Potty Train a Puppy in an Apartment

Potty training a puppy is a little trickier when you have an apartment, since you can't install a doggie door or easily let your furry companion outside. The key is to start early and be consistent. Place your dog on a regular feeding schedule so you can predict when she'll need to go outside, and reward her every time she demonstrates good behavior. Before you know it, your puppy will run to the door and wag her tail instead of having indoor accidents. Read on to learn more about how to potty train a puppy in an apartment.


Starting an Outside Routine

  1. Take your puppy outside frequently. A young puppy (8 weeks) needs to be given the opportunity to go outside every 20 minutes, if you are to increase the chances of her peeing outside rather than inside. Older puppies also need to relieve themselves frequently, as they can't physically hold their bladder for more than an hour or two.[1] To avoid accidents, scoop up your puppy and take her outside once an hour like clockwork. This way your puppy will learn to associate going outside with going to the bathroom.
    • Once you get to know your puppy, you'll be able to watch for signs she needs to relieve herself. As soon as you see her displaying the signs, take her outside.
    • When you're house training a puppy, it's very important that you be available to meet her needs at all times of the day. If you leave her alone in the apartment all day it might take a very long time for her to understand what she's supposed to do when she needs to go to the bathroom. If you can't be with her all day long, have a friend stay with her.
  2. Feed your puppy at the same time every day. This helps to reinforce a routine and allows you to better predict when she may need to go outside. Depending on your puppy's breed and needs, feed her a few times a day. Take your puppy outside after every meal and after she drinks a lot from her water bowl.
  3. Pick a designated place for your puppy to relieve herself outside. Going to the same spot every time will help her remember what she's supposed to do. Living in an apartment building, you might have trouble getting all the way to the closest park. Pick a patch of grass close enough to your apartment entrance that your puppy won't have an accident on the way.
    • Be sure to follow your city's ordinances regarding disposing of dog waste. Pick up after your puppy using a plastic bag.
    • Dog urine isn't generally good for flowers, so try to find a public spot that isn't being tended by a careful gardener. You might find yourself the subject of a sign warning dog owners to stay away - a common sight near city apartment buildings!
  4. Use a command to help your puppy associate the spot with relieving herself. Say something like "go potty" or just "potty" when you set her in the designated spot. Use language to strengthen the puppy's association with the spot. Make sure you don't use the word indoors; just use it in the special spot.
  5. Reward your puppy when she relieves herself outside. The best way to train a puppy is to reinforce good behavior and eliminate possibilities for bad behavior. When your puppy relieves herself outside, giving her praise and a treat will make her want to do it again. Say "good girl" or "good boy" in a loving tone and give your puppy some cuddles. You can also give her a small treat each time she goes correctly.
    • In order for positive reinforcement to work effectively as a training strategy, consistency is key. That means that every single time your puppy relieves herself outside, you should praise her. This is especially important in the first few months, when she's still learning correct behavior.

Starting an Inside Routine

  1. Confine your puppy to a certain area in the apartment. You can gate off your kitchen using a child or dog gate or choose a different room. This is necessary during the first few months, since keeping your puppy in one place allows you to keep an eye on her so you can take her outside right away when she shows signs of needing to relieve herself. If she has too much freedom, she'll end up going to the bathroom before you can catch her to take her outside.
    • Your puppy is ready to spend time in the rest of the apartment after she has learned to signal to you that she needs to go outside, either by moving toward the door or looking at it. You'll also know she's ready when she has very few accidents in the apartment.
  2. Consider having an indoor bathroom spot. If your apartment is on a high floor in your building, it might be difficult to get outside in time for your puppy to go to the bathroom. If you have a small dog who makes manageable messes, you can consider paper training your dog instead of taking her outside every time. Line an area of the room with newspapers or special training pads you can buy at the pet store. Use the same training method you'd use for an outdoor bathroom spot, carrying your puppy to the papers each time she has to go. Reward her when she goes successfully.[2]
    • You can also use a sod box as a place for your puppy to eliminate. Fill a shallow plastic container with sod or dog litter, and place it on top of newspapers.[2]
    • When you clean up after an accident your puppy has had, you can place the soiled paper towels or rags in the designated area so that your puppy associates the the smell of urine with her bathroom spot.
  3. Keep your puppy in a crate at night and while you're away. Puppies actually like the feeling of being in a small, cozy crate - it makes them feel safe and secure. For this reason you should never use a crate as a form of punishment; it should be your puppy's personal safe place. Puppies don't like soiling their living space, so make sure you take your puppy outside so she can go to the bathroom right before you put her in the crate.
    • Puppies can sleep for about 4 hours before they need to relieve themselves. Very young puppies might wake up barking, though, so you should line the crate with towels just in case your puppy has an accident in the night.
    • If you hear your puppy barking in the crate, take her outside to relieve herself and place her back in the crate. Be sure you reward her when she relieves herself.
  4. Clean up accidents right away. If your puppy has an accident in her crate or elsewhere inside, be sure to clean it up and sanitize the spot so it no longer smells like urine. If an area smells like urine the puppy will instinctively want to relieve herself in the same spot again.
  5. Don't scold your puppy for having an accident.[2] Puppies don't respond well to negative reinforcement; it only makes them afraid. If your puppy is relieving herself in your apartment, pick her up and immediately take her outside to the designated bathroom spot. When she successfully finishes doing her business there, reward her before taking her back inside.
    • Never yell at your puppy or spank her when you see her having an accident. You will teach your puppy to be afraid of you, and it won't help her learn what to do when she needs to relieve herself.
    • If you find a mess in your apartment after the deed has been done, don't ever rub your puppy's nose in it or try to discipline her. It doesn't work; it just confuses the puppy. Simply clean up the mess and take the puppy outside more often to continue her training.


  • When cleaning up the mess use an odor neutralizer, or vinegar can do the job as well. Nothing with ammonia in it, as that smells like urine to puppies, and they'll try to go in that spot again, what you don't want to happen.
  • Never get angry and hit your dog. Do not reward the bad behaviors and reward the good behaviors.
  • Be consistent. If you change from paper training to house training halfway through, it will confuse your puppy, and make it more difficult, but done consistently potty training your puppy can be a breeze.

Things You'll Need

  • A crate
  • Papers of some sort, (newspapers, training pads, etc.)

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