Potty Training your new Brittany puppy

Potty training is one of the most frustrating parts of owning a new puppy. Young puppies haven’t developed bladder and bowel control and often give little to no warning that they are getting ready to eliminate. We’ve worked with some basic crate training, which helps puppies develop a “den instinct.”  Puppies don’t want to soil their den, but they don’t immediately recognize that your whole house is their new den.

Here are some of the top things you can do to make house/potty training your new pup easier on everyone.

  • Take your puppy outside frequently to their potty area. This means every 30-45 minutes at least, and at key times (after waking, after being in their kennel, before going in their kennel, after eating/drinking).
  • Reward your puppy with a special treat when they eliminate in the correct spot.
  • Don’t take them inside immediately after they eliminate. Allow for some outside play time. You don’t want your puppy to learn to hold it so they can stay outside longer.
  • Don’t punish your pup for accidents.
  • Keep your puppy on a schedule. Keeping track of when your pup eats and drinks, helps you anticipate their need to eliminate.
  • Know when you puppy last went potty. If you’re in a household with multiple puppy caregivers – you might consider making a simple log sheet to keep by the door.

You want to set the puppy up for success. Pick a spot in your yard where you want the puppy to potty. By taking your puppy to the same general area every time, you are signaling to your puppy that you are outside to potty (as opposed to play) and that this is the accepted area to potty. The smell may also prompt your pup to potty. While you are outside with your pup, watch for signs that he or she needs to eliminate. These can be pacing, whining, circling, sniffing or leaving the area (room). Once you learn your puppy’s signs, it will make it easier for you to anticipate their need to eliminate.


When inside, your puppy should be closely supervised. If needed, put up baby gates or close doors to confine the puppy to the room you are in. If the puppy must be left unsupervised, they should be put in a kennel or crate. In general, a puppy can “hold it” for the same number of hours as their age in month. So your two month old puppy should be able to hold it for two hours. This is a good rule of thumb. Through the night, , since they are inactive, puppies can hold it for longer. We do recommend crating your puppy at night and letting them out once during the night if possible until they develop the bladder and bowel control to hold it all night.

If you catch your puppy eliminating inside, call their name or clap your hands. You want to get the pup’s attention and hopefully he or she will stop mid-stream. Then grab your puppy and take him/her to the outside potty area. When they go potty outside reward them with praise and perhaps a small treat. If you find the accident after the fact – don’t scold your pup. They won’t connect your scolding to going to the bathroom in the house.

We employe they good potty/bad potty method. It has worked very well for us when used in combination with the bell. If you find an accident in the house, scold the potty as you start to clean it up. “Bad potty. Potty goes outside.” Do this when your puppy is around, but be very clear that you are scolding the potty, not your puppy. Then take the potty, or what you used to clean it up with outside to the area you want your pup to eliminate. You then praise the potty. “Good potty. Potty goes outside.” If you can, leave the rag or paper towels you cleaned with outside for a few days. This smell will help your puppy “find” their potty spot outside. You will feel silly when you do this, especially if you have neighbors close by, or happen to pocket dial a co-worker during the process (learned from experience on the second one folks).

We also use the bell method – which allows our dog to learn to give us an audible signal that they need to go outside.

Hang a bell on the door(s) you’ll most frequently be taking the puppy out of the house. You want the bell to be low enough that your pup can reach it with his or her nose. We used pea cord to attach our bell to the door handle, it could easily be adjusted as our pups grew. Show your puppy the bell and encourage him or her to ring the bell, by luring their nose to it with a treat.

From here on out, every time you take your puppy outside, you encourage them to ring the bell and ring the bell yourself if needed. You can also encourage your pup to ring the bell by smearing a small amount of cheese or peanut butter on the bell. There will be a time when your puppy rings the bell just because they want to go outside. It is key to remain consistent in letting the puppy out when he or she rings the bell. You’ll make some extra trips outside, but in the end it will be worth it.

A couple of things to remember:

  • Most puppies are not 100% reliable until 6 months of age or older.
  • Watch your puppy carefully when taking them to new places. When at the pet store, or your friend’s home, your pup may not recognize the new environment as an unacceptable place to potty.
  • Be aware of new things in your home (especially with male puppies). Your puppy may not have accidents in the garage any more. But then you bring home a new 4-wheeler and park it in the garage. If he is allowed to, or used to peeing on tires outside, he may not recognize that it’s not okay to pee on this tire just because it’s in the garage – especially if another dog has already done so.
  • There are other reasons your puppy might house soil. These can include urine making, separation anxiety, submissive urination or medical reasons. If your puppy has been reliably eliminating outside and starts having accidents inside, you might want to talk to your vet to make sure there isn’t a medical cause that needs to be addressed. We’ll talk about these more in another post.

And we’ll close with a couple of things not to do.

  • Don’t scold your pup for having an accident. Don’t rub their nose in it. Don’t physically punish your pup. Initially, it is your fault your puppy went to the bathroom inside. You either didn’t take him or her out frequently enough, failed to recognize or ignored his signals that he needed to go outside.
  • Don’t confine your puppy to a small are for several hours out of the day. We recognize that people work and often have to leave their pups alone for  8+ hours a day. If at all possible, come home on your lunch break, or ask a friend or neighbor to take out your pup during the day until they are a little bit older.
  • Don’t clean with ammonia based cleaners. Urine contains ammonia, which could attract your pup to urinate in that same spot again. We prefer Nature’s Miracle.

Above all, have patience. Your puppy is still learning your world. It’s up to you to be a consistent, positive teacher. Don’t expect to much from your puppy and don’t get discouraged if they relapse a little bit.

Are you having house/potty training issues that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know your questions.

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