Adding a new dog to the family is an exciting experience, but it comes with some challenges. Potty training can be the most stressful of them.

House-breaking doesn't happen overnight, and one must be willing to put in the time and work it takes to train a dog. An estimated 25 percent of dogs surrendered to animal shelters end up there because of potty accidents in the home.

It is never too late to potty train a dog, and puppies and adult dogs alike can be trained if good habits are instilled from day one.

The most successful methods consist of four key elements: confinement; scheduled feedings; praise; and patience, not punishment

CRATE TRAINING IS KEY: A dog shouldn't be left unattended, even for a few minutes, if it is not potty trained. When not actively engaging with a pet during the house-breaking process, it should be crated.

Crating a dog is not a bad thing, and it should not be associated with punishment. Dogs are den dwellers by nature. If a dog is provided with his own cozy “den” to retreat to, he will make it his own. He will be less likely to mess in his area. Please note that puppies can generally wait only so long before they must relieve themselves. The rule of thumb is this:

  • Two-month-olds can hold it for two hours
  • Four-month-olds can hold it for four hours

This formula works until they are about 8 months old.

FEED ON A SCHEDULE: Free feeding, meaning food is left out all day for the dog to eat at its leisure, means it may poop all day as well, and this will make it impossible to figure out the best time to take the dog outside to do its business. Feeding a dog on a schedule will make potty breaks more predictable, will set the dog up for success and will lead to faster potty training.

REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR: Praise and rewards go a long way in the potty-training process. A positive tone of voice and treats are great for reinforcing good behavior. When the dog potties outside, praise it with words and give it a treat immediately.

Consistency is crucial, so be sure to offer praise and treats every time the dog potties outside, especially in the beginning.

Once a dog is fully potty trained, treats can be reduced and eventually eliminated, but continue to offer verbal praise for good potty habits.

PATIENCE, NOT PUNISHMENT: It can be frustrating when the dog just does not seem to get the whole potty-training thing. However, to successfully house break a dog, you must avoid punishment when it makes a mistake. And dogs will make many mistakes before they catch on.

Yelling at a dog will instill fear. The dog may recognize that you are angry, but it will not understand why, especially if an accident that may have happened earlier in the day was just discovered.

If a dog is caught in the act, anger is still inappropriate because it will associate the act of relieving itself with anger, and the dog may just get try to do it in places that are hidden from sight.

The important thing to remember is this: By the time a dog has had an accident in the home, the opportunity has passed. At this point, all you can do is clean up the mess, review what could have been done differently to avoid it  and continue with the process.


FRIDAY: From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., de-stress after a long work week with Louisiana SPCA adoptable dogs at Three Palms Bar & Grill, 3813 Tulane Ave., New Orleans. Chair massages, mani/pedis, drink specials and furry friends are sure to help make stress melt away. If you’re looking to bring home a rescue pet, adoption counselors and volunteers will be on hand to help you select the perfect pooch. For more information about adoption visit

SATURDAY: From noon to 4 p.m., Animal Rescue New Orleans holds an adoption event at Petco, 3520 Veterans Blvd., Metairie. Meet adoptable cats and dogs and get information on volunteering, fostering and adopting. Donations gratefully accepted. For more info:

SATURDAY: From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Jefferson SPCA will hold a dog adoption event at Jefferson Feed, 6047 Magazine St., New Orleans. Friends of the Jefferson Animal Shelter will be at Jefferson Feed, 4421 Jefferson Highway, Jefferson, with cats and kittens from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact info to In Jefferson Parish, send to and In St. Bernard Parish, send to

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at or visit