8 Common Mistakes When Potty Training a Lab Puppy and How to Avoid Them

Pet Training


May 16, 2020

Getting a new lab puppy home is one of the most exciting moments for any family. He brings with him the promise of days filled with play, laughter, and cuddles. Then he leaves a potty mess on your favorite heirloom rug, and you start wondering if you made the right decision. Potty training is never smooth sailing. Some puppies learn faster than others, but in every case, you will have mishaps here and there. 

Avoid These Mishaps When Potty Training a Lab Puppy

Puppy training is a uniquely personal journey for every pet owner. It shapes not only the toilet habits of the puppy, but also the kind of relationship that you’ll have with him from then on. In training, you’re introducing yourself to your puppy and teaching him how to listen to you. It is important to get it right. Here are the eight most commonly made potty training mistakes that you should avoid:

1. Omitting the Kennel/Crate

There are those dog owners who are apprehensive about enclosing a puppy in a crate, probably feeling that it’s unfair for the poor thing to stay confined. So they let the puppy roam free all over the house. While your lab puppy may look like he’s having the time of his life, skipping crate training will lag him behind a great deal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with confining a puppy for a couple of hours every day. If you let your puppy roam around the house, they will eliminate wherever the urge catches them. However, when confined to a crate, they learn to hold it in since they don’t want to soil their living space. This ability to hold is a solid first step in potty training a lab puppy. 

2. Missing the Signals

What signals tell you that your puppy needs to potty? You need to be well aware of them, so you can quickly lead your puppy out. You miss the telltale signs for some minutes or even seconds, and the next thing you know, pungent smell is hitting your nostrils. You have a potty accident on your hands. The signals may differ from one puppy to the other, but they generally get restless. They sniff around, pace, and paw at the door. If they can’t catch your attention, they’ll find a corner and do their thing. Keep a keen eye on your little friend; a couple of seconds is all it takes to slip away and leave a mess. 

3. Going Back to the House Without Eliminating

Sometimes your lab puppy will not potty right away. Let’s say you take him out after a meal, which is one of those times he’s most likely to go, but he just doesn’t. It’s advisable not to return to the house before he does. You could be thinking that you have better things to do than wait around for a puppy to poop, but remember that potty training a lab puppy is a job too. A worthy job for that matter. Here’s a trick that works – once you take the pup outside, look away. Appear distracted, bored even. As soon as he eliminates, look excited. You can clap and complement him verbally. Pat or stroke him. Let him play around a bit. Your puppy loves it when you’re happy, and if his pooping seems to make you happy, then he’ll do so as soon as he can.

4. Leaving Out the Reward

If patting and stroking are all you do, it soon becomes the norm and motivating enough. Quicken the progress by including a tasty treat. Offer the treat only when the puppy goes to the right potty spot as sometimes they pee/poop at a random spot in the garden. If you reward your puppy for eliminating at a particular spot, they’ll learn to associate it with good tidings. Change the treats often to avoid monotony. As soon as you open the door, your lab puppy will be running to the right spot and doing his business quickly to earn his treat. 

5. Misjudging Holding Time

For how long can your puppy hold before the next potty break? Ideally, his age in months should represent the number of hours that he can hold. A two-month-old can hold for two hours, a four-month-old for four hours, and so on. However, relying solely on these figures could cause you lots of mishaps. There are a number of additional factors that you must also consider. Eating, playing, and sleeping schedules also significantly affect the holding time. Your lab puppy will potty a lot more when playing around the house compared to when confined in the crate, for instance. There’s so much more than the clock to look at when determining the holding time. 

6. Inadequate Cleaning

Once you have a potty accident, cleaning up the soiled area requires extra attention. Simply eliminating the stain is not enough. Your lab puppy still senses that faint odor left. Wanting to retain his potty spot, he’s likely to soil that spot again. Washing with a common detergent is not enough. You need an enzyme-based cleaner that breaks down the molecules of the puppy waste and eliminates the smell completely. 

7. Leaving out the Verbal Command

In addition to potty training, your lab puppy is also at a stage where he’s learning basic commands. Adding a phrase to the potty process encourages your puppy to go faster. You can simply use ‘potty.’ Shorter phrases are easier for the pup to grasp. Begin by repeating the word over and over again when the puppy is eliminating. Once he learns to associate the word with the process, you can also use it as a trigger. This also comes handy when the puppy has to eliminate in an unfamiliar environment.

8. Punishments

Lashing out when you have a potty accident will only slow down the process of potty training a lab puppy. No matter how much you plan to avoid these mistakes, your puppy will soil your house a couple of times before he’s fully trained. If you yell or hit the puppy when you find a soiled spot, he does not even relate the punishment to his mess and will not understand why you’re mad. If you catch him about to go, you can gently but firmly tell him NO and quickly lead him outside using the same door every time. Otherwise, count the mishaps as part of the process and move along the training process. 


Potty training a lab puppy is a full-time job. When you first bring him home, take time off your regular schedule and dedicate it to the training process. How long does the training take? Well, we can’t really tell for sure. On average, it takes four to six months for the puppy to be fully trained.

However, every puppy is different. There are those who will take a longer time. Remain patient and consistent even when your puppy seems to be lagging behind. Look at the training period as a time to bond with the new baby of your family, and form an attachment that will last a lifetime.