Potty Training a Stubborn Puppy: Top Tips from Pet Parents

Potty Training a Stubborn Puppy-A small puppy near a wet spot on the carpet

Ah…potty training a stubborn puppy. It’s something every pet parent has to experience when they bring their new pup home. Some dogs seem to “get it” rather quickly while others seem to have accidents for months on end. It can leave you scratching your head and stressing about what you can do to housebreak your pup...for good.

I had both experiences with my two Australian Shepherds. My first dog, Lacy was easy to potty train. It took several months but soon she had learned good habits and wasn’t having many accidents in the house. However, my second dog, Maverick was a little more difficult. He was still having accidents at a year and a half old even though we used all the same techniques with him as we did with Lacy.

It just goes to show you that every dog is different and you might have to try different tactics to see what clicks with your dog. If you have stumbled upon this article, I can assume you might be having some difficulty potty training a stubborn dog of your own.

Instead of just giving you the advice to stay consistent and be patient (which BOTH are very true and you should) I wanted to ask my dog parent community the top tips and tricks they used to have success with their young puppies.

I had 50 pet parents give their honest and real advice on what worked for them. After reading over the many responses, I saw a lot of the same themes over and over. My hope is that their real-life experiences and wise advice can help you out in your puppy potty training journey.

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Top Tips for Potty Training a Stubborn Puppy from Real-Life Pet Parents

1. “Keep their potty area and play area separate.”

First thing, keeping your puppy’s potty area separate from their play area is like setting the stage for a drama-free potty training experience. Think of it as teaching new pups the difference between their personal bathroom and their fun zone. It’s all about creating clear boundaries. This distinction helps them build a strong association with their potty area, avoids confusion and makes those potty cues click faster.

2. “Anytime they are not in their crate, they need to be “tethered to you.”

This piece of advice was definitely a fan favorite among the pet parents I surveyed. Yes, it’s like having a fluffy little shadow, but hear me out. This method isn’t just about keeping your puppy close, it’s a smart way to keep an eye on them every second they’re not napping or safely in their crate.

It’s the only way you can keep an eye on them at all times – the moment they start doing the potty dance, you’re right there to whisk them to their designated potty spot. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to bond and instill a sense of security in little pups. Keeping your puppy on a short leash inside the house might sound a tad over the top, but trust me, it’s a lifesaver (this was the advice my personal vet gave me as well when I was struggling to house train Maverick).

potty training a stubborn puppy-a dog sleeping in a crate

3. “Crate training your puppy will help to avoid potty accidents”

Crate training is a vital piece in the house training process. It banks on the simple fact that dogs-even stubborn puppies-naturally avoid soiling their rest areas. Think of your puppy’s crate as their cozy bedroom—a quiet spot where they can unwind and feel safe.

By associating dog crates with positive vibes, we’re leveraging their instinct to keep their sleeping quarters clean. This doesn’t just cut down on accidents; it deeply ingrains good potty habits. Plus, when your new puppy is in their crate…it is the best way to ensure they are not somewhere else having an accident on your new living room carpet.

I literally could not have made it with potty training my dog, Lacy without her crate. It’s her little home and we used it exclusively in her first three years. Here is the one I recommend. Game-changer. 

4. “Take Frequent Potty Breaks”

This is another essential step in the potty training journey. Taking frequent potty breaks might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s actually one of the golden rules when dealing with a stubborn puppy. It’s all about timing and consistency. Imagine you’re teaching them that there’s a time and place for everything, especially bathroom breaks.

By taking them outside regularly, you’re not just avoiding accidents; you’re engraving a consistent routine in their puppy brains. And it’s not just about the number of trips outdoors; it’s about making each visit a learning moment. Puppies have much smaller bladders than older dogs, so every couple of (2) hours, give them the chance to do their business in the appropriate place.

If you want potty training trackers, feeding schedule templates, and so many more helpful templates when it comes to training a new puppy, get a copy of my FREE PUPPY PLANNER below.

5. “Give Lots of Praise and Positive Reinforcement”

Every time your pup does their business in the right spot, shower them with love, praise, and maybe a little treat. This isn’t just about making them feel good; it’s about reinforcing the behavior you want to see. You’re building up their confidence and making them eager to please you.

It’s the kind of encouragement that makes your puppy think, “hey, I did something awesome, and I got a yummy treat for it. Let’s do that again!” This approach turns what could be a stressful learning curve into a series of win-win situations, where your puppy not only learns faster but also bonds with you through these positive interactions.

A common mistake of a new dog owner is scolding and yelling at their puppy when they have an accident. Scolding or yelling at a puppy for indoor accidents is counterproductive as it can instill fear and anxiety, undermining their trust in you and making the learning process more difficult.

Negative reactions may also lead puppies to hide when they need to go, further complicating potty training and creating bad habits. Positive reinforcement, rewarding good behavior rather than punishing mistakes, are far more effective training methods. Remember, patience and understanding are key, as accidents are a normal part of a puppy’s learning curve.

🐾 Advice from a Veterinarian

“When it comes to potty training puppies, consistency is the foundation of success. Like children, puppies don’t have full control of their bladder and bowel functions until they get a bit older. The early stages of house training are as much an exercise in training ourselves as they are in training our pups. It’s our responsibility to make sure that our puppies have ample opportunities to relieve themselves in designated areas and preventing accidents before they happen by understanding and anticipating their needs, rather than reacting to mistakes” Dr. Wendy Wilkins, DVM

6. “Take your puppy to the same area of the yard during bathroom breaks”

Consistency is key when potty training, and that includes always heading to the same area of the yard for bathroom breaks. It’s like setting up a ‘bathroom’ sign in their mental map. This spot becomes their favorite spot to relieve themselves, making the training process smoother and more intuitive for them.

Each successful visit reinforces their good behavior, slowly turning a lesson into a habit. And for you, it means fewer surprises in unexpected places. Stick to this simple strategy, and you’ll see how a little routine can make a big difference in your puppy’s potty training journey.

If you happen to live in an apartment with a balcony and cannot easily access a yard when your puppy has to go at 3 AM (been there done that) I highly suggest using a fake grass turf like the one here on Amazon. Put it outside on your patio or balcony. It resembles the lawn so your dog is still associating bathroom habits with grass instead of your carpet. 

7. “Reward Good Behavior Immediately with Training Treats”

Immediately rewarding your puppy with a treat after they go to the bathroom outside reinforces their good behavior. This direct reward helps them understand that they’ve done something right. The quick association between the action and the treat is essential for effective potty training. It encourages them to repeat the behavior, knowing that a positive outcome awaits them. This method is effective in making potty training a clear and positive experience for your puppy.

8. “Bell Train your young puppy”

Bell training new puppies is a great way to enhance communication between you and your pet. Start by hanging a bell by the door you use for bathroom breaks. Each time you go out, gently nudge their nose or paw against the bell. Soon, they’ll learn to ring it on their own when they need to go outside. This is the bell I recommend and is also a Bestseller on Amazon. 

This method empowers your puppy to alert you in a clear, audible way when it’s potty time, reducing accidents and misunderstandings. It’s a straightforward yet effective way to build a better understanding and a stronger bond with your puppy.

a small puppy drinking water out of a water bowl

9. “Take the Water Bowl Away 1-2 hours before Bedtime”

Removing your puppy’s water bowl 1-2 hours before bedtime can significantly reduce nighttime accidents. Just like humans, if puppies drink right before bed, they’re more likely to need a bathroom break during the night. By limiting access to water as bedtime approaches, you help ensure their bladder isn’t too full, allowing both of you to enjoy a more uninterrupted sleep.

Remember, this isn’t about restricting water—make sure your puppy stays well-hydrated throughout the day. It’s simply about timing their last drink to minimize late-night wake-up calls for a bathroom break.

10. “If you see your puppy drink a decent amount of water, take them outside 10-15 minutes later”

Observing your puppy’s water intake and taking them outside 10-15 minutes after they drink a decent amount is a proactive step in potty training. Puppies often need to relieve themselves shortly after drinking, so by monitoring their water consumption and acting promptly, you can prevent accidents before they happen.

This practice not only helps in reinforcing good potty habits but also aids in establishing a routine. Keeping a close eye on their drinking patterns and timely outdoor breaks can make all the difference in smooth and successful potty training.

11. “Ditch the Indoor Puppy Pads”

Moving away from indoor puppy pads is a crucial step towards fully potty training your puppy. While pee pads can be convenient for early stages or when you’re not home, relying on them too long can confuse your puppy about where it’s acceptable to go to the bathroom.

Transitioning away from a potty pad teaches your puppy that going outside is the only option for bathroom breaks. This shift helps solidify their understanding and reinforces the habit of waiting to go outside. It’s a key move in developing their bladder control and ensuring that your potty training efforts are consistent and clear.

12. “Establish a Consistent Feeding Schedule”

Maintaining a consistent feeding schedule when potty training a stubborn puppy plays a crucial role. Feeding your puppy at the same times every day helps regulate their digestion and predictably time their bathroom needs. Just like humans, puppies are creatures of habit, and a regular schedule means their body will start to follow a routine for potty breaks too.

This predictability makes it easier for you to plan outdoor visits at the right times, further reinforcing good potty habits. Plus, it helps prevent accidents inside the house by minimizing unexpected urges. A well-timed feeding schedule not only aids in potty training but also contributes to overall health and wellbeing.

Remember, potty training a stubborn puppy is not for the faint of heart. I hope these real-life experiences and nuggets of wisdom from actual pet parents are helpful in your own potty training journey with your little pup. Good luck! 

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