7 Successful Tips on How to Potty Train a French Bulldog

How to Potty train a French Bulldog focuses on these main steps: being equipped with potty training supplies, picking a spot for him to toilet, learning his warning signs, bringing him out regularly, choosing a command for him to follow for relieving himself, reinforcing positive behavior, and finally, being prepared for the inevitable accidents that happen when your French Bulldog puppy is getting used to his new “trick”. Sounds pretty doable, right?  Exactly. Now, here’s more information on how to put it all into action.

Tips for the potty training process with your Frenchie puppy

Approaching this fundamental lesson with your Frenchie puppy can be tricky when he’s only 8 or 9 weeks old, but rest assured that he is plenty old enough to learn the basics. Remember, French Bulldogs are very smart and pick up good habits easily — when they want to follow them. This includes that tiny lil pup!

Start potty training early 

Ideally, you’ll want to start your French Bulldog’s potty training from the very first day that your pup comes home. When you get him home, the very first thing that you’ll want to do is to take him to his designated spot and show him around thoroughly. As he’s exploring, he’ll often “mark his territory” by peeing in a few spots. This is excellent behavior, and it will help him learn to go back there later. The longer you wait to potty train him, the harder it will be.

Be consistent 

This is tricky with something as cute and admittedly chaotic as a puppy, but do your part to keep your behavior and training consistent. This means bringing him out at the right time, every time (more on that later) even if you’re tired or preoccupied. Consistency will help him learn much faster.

Be patient 

French Bulldog puppies are babies first and foremost. This means that you’ll need to be very patient with them as they try to get a handle on what you’re saying, where to go, and what not to do. Puppies can get overstimulated and overwhelmed quickly, so make sure to keep your reinforcement positive even if you’ve already tried to get them to do the exercise 5 times with no success.

Train indoors and outdoors

While potty training is often assumed outdoors in your yard, it’s a great idea to potty train your Frenchie inside (on pee pads) as well as outside to give you maximum versatility. 

Tips for the potty training process with your full-grown Frenchie

Are you the proud new parent of a grown-up wrinkly, snuffling French Bulldog?  If so, congratulations!  Bringing home an adult Frenchie is going to be just as satisfying — in its own way — as a pup, and you’ll be happy to know that potty training (if done correctly) is still going to be possible with your new addition.

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks 

You’ve heard before the expression “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, right?  Well, you’ll be relieved to learn that it is 100% wrong. So, if you find your Frenchie relieving himself in the house, much to your horror, you can start re-training him to go to the bathroom outside as well as inside on pee pads. Adult Frenchies are even smarter than puppies, and they are as eager to please you!

Be extra patient

When potty training an adult Frenchie, be patient and easy-going as they adapt. More than likely, you are their second (or more) home, and they’ve already learned their habits from their first home. Training an adult doggo means that you will have to give him time to unlearn his old behaviors and then learn new ones. Quite often, this will take longer than puppies, and you may find him reverting to old behaviors every once in a while, even when he is thoroughly used to your commands and his pee pads and/or yard.

Always be kind and loving

It’s easy to want to get angry at your Frenchie — he’s an adult, why is this taking so long?? — but remember the above point. If it helps, think about something that you would need to unlearn and adapt to as an adult. For example: how hard would it be for us to learn how to play the piano in a different way (like with our feet?). Or, what if we had to learn a brand new language as an adult?  Everything takes longer once you reach a certain age — your pooch is no different. Give it time, patience, and lots of kindness.

Crate vs. outdoor potty training

Curious as to why you should train your Frenchie to pee inside and outside?  Showing him where to pee inside (more on that coming up) means that he’ll be able to relieve himself even when you are away at work or asleep. Quite often, when a pooch is forced to go inside even though he is trained to only pee outside, the distress can cause a lot of anxiety and fear in him because he knows that he’s done something terrible. So, make sure your dog knows where he can “safely” go potty inside your home for those rare times when you are busy.

Additionally, Frenchies only have one coat, which means that they are ultra-sensitive to extremely hot or cold temperatures. On those days when the weather is not good, knowing your pooch has a place to go to the potty inside will keep him safe from the elements (not to mention your comforts as well).

The 7-step guide to potty training your French Bulldog

Okay, so now that you know all about the difference (or lack thereof) with puppies and adults when it comes to potty training, here is a 7-step guide that will help you create positive habits in your French Bulldog. By following these focused steps and repeating them as needed throughout the process, you’ll help him learn potty training quicker and make sure that he learns to listen to you but not fear you.

1 – Get the right supplies for potty training prep

There are quite a lot of things that you want to buy when you approach potty training. While these are upfront costs, they’ll save you a lot of stress and can make the actual process go much smoother. Some of the essentials include:

  • Pee pads (for crate/inside training)
  • Tasty treats (for when he does it right!)
  • An enzymatic-based cleaner (to completely clean up accidents in your home)
  • Lots of paper towel/cleaning cloths 
  • A leash (to lead and keep your dog in his designated bathroom area outside)
  • A crate (for interior training and general use)

If you have the option of getting pads or cleaning clothes in bulk, you may want to do so!  Sure, you may not need them all, but it’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared when it comes to dog pees and poops in your home! When your pet goes into your home and isn’t cleaned up properly, it tells him to go in the same place again because it smells like him. This can be a hard habit to break once it starts, so stop it before it begins. 

2 – Pick a designated spot and always bring him here

Both outside and inside, carefully choose the area you want him to toilet in. Pick one without sensitive plants or other greenery that might be impacted by his toilet habits. Always bring him to the same spot every time and pick clear boundaries that he needs to stay in so that he can understand where he’s okay to go and where he’s not. For instance, you want him to go on a patch of grass rather than your rosebushes!  The same goes for interior training. Ideally, have the pee pads set up in one part of his oversized cage and place him on the pee pads when potty training him so that he understands it as his place to go.

3 – Learn his warning signs

Your French Bulldog will almost always give you some sort of sign that he has to go potty. This often includes sniffing around the floor, especially along the walls. He’ll also start turning in circles and focusing in on a particular spot before he squats. He may get restless and wander from room to room. He also may simply stare straight at you. As he gets used to the process, he may whine or go to the door and paw at it. Even if you JUST took him out 15 minutes before and think he’s playing with you, give him the benefit of the doubt and take him out again, giving him the command (more on that in a sec) to go potty. So what if he’s just “tricking you” and wants to play? It’s better than having an accident in the house. As you and he both get used to potty training, you’ll learn his signals and warning signs. 

4 – Bring him out regularly

Another crucial part of training your pup is to make sure that you periodically bring him out. Time it so that he goes out first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. You’ll also want to take him out about 15 minutes after meals or long drinks of water. As well, any time after a play session or a walk is always a good idea, too. Be as consistent with these times as possible, and he’ll start to learn the schedule and what he has to do at each time.  

5 – Pick a command and use it when he’s toileting

Just like “sit” or “stay”, you’ll want to choose a command that he can learn as a sign to go to the bathroom. “Go pee” is a commonly used one, but pick one that works for your needs. Say that whenever you take him to his area, and he’ll start to connect one with the other.

6 – Follow a positive experience with a treat and lots of love

Your Frenchie loves to make you happy. When he goes to the toilet in the appropriate place, especially after you’ve given him his command, make sure that you give him a treat and lots of positive affection and a kind voice. This will show him that he did a good thing and that if he does it again, he’ll get more treats and love. As he gets used to following the command, you can switch out the treats for playtime or a good belly rub, etc. 

7 – Be prepared for slip-ups and accidents

Whether you’ve got a Frenchie puppy or adult, accidents will happen. There’s no way around it. How you handle them is going to determine how successful the experience is for you, though. Don’t yell at them or rub their face in the mess. This teaches them to fear you and destroys any progress you’ve made in the training process. Instead, quickly and calmly clean up the mess entirely and withhold your affection (without shaming). Also, take them potty outside immediately after and give them the command. Take note of how long it had been since taking him out previously, as you’ll want to adjust your timing. 

Common troubleshooting potty training problems

Struggling to potty train your French Bulldog and need some targeted help?  No worries, all Frenchie parents have been there at one point or another!  Here are some of the most common problems and how to address them:

Q: My Frenchie was potty trained, but now he’s reverted to peeing elsewhere again. Why?

This can often make French Bulldog owners feel as though they’ve failed, but it may be something else entirely!  First of all, full and proper potty training does take months. Your pooch needs to understand the job as well as the timing and Frenchies can be notoriously difficult to potty train no matter how consistent you are. So, give it plenty of time and stay positive. However, sometimes Frenchies will revert to unplanned accidents due to reasons completely outside of training. For instance, maybe you’re waiting too long between taking him potty outside (or his pee pads are full in his kennel). Since French Bulldogs are smaller, their bladders are smaller, too.

Additionally, Frenchies will start to toilet inside when they are thrown off due to a change. For instance, a new baby or a new pet or a significant difference in their family situation can stress them out and cause them to toilet inside. This will fade with time and patience.

Lastly, sometimes Frenchies start having bowel issues when they age or have other health problems. If you notice him toiling a lot inside and there have been no changes in your family situation or any kind of emotional stressors, it might be worth a trip to the vet!

Q: My French Bulldog just sniffs around aimlessly when I take him outside and then pees inside. What do I do?

Frustrating and time-consuming, but harmless. Your pooch loves to spend time with you and often will tell you that he needs to go outside when he really just wants to bond with you. If you’re tired of the in and out game, focus more attention on crate training. Make sure you give him plenty of attention through walks and playtime so that your pooch doesn’t connect potty training with bonding!  Remember to never chastise him in case of an accident. He just wants to love you, after all!

He pees fine inside but won’t go outside (or vice versa). What should I do to get him used to both?

This one is simple: be patient and give it more time. He may not be connecting the command to the action yet, so just keep on repeating steps 1-6 and do it for as long as it takes. As you’re about to learn, potty training can take longer (especially when combining indoor with outdoor training) depending on a lot of factors. Always be patient with your Frenchie — he’s doing his best!

Real talk: how long does it (really) take to potty train a French bulldog?

Let’s take the gloves off here and approach the subject in terms of timing: how long does it take to potty train a French Bulldog? 

Realistically a Frenchie could take up to 8 months to potty train. Yes, that’s a long time, but it will be worth the wait. 

There are a few factors that can impact timing one way or the other. These include:

Genetics and history 

Just like humans, Frenchies have certain characteristics and genetic traits that could make potty training harder or easier. While this seems confusing, think about it in human terms. Some children are walking by the age of 10 months. Others take years to walk. The same goes for talking and learning to read, etc. Your pooch is the same way!  Even if your previous doggo took a shorter amount of time, this guy is an entirely different combination of genes and characteristics.

Puppy vs. adult 

Puppies will take less time to learn (though they may have more accidents) than adult Frenchies. The younger the mind, the more impressionable it is. Adults will need to unlearn old behaviors and learn your new ones.

Diet and exercise 

The healthier your pooch is, the better his bathroom habits will be. If he eats nothing but junk food (low-end kibble) and is a couch potato, his bathroom habits may match!  If he is healthy in diet and exercise, his bowels and digestive system will also be content, which is good news for you. 

Final thoughts

Potty training your French Bulldog can be challenging, especially if he’s your first pooch, but it’s possible with the right supplies, tips, and step-by-step guide. With time, patience and lots of love, you and he will figure out his bathroom routine, and you’ll all be happier for it!

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Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.