The three most common mistakes we make when potty training puppies, according to a trainer

American Pit Bull Terrier puppy going to the toilet on a puppy pad
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While welcoming a new puppy into your family can be a truly joyous time, we're often caught unprepared for just how challenging that first year can be. From crate and leash training to trying to decide which of the best puppy toys and food to stock up on, being the parent of a puppy can be both wonderful and exhausting.

And amongst all of that is the task we often dread the most - potty training! With so much conflicting advice on the best way to help our pups learn appropriate toileting habits, it's no wonder that many of us are left feeling confused and frustrated. 

Thankfully, trainer and behaviorist Amelia Steele has posted a helpful video on Instagram where she explains the most common mistakes we make when potty training our puppies - and what to do instead. Here's what she has to say:

1. Giving your puppy too much space

"Puppies really struggle to generalize their living area," Steele explains. "So the more space they have, the harder it is for them to understand toilet training. Instead, pick one puppy-proofed room and make sure that you have a secure crate or playpen where you can put them when you're not able to supervise them."

2. Using a regular cleaner to clean up accidents

"Standard household cleaners might remove the smell for us, but they don't really work to remove the smell for your dog, so they can still smell tiny little particles left behind from their previous accident," says Steele. "I always recommend using an enzymatic cleaner to clean up after your puppy has an accident. This makes sure there's nothing left behind so it reduces the risk of repeat accidents."

3. Telling a puppy off for having an accident

"It can be extremely frustrating when a puppy has an accident, but it's really important that you don't punish them or shout at them for having an accident," Steele advises. "Again, dogs don't generalize very well, so all this teaches them is not to go to the toilet in front of you, which can really detriment your training process. It can also really damage the relationship between you and your puppy at a very key developmental phase, so straight away it can establish a relationship based on distrust.

So, if telling your puppy off when they have an accident has the potential to damage the relationship you're building with them, what should you do instead? Well, according to Steele, it's important to stay calm. "If your puppy does have an accident in the house, don't stress - just clean it up and remember to keep an eye on them better next time."

Remember, training your puppy in any new behavior takes time, patience, and consistency. If you're not seeing results after a few weeks, it's worth reaching out to a professional trainer who will be able to provide you and your puppy with some 1:1 support.

If you're looking for more great tips to help you in the first year of your fur friends life, be sure to check out our guide to how to stop your puppy crying in crate.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.