While you can begin potty training when your puppy is 6 weeks old, don't expect perfect results. At six weeks, puppies haven't developed the physical ability to wait to go potty. Using several methods together will help your puppy learn more quickly what you want him to do.
Prepare your puppy's crate with a blanket and his favorite toy.
Place your puppy in the crate. Speak to your puppy in a reassuring tone when you introduce him to the crate. Give him a treat once he is inside. Let him sit in the crate for just a few minutes.
Increase the amount of time your puppy is in the crate, putting him in the crate several times a day. Always make it a positive experience with lots of praise and treats. During a few days of training, increase the amount of time the puppy is in the crate to two hours.
Place your puppy in his crate anytime you can't directly supervise him. Instinctively your puppy doesn't want to eliminate in his crate. You have established the crate as his "den," and dogs do not want to soil their space.
Establish a routine for the puppy that includes taking him out to potty every two hours during the day. A 6-week-old puppy can't hold his bladder more than two hours.
Take your puppy out to potty immediately upon waking in the morning, after mealtimes and after naps.
Take your puppy out to potty just before bedtime. Do not feed him and limit his water intake for the last couple hours before putting him to bed for the night.
Leash your puppy to take him out for potty breaks and stay with him while he goes potty. At 6 weeks of age he needs your praise each time he is successful at going to the potty outside.
Hang jingle bells, such as the ones that are sold as Christmas decorations, on the knob to the door that you use for taking your puppy out to potty. Hang them low enough that your puppy can ring them with his paw or nose. Always go out the same door during house training.
Ring the bells each time you go out the door for potty time. Within a few weeks most puppies learn to ring the bells to let you know when they need to go outside.
Walk your puppy to the same spot in the yard each time. This helps the puppy learn that this is potty time and not walk time or playtime.
Praise the puppy and give him a treat once he is finished, but wait until he is finished. At 6 weeks he has a very limited attention span, and even your praise while he is still going potty might distract him.
Bethney Foster is social justice coordinator for Mercy Junction ministry, where she edits the monthly publication "Holy Heretic." She is also an adoption coordinator with a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor. She graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.