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Puppy Potty Training Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Get a Puppy

House training (or potty training) is the number one concern new puppy parents have when they first bring home their puppy.

No one wants a puppy that pees and poos on the floor. Or worst on the rug.

Plus getting pee and poop out of carpet is not easy. So it’s no wonder that people are concerned with getting the process right.

But puppy potty training is not that hard in reality. 

It just takes time and dedication to house train your puppy. However there are mistakes that people make which make potty training harder than it has to be.  

You may be surprised to hear that the biggest potty training mistake happens before you even get your dog. 

Join us as we go over the puppy potty training mistakes you may be making and tips on how to avoid them.

Puppy Potty Training Mistakes - Puppies with pee spot

  5 Puppy Potty Training Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Getting a Puppy from a Reputable Place

Where you get your puppy will have a big impact on how easy and quickly your puppy will house train. 

Quality Breeder

Puppies that come from quality breeders start their potty training before you take them home.  These breeders only breed in small quantities so they have the time to begin the potty training process.  They also tend to keep the puppies longer.  That allows the puppy to learn the proper way to behave in a house from their moms.  Plus a quality breed will have the puppies in their home so they start to learn the rules of the house at a younger age.  However finding a quality breeder is hard and can be expensive.

Puppy Mill

If you get your puppy from a pet store or online chances are you are buying a puppy mill puppy.   Puppy mill puppies are much harder to house train. This is due to the living conditions they are born into.  Puppy mill puppies are raised the same way farms raise livestock.  In mass quantities, outside, packed in small crates with their mother and siblings.  These puppies have nowhere else to relieve themselves except in the crate.  They are basically trained to go in their crates, near where they sleep.  This is the exact opposite of how crate training works. The concept of crate training is based on puppies not wanting to soil where they sleep. But if they have already been taught to go in their crate you are facing an uphill battle.   You need to un-train what they have already learned before you can retrain them the right way.    

We learned this the hard way.  We first brought home Molly at four months old. At this point she was old enough to hold her bladder but after living in a puppy store for two months and in a puppy mill before that, going in her crate was the only thing she knew.  Thankfully she learned quickly that there were other options than going in her crate.


Getting your puppy from a rescue group is also a good option. Since rescue groups use experienced dog owners to foster their dogs they start house training your puppy before you adopt them. In our case our current rescue pup lived in a foster home with her mom for 6 weeks before she was old enough to be adopted at 9 weeks old.  During this time the foster mom started training Bella and her siblings.   All we had to do was keep up the training.   Bella only had a few “accidents” in the house and was fully house trained in just a couple of weeks.   She even learned how to tell us when she needed to go out.

Puppy Potty Training Mistakes - Puppy in front of puddle

2. Not Bonding with your Puppy

You may wonder what bonding with your puppy has to do with potty training. I am sure you have seen the stories of dogs that will not leave the side of their sick or dead owner. This is because the dog has bonded with their owner. When you have a strong bond with your dog they will want to listen to you and please you. This includes going to the bathroom outside if that is what you ask of them. A puppy that has not bonded to you may be more independent thinking and do as they wish.

Bonding does not happen overnight. It does take some time. But you should work towards bonding with your dog at the same time as you work on potty training them.

How to Bond with your Dog

You can bond with your dog by:

  • Hand feeding them
  • Playing with them
  • Taking them for walks
  • Training with them
  • Taking short trips with them
  • Spending time cuddling with them
  • Socialize your puppy

To help you learn more about How to Socialize a Puppy we have put together a series of posts on socializing a puppy

Potty Training Mistakes- German Shephard Puppy in lap

3. Not Paying Enough Attention to Your Puppy

Ask any puppy parent what is the most important thing you need for your new puppy and they will tell you time, lots of time. One of the biggest potty training mistakes first time puppy parents make is underestimating just how much time it takes to train your puppy. It is important to make sure you have the time to dedicate to potty training in the beginning or you may be dealing with accidents for a long time.

It is so much easier to teach a puppy the right way to do things rather than trying to stop unwanted behaviors. To do this you need to know what they are doing at all times. When it comes to potty training you need to be ahead of them. What I mean by this is you need to know when they need to go out before they go in the house. Before Bella was fully potty trained she would sneak off to do her business in a quiet place. I think she knew she wasn’t supposed to go in the house but she didn’t know how to tell us yet. The few times she did go in the house were because we stopped paying attention to her.

Keep watch for signs that they need to go. Look out for whining, especially if they are near the door; pacing; circling; sniffing the ground or as in my case with Bella wondering off to be alone.

Just remember that it does get better. Puppies will require most of your time in the beginning. But after they learn the daily routine and they can hold their bladders longer they require less of your time. That doesn’t mean you can ignore them just that you don’t have to watch their every movement anymore.

Puppy in trouble for peeing in house.

4. Not Sticking to a Schedule

Puppies are creatures of habit. They love routine and it helps them learn the rules of the house. A schedule will also help you remember to take them out every couple of hours. When you are creating a schedule that works for you remember to include these items:

  • Take your puppy out first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
  • Plan when you will feed them. Talk to your vet to determine how often they should eat.
  • Take them out 15 minutes or so after they have eaten or drank.
  • For the first month they will need at least one potty break during the night. Depending on the pup it may be more.
  • Include multiple playtimes and training times in your schedule with potty breaks before and after.
  • After creating your schedule make sure you have scheduled a potty break at least every two hours during the day for the first month. If an accident happens in between potty break times shorten the time.
  • Don’t forget nap times in the crate. This is when you get me time without worrying about your puppy. Take them out for a potty break before placing them in the crate and as soon as you take them out.
  • Limit the amount of time they are in the crate. They cannot learn the rules of the house if they are in a crate. Also too much crate time will result in them wanting to play when outside rather than potty.
  • Remember to cuddle with your puppy.

The above schedule might seem extreme, but your goal is to keep them from going in the house. Once they learn they need to go outside and they can hold their bladder longer you can increase the time between potty breaks.

Puppy Potty mistakes Pup with torn up pee pad
Pup with torn up pee pad

5. Using Pee Pads

Another one of the more common puppy potty training mistakes is using pee pads. I have to admit I did buy them when we first brought Bella home thinking that was the right thing to do. But after a couple of days and accidents I realized that the potty pads was just confusing her. If you take them outside to go to the bathroom often, you will not need the pee pads.

When you think about it the whole idea of pee pads is rather counter-intuitive. You want to teach your puppy to go outside but then you tell them it’s ok to go inside on a pee pad. It is important to be consistent with your puppy’s potty training. If you want to teach your puppy they need to hold it until they are outside never encourage them to go in your house. Even on a pee pad.

While I would skip on the puppy pads there are 7 essential items you do need for a puppy

Final Words on Puppy Potty Training Mistakes

It will only take a couple of weeks to potty train your puppy, but with a little patience you will be rewarded with a lifetime of happiness. To learn more please read our post on Potty Training a Puppy: Made Easy

If you liked this post on puppy potty training mistakes you may also like these puppy training posts:

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Ruth Epstein

Tuesday 28th of January 2020

I have never had a puppy, only rescued older dogs and it took me about a week to get Layla really potty trained and since then no problems. I have been really lucky with her

Andrea Pavlicek

Saturday 25th of January 2020

I got my dog after he was trained so I haven't had this experience. However, I love (love love) the final item on your schedule recommendation - to cuddle.


Saturday 25th of January 2020


Yes. It is very important to cuddle with your puppy. It is a great way to bond with them plus it provides calming health benefits for both of you.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


Jenna Emmons

Saturday 25th of January 2020

I totally relate to the untraining you sometimes have to do. I got Louie as an adult from a woman who had planned to use him as a stud dog. He was essentially housebroken but would sometimes bunch up and pee on things like bathmats and throws. Several years after I got him I finally met his original breeder and she asked me if he ever peed on bathmats. Apparently she trained her dogs to go on towels by the door. I finally understood that when Louie did it he wasn't being naughty, he was doing exactly what he'd been taught.


Saturday 25th of January 2020

Hi -

Wow. When we first brought our puppy home she used to pee on the towel/rug we have in front of the kitchen sink. I thought she was just trying to hide the fact she went in the house. Now you have me wondering if she was trained to do it.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing.


Melanie Varey

Thursday 23rd of January 2020

What a great post and one I wished I had read before getting my pup.

Erin Sullivan

Thursday 23rd of January 2020

We had such a terrible time potty training Odin! It was tough because he was rescued as a puppy from a bad breeder and wasn’t at the rescue for very long before adoption. Luckily it’s under control now! Great post! I think this will be super informative for new puppy parents


Saturday 25th of January 2020

Hi -

Sometimes it can take longer to potty train when you need to untrain them first. Thank you for rescuing a puppy.