There are certain times when your dog will usually have to go potty, and if he is fed at regular times he will tend towards a more predictable schedule. Avoid “free feeding”, or leaving food down all the time. (If you don’t know what time the food went into your dog, it’s harder to know when the food might come out of your dog.) These predictable times are:
Make sure to take your dog to the place where you want him to eliminate at these times, and as often as you can in between. Remember, it’s your goal to give him as many opportunities as possible to go in the correct place.
Once you are able to predict when your dog has to go potty, it’s easy to teach him to go on cue. When you’re sure he has to go (such as first thing in the morning), take him to his elimination area and walk in a small circle, looking at the ground (not at your dog). Calmly repeat the cue you’ve chosen over and over. When he starts to eliminate, smile and quietly praise your pup: “Gooooood potty”. Don’t use an excited tone of voice; you don’t want to distract him from the task at hand.
Adult dogs can “hold it” much longer than puppies, although many puppies can hold it sleeping through the night (six or seven hours) as early as eight weeks of age. Pick up your dog’s water one or two hours before bedtime. Take him out for a walk or romp in the yard, then give him ten minutes of quiet time in his potty area to make sure he has a chance to completely empty himself so he can sleep through night.
As a general rule, puppies can hold it during the day for as many hours as they are months old. For example, when awake, a three month old puppy can typically hold it for a maximum of three hours. (If your young pup is excited, playing or even just actively frolicking about, he may not be able to hold it this long.) At four months, puppies begin to develop sphincter control and start to gain the ability to hold it longer. It’s important to provide a young puppy with even more opportunities to go in the place you want him to – take him outside every hour if possible. Give him lots and lots and lots of chances to do the right thing so he can be rewarded for it.