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Learning how to potty train a puppy can be easy and fast. In this post, I will give you my 5 proven steps to successfully maintaining a dry and clean home for good!

Would you like to be so good at puppy potty training that you could write the following books?

  • “How To Potty Train A Puppy In A Week,”
  • “The Ultimate Guide to Housebreaking A Puppy With NO Mess,” or
  • “7 Tips For A Dry And Clean Puppy… Guaranteed!”

If that seems like an unrealistic goal for you based on where you are today with your leaky puppy, keep reading!

The truth is potty training is NOT rocket science.

It comes down to the fact that all puppies have small bladders and can’t hold them for long periods of time.

As long as the puppy is able to relieve him or herself frequently throughout the day, and you keep the puppy reasonably confined in your home until they have more control over their bladder, the puppy will get potty trained.

And typically, that process is a fairly quick one. A few days to a week is all it has ever taken for any of my big dogs.

That is, until we brought our male Mastiff puppy, Junior, home.

Let me put it this way, the first month, oh…alright…two months with Junior taught me a few MORE things about housebreaking a puppy.

And so it is with renewed confidence that I share with you my 5 fast and easy steps to potty train your puppy.

If they worked for Junior, they are guaranteed to work for your puppy!

5 Steps To Potty Train a Puppy Fast

1. Limit Water Intake Late At Night

How to Potty Train a Mastiff Puppy
© 2020 Big Dog Mom, LLC

Puppies have tiny bladders. And, in my experience, male Mastiff puppies even tinier!

Limiting water intake late at night will ensure that your puppy is not going to bed with a full bladder which he or she cannot possibly be expected to control.

After washing Junior’s bedding every…single…day…for…weeks…on…end, trust me when I tell you your puppy will not suffer if you pick up the water bowl at 8 pm.

The general rule of thumb is that puppies want to stay clean where they sleep. Meaning they will not soil their bedding if they can help it.

Many big dog owners use a divider in an adult-size crate in order to limit a puppy’s ability to simply sleep on one side of the crate and pee on the other. If they are confined to a slightly smaller area, you will be more likely to be notified when your puppy needs to go potty.

If you are looking for recommendations for the best crate for a Mastiff puppy, I use the Extra Large Dog Crate for Great Danes to allow ample room and comfort as these boys grow fast. It comes with a divider that you can easily move and adjust as your baby giant grows.

2. Limit Distractions While Your Puppy Explores

How to Potty Train a Mastiff Puppy - Big Dog Mom

Do not think for one minute when you bring home your puppy that you are going to be able to carry on with your daily activities and just add in a few more trips outside.

And having children definitely makes potty training more complicated.  

Even if you don’t have children, my guess is you enjoy talking on the phone, eating, or reading (blogs like Big Dog Mom), or showering.

My experience with Junior taught me that some puppies just need more of you. Period. And that includes your full and complete attention.

Let me illustrate.

I have no doubt Junior was giving me little signals before all of the many times he peed or pooped in the house. My mistake was not being attentive enough to notice them.

Like the time I passed him on one side of the counter to the other side 5 feet away and watched him pee on the floor.

Or the time when Junior and Sulley were playing and Junior peed on him. Yes, Junior peed ON Sulley! Amidst my commands to stay right where he was, poor Sulley stood up, bewildered, dripping with Junior pee-pee.

Even that time, I have no doubt Junior gave a few signals in the minutes leading up to that moment that signaled he had to go. If only I had recognized them one minute earlier.

Here is my advice: Limit distractions. Your puppy needs you more than you think. 

When you are not able to give undivided attention, utilize a crate or play yard to prevent accidents.

3. Reward, Reward, Reward with the Power of Treats

How to Potty Train a Mastiff Puppy

I am a firm believer in the power of food rewards in dog training and behavior modification.

The reason is simple. Dogs understand food. They do not have to learn what food means or why they should like it.

When we pair food, something your puppy inherently loves, with a skill or behavior you want to encourage – like peeing and pooping outside – we are able to make the connection in your puppy’s brain.

“Oh, so THAT’S where you want me to go?! Makes sense now!”

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to rewarding your puppy:

1. Timing is critical!

If you wait even just a couple of seconds to go grab a treat, you may have lost your chance to make the food – pee outside connection.

To make this impactful, always take your puppy outside with treats in your pocket, ready to go. You may have to follow your puppy around as he or she sniffs but be ready to draw out that treat the second your puppy starts to go.

2. Choose high-value treats!

Let’s put it this way. There is a saying that “You get what you pay for.”

This is as true in potty training as it is in business. If you are using kibble to reward your puppy, for many puppies, that will not be enough to WOW them.

Consider soft, yummy treats like these or cut up string cheese or hot dogs. I have an entire section of my Amazon shop where I have curated my top recommendations for dog treats, so feel free to check them out here.

3. Put Treats in Multiple Locations Throughout Your House.

As a new puppy owner, you will want to be making multiple connections in your puppy’s brain as he grows. Things like, “It’s not nice to bite,” “Kids can be fun,” and “Friendly strangers are the best.”

Having treats in numerous convenient locations throughout your home will ensure that you are always ready to catch your puppy doing the right thing or to encourage him or her to learn a new behavior or skill.

How To Potty Train A Puppy Fast in 5 Easy Steps Learning how to potty train a puppy can be easy and fast. In this post, I will give you my 5 proven steps to successfully maintaining a dry and clean home for good!
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4. Never Go Longer Than 20 Minutes Between Potty Breaks

This one relates to #2 above as it is so easy to get distracted with… life… when trying to potty train a puppy.

Frequency and consistency matter. A LOT!

The problem is puppies don’t always understand that we have responsibilities and a million other things on our to-do list and finding a break every 20 minutes can be a challenge.

If you are wondering how long can puppies hold their pee….. the answer is about 20 minutes.

In fact, with Junior, I learned that some puppies can’t even hold their bladder that long.

Junior peed on his Big Barker Premium Dog Bed not once, not twice, but three separate times while playing in my bedroom.

In each of those cases, I had failed to follow this 20-minute rule. Naturally, with each of those incidents, I considered buying a waterproof cover for the Big Barker.  

Operative word: considered.

The key is being consistent. If you take your puppy out every 20 minutes for the first few days in your home, you will prevent accidents before they happen.

Remember that puppies catch on quickly. If you allow your puppy to get in the habit of relieving him or herself in the house, you will have an uphill battle convincing them to go outside.

However, religiously committing to the Every 20 Minutes Rule (with treats on hand every time) will ensure your home stays dry and clean for good. I promise!!

5. Never Scold Your Puppy! EVER!

I know what you are thinking, “Geez that is pretty dramatic.”

Not one for sensationalism, I choose my words carefully. When I say “Do not scold your puppy,” I mean just that.

Here is why:

1. Your puppy has no idea what you are scolding him or her for.

Yelling at a puppy for peeing in the house is like yelling at a baby for crying. It makes no sense and does absolutely no good. And it destroys your budding relationship at the same time.

Let me set up a common scenario:

Your puppy pees on the ground and comes to you. You scream, “No, no, NO! BAD puppy!!”

What do you think your puppy just learned? Not to pee on the floor?

Perhaps the answer to that question will become more clear when your puppy starts to avoid coming to you.

2. Scolding only reinforces fear and uncertainty.

Yelling doesn’t actually teach your puppy anything other than to fear you. Learning how to potty train a Mastiff puppy, or any puppy for that matter, involves rewards, praise, and encouragement for doing the right thing, not punishment for having an accident.

Puppies are simple creatures with small bladders and a desire to please. Punishments only serve to confuse, not bring clarity to the concept of peeing outside.

Consistent trips outside with lots of treats, praise, and encouragement ensure your puppy understands what you want while enjoying being with you. Remember that you are building a bond and a relationship for a lifetime!

Bonus: Set Appropriate Expectations

How to Potty Train a Mastiff Puppy
© 2020 Big Dog Mom, LLC

My experience with Junior taught me that not all puppies respond the same way to the aforementioned 5 steps. So this BONUS is absolutely critical.

Remember that your puppy is a baby and perfection is an impossible expectation that is both unfair and unreasonable.

Realize that a few accidents are not the end of the world. And they do not mean you are destined for a pee-riddled home.

Give your puppy as much grace as he unselfishly gives you.

If you do, I promise you will be writing your version of the book, “How To Potty Train A Puppy In A Week,” before you know it!


Let’s summarize the 5 keys to successfully potty training a puppy:

5 Keys To Successfully Potty Training a Puppy

  • LIMIT – Water intake late at night
  • LIMIT – Distractions
  • REWARD – Reward, reward…
  • NEVER – Scold your puppy! EVER!
  • BONUS: Give your puppy GRACE!
Potty Training a Mastiff Puppy

Do you have a puppy you are currently attempting to potty train? 

What tips for housebreaking would you add to this list?  Share with me in the comments below.

If you or a friend have been blessed with a new puppy, here are a few more posts from the Big Dog Mom archives that may interest you both:

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  1. Oh pee per pants…uh, I mean Junior, you are such a good boy for giving your Momma such a fun story to share with us all ?

    1. Too funny! Junior is certainly one of a kind with a mind of his own. I have no doubt that he will continue to challenge me and, as a result, help me to grow as a Big Dog Mom!

  2. Great reminders! People get busy and miss tinge signs all the time! I like setting timers and teaching clients to tether so the pup is always near by!

    1. Great ideas, Shayla! I love the idea of setting a timer and tethering the puppy. I guess my method was using the play yard so Junior was always right in front of me, but I could have done the tethering when we were in other parts of the house. Great post!

  3. Number 5 is one I think a lot of people have trouble with. People ask me for tips on potty training pups quite often and more times than I can count I’ve had people with really young pups express frustration that their little ones aren’t fully potty trained yet. It takes time, just like with human babies! I have little dogs too who are pretty notorious for taking longer to potty train. I always tell people patience and kindness are key – stay consistent and your puppy will get it eventually.

  4. Oh puppy potty training! How I remember those days just like it was yesterday. Ok, I know I shouldn’t have laughed at Sulley laying in his poop 😉
    I am fanatic about potty training! Outside, many, many times a day, and never wait too long after they eat, and remember, as soon as they start to circle, get those puppies outside!

    1. Thank you, Kelly! Isn’t this the truth?! These are the days that tend to overwhelm new puppy owners with the amount of work and attention that a new puppy requires. Luckily, it is a phase that doesn’t last too long.

  5. Haha this made me life because it’s so true. Junior sounds like a very special boy. Gonzo and Beau were very easy to house train because they had crates and I would take away water at a certain time as you say. If I was distracted or could not keep an eye, into the crate for a few minutes. Then immediately I would take them outside upon letting them out. Sure we had a few mishaps, but largely it was pain free!

    1. Oh, I’m so happy for you! Yes, Junior is definitely one of a kind. All of my other dogs were potty trained in very short order, but he defied all the rules. Thankfully my house has been pee-free for several months. 🙂

  6. Great tips, I love the quote “potty training isn’t rocket science”. If you have the patience to show the pup the right way to do things, without getting frustrated, and use the tips above, and you will have yourself a house-trained dog!

    1. Thank you so much, Paul! You are absolutely right. It really isn’t rocket science at all, but patience is definitely key. Especially when raising a puppy who is indifferent to cleanliness. Haha!

  7. These are good tips! Puppies are so freaking sneaky. It’s impossible to keep an eye on them all the time, but that’s truthfully what they need and the best thing for them so you can scoop them up, and take them outside so they learn quickly. If you don’t have a post on it already, you should include your favorite cleaner. I personally use a Nature’s Miracle concoction (with some vinegar and Mrs. Meyer’s and peppermint oil and Method floor cleaner) because we all know that unfortunately no matter how good you and your puppy are, there will at least be a couple of unavoidable accidents.

    1. Thank you so much, Alix! You are right, I definitely should have included that my favorite cleaner! It would be Nature’s Miracle too. That really is the only stuff I have used for all of my puppies.

  8. I love that you admitted that Junior proved all of your tried and true rules wrong and you had to adapt to his needs. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are appropriate methods to help with potty training a puppy, but just like a human baby, each is an individual with individual needs.

    1. Thank you and very well put. That is exactly what I needed to do because every dog is special and unique. That really is why my rule of thumb is “if you’ve trained one puppy, you’ve trained one puppy.” Of course there are methods that work with most dogs, but after Junior, I learned that no matter the training method, you can never assume it will work with ALL dogs.

  9. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a dog but I do remember that patience is very important in the potty training stage. They will learn.

  10. These are all great reminders – and yup, can only imagine the horror on your face when you saw Junior rolling around in his poop! Dogs… their so weird, and yet so lovable 🙂 Patience is a virtue, and sometimes it’s hard to remember to be virtuous with a puppy in potty training – but your reminder that it doesn’t happen over night, it takes time is a good one. Great post!

  11. Great post. Found myself grinning a lot as I read. I just took the Nature’s Miracle spray off the kitchen counter and put it away yesterday. While we haven’t used it in weeks, I may be jinxing our good fortune with this comment. I’m in Arizona too, plus with Bernie’s Addison’s Disease he gets super thirsty because of the Prednisone he takes. I kept forgetting to take the water away by 8:30pm and I then I would hear Lizzie lapping away at 9ish. I just resigned myself to staying up a bit later to take her out. She’s been a bit easier to potty train because she started getting through the night quicker than Bernie did. I asked our trainer about it and she said that girl dogs will empty their bladder, while the boys hold back for marking. I wonder how much more big male dogs hold back.

    1. Thank you so much, Irene! Yes, that is definitely true about male dogs holding some of their pee back. As puppies though, I’m not sure it’s always for marking as it likely is for when they are older. Junior definitely never emptied his bladder and I could tell. I think he was just disinterested in standing there, got bored, and figured he was good until the urge would hit him 5 minutes later on my step inside. I, too, had the Nature’s Miracle on my counter top off and on until sadly not that long ago. I will hope for the best for you with Bernie and Addison. The water thing is still something I watch even now and Junior is 10 months old. I try to insist that he drink more earlier in the day so I don’t worry so much about him being dehydrated.

  12. Great tips. I never had an issue with previous dogs but Kilo the Pug has a tiny bladder and was not well house-trained when we rescued him. Thank goodness he never soiled his own bed or rolled in pee pee or poops. However he did like to pee and poop on other peoples beds and rugs and bathmats. White soft surfaces are still a fave. I take him out every 2 hours during the day and right before bed, leave a few pee pads around and watch for signs now so we have very few “accidents” but if he has to go and I miss the signs, he goes – usually in our bathroom on a pee pad or bath mat.

    1. Thank you, Susan! That is smart of you to put out the pee pads and just be patient with Kilo. Since he’s a rescue and you probably don’t know how or if he was ever potty trained as a puppy, being patient and observant to his signs is definitely the best way to go.

  13. Don’t get distracted with anything resembling a normal life. LOL Love that. Jasmine was crazy easy to potty train. JD was taught by the same method and it took a long time. Guys … :p

  14. I agree and use all 5 potty training steps. I do have one more to share. 8 tie a small bell on a string around the door knob of the door that I go outside with the puppy. The bell is at the puppy’s nose height. Each time we go our, I take the bell and touch it to the puppy’s nose so it rings and I joyfully say ‘let’s go outside and go potty’. We go out, they potty, they get praised and a treat. As they grow I adjust the height of the bell. I raise English Mastiffs and use this on my litters to get them ready for their forever homes and ask their new families to keep up the practise.

    1. I absolutely LOVE this suggestion! Huge kudos to you for being so proactive when it comes to potty training your puppies! Hopefully, other breeders will take note and follow your terrific suggestion. In addition to teaching these puppies how to signal to go outside, it exposes them to new sights and sounds which are very helpful for socialization in general! Thank you so much for sharing this, Christi!

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