When you bring your new puppy home or a dog you have recently adopted, potty training can be one of the more frustrating aspects of inviting your new family member into your home.  Imagine you’re playing with your adorable puppy one minute, watching them pounce around, fall over themselves and do cute puppy antics and the next minute they are squatting right in front of you and peeing with little or no warning.  You scoop them up, run to the nearest exit, all the while they continue to pee, you set them down in the grass and they’re done, staring up at you ready to play again.  I’ve been in this situation so many times and each time I just shrug and tell myself I have to do better the next time.  If this sounds familiar don’t worry, you’re not doing anything wrong!  Potty training is one of the most challenging things we face introducing new dogs into the family.  And if you’re like me you don’t even own a patch of grass and live on the fourth floor of an apartment, now there is a challenge (more on a corgi in an apartment later).

Scroll down for helpful tips and recommended items for potty training with links.

Here are 5 helpful tips to help you and your puppy (or adopted dog) be the most successful with potty training…


1. Be consistent

It is our job to show our puppy when and where it’s okay to go to the bathroom.  They don’t know without our help.  To be consistent be sure to take your dog out at key times and at the same time everyday if you can.  The best times to take your dog out are after they eat, when they wake up (even from naps) and after playing.  Generally we took Sylvie out every 1-2 hours.  Also, when they are young (under 6 months) and still can’t hold their bladder for more than 3-4 hours, it’s a good idea to wake up in the middle of the night to take them out.  Even though they’re sleeping they may still have accidents.  (Just in your tired delirium don’t forget the keys to get back into the apartment building, because I’ve done that!).

A good rule of thumb I learned is that a dog can hold their bladder for one hour for each month of age, for example, a 3 month old puppy can hold their bladder for about 3 hours and so on.  I wouldn’t rely on this unless your puppy has had some potty training under their belt.  I know this isn’t a possibility for everyone but to maintain consistency one of us came home from work everyday at lunch and we took the first week off work to work on potty training.  My personal work schedule also allowed me to not have to leave her home 5 days a week for 8 hours a day, which can make potty training in an apartment very very difficult.  If you have a yard with a doggy door, train your puppy at a young age to use the door but focus more on getting them outside as soon as possible if they are struggling with the door.  Once your dog knows how to go outside on their own potty training is much simpler!  We found around the age of 4-5 months our dogs had learned how to go outside on their own when they had access to a dog door.

2. Positive Reinforcement

Treats, treats and more treats (or your dogs favorite toy).  Not to mention when they go potty where you want them to to jump up and down with utter joy, even if that means people walking by stare at you with strange looks.  I have found that praising works much better than disciplining.  When you do take your dog out in the grass and you wait for what seems like an eternity and they don’t go to the bathroom that’s okay, just come back inside and try again in an hour.  If they do go to the bathroom outside, praise profusely and offer treats and say “good potty” or whatever command you choose to use (see tip #3).

The only time I found that any negativity with the potty training is effective is if you are standing right next to them and they start to pee in the wrong spot (like right on the new white carpet).  Clapping a couple of times and saying “no!” is something I’ve done but I never punish the dog outside of a stern verbal “no!”  It is almost always our mistake for not taking her out when she needed to go to the bathroom.  Also, associating negativity to potting can make potty training take longer, especially if the dog is afraid to go to the bathroom for fear of being punished.  Keep it positive!

3. Use a Command like “Go Potty”

Just like any other form of training, use a command.  We ask our dogs to sit with a command so going potty should be no different.  In fact, associating a command with going to the bathroom really helps potting go faster.  Start the command at the very beginning so when you take your puppy out say “go potty” or “go to the bathroom” or “go out and go” any phrase you choose.  I say it often and a lot and when they do go to the bathroom I reward with a treat and say “good potty, good girl” for example.

Using a command also helps when your dog is an unfamiliar place, like on travel or at a friends or relatives house.  Using the command tells your dog it’s okay to go to the bathroom here since they don’t recognize any of the smells.

4. Have the Right Equipment

Your dog is going to have accidents inside and having pee pads and a pen to help with training is perfectly okay.  The things I use to potty train change depending on whether I live in a home with a yard or in an apartment.  These items are more for people with puppies in apartments but can work just as well if you have a house.  In our apartment it was fully carpeted so when we left for work we didn’t want Sylvie wandering around the apartment having accidents.  This doesn’t help her succeed either.  We set up a pen on top of a huge waterproof mat (brown mat in picture above) with pee pads and pee mats.  We also crated our dog at night (more on that in another post).  Here is a list of the equipment we used…

The pen:

The big brown mat:

Cleaning spray:

Disposable pee pads: any pee pad will do.  They have earth friendly ones, odor reduction, extra absorbent, etc.  Since we had a small dog we just used small pee pads and chose your regular Wee Wee pads, nothing fancy.

As for the small green mat visible in the picture above.  That is a reusable, washable pee pad.  She rarely used it so I didn’t find it too effective but if they do use them they are cheaper and more eco-friendly than disposable pads.

5. Be Patient

Simple but true, just be patient with your puppy.  You should start to see success in the first few weeks of potty training but we were still having accidents occur up to her first birthday.  Also, potty training can take longer when you live in apartment, especially if you’re on the top floor of a four story building.  Don’t be upset if you have set backs.  It is important to remember that if your dog is struggling with potty training despite your best efforts to not hesitate to speak to a veterinarian.  Our dog has bladder issues (UTIs and such which we’ll talk about in another post) and those issues can affect their potty training success.

Take your time and your puppy with be successfully potty trained in no time.  Please leave any questions in the comment section, I’m happy to answer them!