Potty Training – Notes from Dr. Ian Dunbar’s book, “Before and After

How to Potty Train a Puppy


The following procedure from Dr. Dunbar is exacting, but if you follow it, the puppy will most likely never potty inside and will most likely never chew on anything it’s not supposed to. Note that Dr. Dunbar is also famous for his method of socializing a puppy. As a result of using this method, the puppy will be potty-trained quickly (because they’ve only done the right thing every time). 

A puppy’s instinct is to move away from his sleeping area for pooping or peeing. The fastest way to housetrain a puppy is to use this instinct. Click here for Part One of my notes on his method of crate-training.

  • Summary: If you keep the dog either tethered to you, or crated, or in the playpen (when you’re out of the house), and then take him out hourly, he’ll quickly learn to go potty outdoors.


  • 8 weeks old: 75-minute bladder capacity (which is why you take him out hourly)
  • 18 weeks old: 2-hour bladder capacity

At night, many puppies can make it about 4 hours (halfway through the night).

Directions: When at home:

  1. Keep your puppy in the crate (with kibble-filled Kongs) or leashed to your belt with a carabiner (with kibble-filled Kongs)
  2. Every hour on the hour:
    1. Put three liver treats in your pocket
    2. Release your pup from confinement (you may have to leash him)
    3. Quickly run your pup to the outdoor toilet area
    4. Instruct your pup to eliminate (“Go Potty!)
    5. Give him, three minutes to do so. (If he doesn’t do it in three minutes, bring him back to the crate for a half-hour. Repeat the process over and over until he does eliminate.)
  3. When your puppy eliminates:
    1. Enthusiastically praise him
    2. Offer him three freeze-dried liver treats
    3. Bring your pup indoors and play with him (when puppy is old enough to go outside, take him for a walk after he eliminates)

Directions: When not at home:

  1. Leave your puppy out of the crate, but in the playpen.
  2. Tie the kibble-stuffed Kongs inside the crate and leave the crate door open
  3. Leave a puppy-pad smeared with grass and dirt (for puppy to pee on)
  4. When you get home, get him to get you his Kong. Pop the liver treat out of the Kong for him to eat.

Directions: For night-time

Puppies are active at dawn and dusk, but basically sleep during the day and at night (thank goodness)

  1. Practice during the day having him settle down in his crate, both in the same room as you and in different rooms.
  2. At night, confine him to his crate (perhaps by your bed).
  3. If he whines, check on him every 10 minutes. Talk to him and stroke him softly for 1 minute.
  4. Go back to bed. If he whines again, go back in 10 minutes.
  5. Repeat until he falls asleep.
  6. Set your alarm for halfway through the night. When the alarm goes off, leash up you puppy and take him outside to potty.