Pet Potty Training Tips from the Dog Trainer

Dear Alex,

We just added a four-month-old puppy to our family, and have no idea how to potty train her. Is she too old to be potty trained? I’d like her to go outside in the backyard, but she’s having so many accidents, we put pee pads everywhere in our house. They smell! Please help!

- Reader

Dear Reader,

She is definitely not too old to be potty trained! Since you’d like her to go outside, the first thing you need to do is remove the pee pads. Dogs need one option when it comes to doing their business. Giving her the pee pads and the backyard is confusing for her.

I happen to be a huge fan of crate training. Contrary to popular belief, the crate is not “doggie jail.” It can actually provide a much needed den space for dogs, and give them comfort when they’re being left alone during the day. Crate training is a very successful way to potty train, and if done correctly, can help get your puppy potty trained in about one to two weeks.

Here’s how to crate train:

  1. Purchase a crate that is the correct size for your puppy. The crate should be just big enough for her to go in, turn around herself, and lay down. If it’s any bigger, she will be able to have an accident on one side, and lay down on the other. The idea behind the crate is that if she has an accident, she’ll be forced to lay in it. She won’t want to do that, so she’ll hold it. A four-month-old puppy should be able to hold it for about six to seven hours.
  2. Put her in the crate any time you are not home, and at night when you’re asleep. Take her outside to use the restroom right before you leave for the day. If you’re going to be gone more than seven to eight hours, have a family member or friend stop by your house to let her out to go potty.
  3. The moment you get home or get up in the morning, take her out of the crate, and take her outside to go to the bathroom. Give her lots of praise when she goes, and put a command to it, like “go potty.” This will teach her to go on command.
  4. These steps should be repeated every day, and remember to STAY CONSISTENT! If you’re consistent, she should be potty trained in about a week or two. Good luck! WOOF!

Alexandra (Alex) Macias has been a certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Specialist since 2008, and is the owner of Alex Macias Dog training, a Long Beach-based dog training company. To ask Alexandra questions for a future article, leave them in the comments below, or email her