Is four weeks to young to potty train a dog?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – We received a puppy from my brother after its mother was killed. It is just four weeks old, any ideas as to potty training so young?

Thanks – Celeste Goodman


Hi Celeste– thanks for your email. Congratulations on your new puppy. Four weeks can be a little early but it is possible to start potty training. At that age, it is important to remember that they have very limited abilities to hold their urine. You cannot expect him to hold it for very long.

The rule of thumb for estimating the number of hours for which a puppy can hold its urine is N+1, where N is the puppy's age in months. So, for example, a 3-month old puppy should be able to hold its urine for approximately 4 hours in a pinch. This means that if you have a properly toilet trained 4-month-old puppy that, theoretically, can hold its urine for 5 hours, and you confine that pup in a crate for 6 or 7 hours, you are courting disaster. Puppies that are crated for longer than they can contain themselves will be forced to soil where they stand. This creates problems down the line as soiling within the crate destroys a valuable reflex to keep the nest clean.

So for a four-week-old pup – he will have very limited abilities. You may need to take him out about every hour or so, till he is 7 to 8 weeks old.

An article that might be helpful to you is House Training Schedules.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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