How Old Should Puppies Be Before You Start Trying to Potty Train Them?

Bring your pup outdoors to the same spot each time he potties.
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Once your young puppy gains the ability to control his bladder, you can begin potty training him outside so that he'll learn to eliminate in the area you desire, rather than in your home. Generally, this occurs at around 12 weeks of age, when the average pooch can hold his bladder for around four hours at a time between potty breaks. Training can take three to four months, depending on your particular pup.

Puppy Development

Pups are unable to eliminate on their own until they reach between 3 and 4 weeks of age. Up until this time, their mother stimulates them to eliminate, making any potty training impossible. From 4 weeks to 8 weeks old, your pup is weaning from his mother's milk and won't be able to hold his bladder for more than two hours, so potty training is impractical during this time. His bowel and bladder control is still developing for several weeks afterwards. However, once your pup reaches between 12 and 16 weeks of age, you can begin the potty training process.

Aiming for Success

Generally, a puppy can hold his bowels and bladder for the number of hours equal to his age in months plus one. Therefore, a 12-week-old puppy can wait four hours between potty breaks, while a 16-week-old pup can wait up to five hours. Because you want your puppy to experience as much success as possible during his training, waiting until these ages to potty train your pup allows him to avoid in-home accidents due to a failure to "hold it." Prior to this time, you pooch should be eliminating indoors in an area separate from where he plays, sleeps and eats. This creates an aversion to sitting in his own excrement later in life.

The Process

Starting at 12 weeks old, begin bringing your pup outside to a designated potty area. Say "potty" and once he eliminates in the area, give him a tasty treat and praise him. If he doesn't eliminate, bring him back in and try again after 15 minutes. Start off with a potty break every two hours and after meals or naps, upon waking and before bedtime. Between potty breaks, keep your pup tethered to you on a long leash so he can't sneak off to eliminate. You can also crate your pup between breaks because he won't want to eliminate where he sleeps.


Your pup will likely have some accidents during his potty training. Clean these up using an enzymatic cleaner, found in pet supply stores, to get rid of the odor, which can attract your pooch back to the spot to eliminate again. Never punish the little guy for accidents, although you can interrupt him during one by clapping your hands and immediately bringing him outside to finish. Usually by around 6 months old, your pooch should be fully potty trained and can hold his urine throughout the night; some pups may not be fully trained until 1 year old.