your puppy to have the opportunity to learn where the door to your back door is. Back doors are generally off the kitchen or very near to the kitchen.   

Limiting your puppy’s roaming/play area will go a long way in setting you and your puppy up for success during potty training. As your puppy becomes more and more reliable in their toileting, you can gradually increase your puppy’s indoor area. Don’t rush it! I recommend adding 50 square feet each week. If you, at any time, expand your puppy’s area and they have an accident, reduce the area immediately. Do not expand again until you have gone two weeks with no accidents. In no time at all, your puppy will be exploring the entirety of your home with no worry of accidents.  

Another benefit of limiting your puppy’s area is that doing so places you in control. The pack member that controls the space, owns the space. This translates as a very strong message to the dog: you own and control everything in the house. When you expand the dog’s space to an additional room, take him on leash to that room and lead him around. He is being invited to explore under your guidance, this new area. Dogs are far less likely to mark (or claim) the area that belongs to the pack leader.

Did You Know...

At Akenside Kennels, your pet will receive quality care, exercise and social time with other dogs if the owner permits at a competitive rate. Akenside Kennels boasts 15 acres of land: plenty of space for long walks and energetic romps. At Akenside Kennels, we are happy to send updates and reports regarding your pet’s well-being via text or emails. If your individual situation does not permit you to drop off or pick up your pet during regular hours, we at Akenside Kennels will discuss alternate options at reasonable fees.