How to Easily Potty Train a Puppy and Other Puppy Training Secrets

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 6, 2017

Crosby (front left) is a twelve-week-old German Wirehaired Pointer puppy who was recently adopted into a family in the Pacific Palisades that has another dog named Tallulah, a two-year-old Pit Bull / Terrier mix. The guardians set up a puppy training session with me to stop nipping, stop chewing, stop accidents / potty training, training a puppy to come and how to sit, lay down and come.

Talulah heard me coming and started barking before I even had a chance to knock on the door.

Although little Crosby didn’t meet me at the door, he did come over to investigate once I came inside; showing good confidence and a playful energy.

When I booked the appointment with Crosby’s guardian, we spent a good amount of time discussing how important the Critical Socialization Period was and I directed him to check out the page on my website that featured a checklist of 330+ experiences that many dogs struggle with later in life.

Many people confuse puppy socialization with puppy training. In fact I get this question so often I posted an article on the difference on the Quest-Ed section of my website (a resource that includes a ton of videos filled with puppy training tips and puppy training secrets).

Another puppy training secret I shared with the family was my preference to setting up a puppy play pen as detailed in this post.

Setting up a puppy play pen has many benefits and is so helpful I will never raise another puppy again without one. This kennel training is done by simply having the only soft place in the pen is inside the kennel who’s door is always open. Because the door isn’t closed, the dog doesn’t consider sleeping in the kennel as a bad thing, its just normal.

Chewing on dog toys only is another great habit puppies get into when you use a play pen. Because they don’t have access to chew a shoe, couch leg, leather chair or carpet to chew on (unless supervised), they simply never pick up the chewing furniture / shower, / carpet, clothes habit.

The kennel also gives you a safe place to put the puppy when you can’t supervise it or when it gets nippy. Most people don’t know that whey a puppy gets mouthy or nippy, it often means they are over tired and need a nap. I share a few other tips to stop puppy nipping in the following video.

Careful monitoring and supervision is key to stopping puppies from chewing on the wrong things. You want to make a loud noise to stop and distract them as soon as they start. Once a puppy gets something nice and wet, they look at it as a sort of investment and get determined to chew there.

This is another example of how helpful having a puppy play pen is. As soon as the puppy starts, taking it to the play pen and tossing a treat inside or a nice chew item like a carrot, bully stick, etc gives the puppy a great incentive to go into the door on their own (never carry the pup over the pen, always have it go through the gate so it doesn’t get the idea that they can climb over).

Another problem the guardians wanted to address was accidents in the house and potty training. I spent a few minutes going over a number of common potty training mistakes many people make as well as secrets to potty training a puppy.

Crosby’s guardians had been taking him out often which is extremely helpful as it puts the puppy in a position to succeed by increasing the ods that it is outside when it needs to go.

Next up was some basic puppy obedience training. I wanted to show the guardians how to train a puppy to sit and lay down using positive puppy training.

I also recommended that the family practice what I like to call passive training. This involves petting the puppy within 3 seconds of it doing any desired behavior you want to train your puppy to do. When it sits, you pet it and say the word “sit” within 3 seconds of it sitting down. When it lays down, you pet it and say “crash” or whatever the command word is. When it comes over to you on its own, well you get the idea.

Passive training takes longer than traditional training, but if you get into a habit of doing so, you end up training your dog dozens and dozens of times a day without even intending to. This is truly a positive dog training gift I give my clients so I always stress how important doing this is.

I also pointed out the flip side of this technique, any time they are petting Crosby when he does something that is NOT a desired behavior, they are training him to do something they do not want. A good example of this is petting the puppy when it jumps up and stands leaning on your shins. While this is cute as a small puppy, its not so cute when its a full grown adult with muddy paws.

Another example is petting the dog when its excited. Many people confuse excited for happy. Bit happy is just an unbalanced state of mind. Pet your dog when its excited, and each time, it will be slightly more excited in that same situation. With enough time, the dog will start to loose control in those situations.

To help the family avoid petting the dog for doing the wrong thing, I went over my Petting with a Purpose method in the following video.

Petting with a purpose is another greta habit for a dog guardian to get into. If you make an effort to do this for 2-3 weeks, you will find yourself doing it without even thinking about doing so. And after a few weeks, your dog will pick up on the fact that when it sits for you, it gets your attention and some pets. In time, this will result in a dog who comes up and sits in front of you to “prepay” or ask for attention. A wonderful habit to instill in your puppy.

Next I wanted to show the guardians how they could train the puppy to come when called. This is a life skill that you will use thousands of times over your dog’s life and early emphasis is very helpful.

Practicing the come this way a few times a day should have Crosby coming to them when called. Combine that with passive training and we should end up with a dog with amazing recall skills.

But what happens if one time Crosby doesn’t come right away? Many people will stand there and repeat the command word over and over; usually with a stronger vocal delivery.

The problem with that approach is the more often we say a command, the less apt the dog is to listen. Its a process called desensitization and is a habit many dog guardians inadvertently use to train there dogs to stop listening for the command word.

So if your puppy doesn’t come the first time, go closer to where it is and show it you have a high value treat and ask it to come the few feet away it is now. By decreasing the distance and offering an incentive, you are demonstrating you are serious. If you get into a habit of doing this for a week or two, the dog should get even better at coming when called.

But if you try to call your puppy over when its having fun playing with another dog or chasing something going the other direction, you are making your puppy choose and they will usually go with whatever is more fun and closest or are intense. So asking your dog to come when its chasing a blowing leaf or having fun makes your request less appealing. So try to avoid calling your puppy or giving it a command that isn’t as fun as something near by. Later on you can recreate the situation and help your puppy practice ignoring the distraction and come to you, but that’s a lesson for a more mature puppy.

One last thing on training a puppy to come. Often I see someone calling their dog and the command word deliver goes from neutral or happy to a angry, almost creaming command. And when the dog does come, the guardian often reprimands the dog or gives it a firm jerk on the leash. We mean to say “next time come right away,” but what they hear is “when I come, I get into trouble or punished.”

So when you call your dog and it doesn’t come right away, when it does come, be sure to reward it richly and NEVER correct or get mad. You want your dog to think only great things are going to happen when they come to you.

As you can tell, I always like to use positive reinforcement and positive dog training to teach a dog what I want from them. But sometimes you have to disagree or say no. To help the guardians communicate when they disagree with the dogs in a way the dogs will instantly understand, I spent a few minutes going over a series of Escalating Consequences I developed a few years ago.

Disagreeing before or right as soon as a puppy starts to do something you don’t want is one of the dirty secrets I have learned about dog and puppy behavior. Distracting and redirecting attention is also extremely helpful.

Say your puppy is starting to lick the leg of a chair. They usually do this to soften the thing up before chewing. If you notice your puppy is licking and immediately got to the fridge, grab a handful of baby carrots then walk over near the dog and drop them on the floor behind the dog, you distract it and offer an appropriate chew option. And because the puppy is looking away from what it was licking because you dropped the carrots behind it, you moved temptation out of sight.

At the end of the session, I stayed late and helped the guardian outlast Crosby’s first time alone in the kennel. He was not happy at first and was determinedly crying and whimpering to get his guardian to let him out.

Because he had been with his humans 24/7 since arriving last week, this was likely the first time he had been alone in his new home. While we want to love our puppies to make sure they know they are protected and appreciated, constant contact and attention can lead to Separation Anxiety. Helping a puppy practice napping or sleeping alone in the play pen helps them develop confidence in being alone. This is a very important activity to get a puppy used to early. Once they are full grown, many puppies will start chewing out of kennels, through walls, etc to go and find the humans. Teaching a puppy that its ok and normal to be alone is a valuable lesson the family needs to teach Crosby sooner than later.


  • Continue exposing Crosby to as many experiences as possible while in his Critical Socialization Period.
  • Find and enroll Crosby into a puppy socialization class ASAP. Class should only use positive reinforcement and include a puppy play / socialization period. THIS CLASS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
  • Order a proper wire kennel that Crosby can grow into.
  • Order some treat / food dispensing toys to feed Crosby through them for the next few months.
  • Order plenty of appropriate chew toys to put in Crosby’s play pen for enrichment.
  • Use the potty training tips and secrets detailed in the above video.
  • All family members need to carry around appropriate chew items and teach Crosby with it for a second when he mouthes or nips them. Then let him grab it an win pulling it away.
  • Consider how long its been since Crosby has slept when het gets mouthy or nippy.
  • Get into a habit of passively training both dogs by petting under chin whenever possible.
  • Practice the sit, down and come exercises as shown.
  • Once Crosby knows how to sit or lay down on command, Pet him with a purpose.
  • Practice the recall (come) exercise a few times a day in short 1-2 minute training sessions.
  • Practice having Crosby spend more time in the puppy play pen.
  • Never let Crosby out of the pen when he is crying or whimpering.
  • From time to time, when possible, spend time in the play pen with Crosby.
  • Never carry Crosby over the play pen, always have him go though the gate.
  • Don’t pet Crosby or Talulah when in an excited state.
  • Down pet Crosby when he jumps up on anyone.
  • Avoid pulling Crosby any time he is on a leash. We will work on loose leash training in the next session.
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This post was written by: David Codr

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