Housetraining your PuppyHousetraining a puppy requires time, vigilance, patience and commitment. Following the procedures outlined below, you can minimize house soiling incidents, but virtually every puppy will have an accident in the house (more likely several). Expect this – its part of raising a puppy. The more consistent you are in following the basic housetraining procedures, the faster your puppy will learn acceptable behavior. It may take several weeks to housetrain your puppy, and with some of the smaller breeds, it might take longer.
Establish a RoutineLike babies, puppies do best on a regular schedule. Take your puppy outside frequently, at least every two hours, and immediately after they wake up from a nap, after playing, and after eating.
Praise your puppy lavishly every time they eliminate outdoors. You can even give them a treat. You must praise them and give them a treat immediately after they finish eliminating, not after they come back inside the house. This step is vital, because rewarding your dog for eliminating outdoors is the only way they will know that’s what you want him to do.
Choose a location not too far from the door to be the bathroom spot. Always take your puppy, on a leash, directly to the bathroom spot. Take them for a walk or play with them only after they eliminate. If you clean up an accident in the house, take the soiled rags or paper towels and leave them in the bathroom spot. The smell will help your puppy recognize the area as the place they are supposed to eliminate. While your puppy is eliminating, use a word or phrase, like “hurry up,” that you can eventually use before they eliminate to remind them of what they are supposed to be doing.
If possible, put your puppy on a regular feeding schedule. Depending on their age, puppies usually need to be fed three or four times a day. Feeding your puppy at the same times each day will make it more likely that they will eliminate at consistent times as well. This makes housetraining easier for both of you.
Supervise, Supervise, SuperviseYour puppy will learn more quickly if they are not given the opportunity to soil in the house. They should be watched at all times when they are indoors. You should crate/confine the puppy when you can’t watch them, and then tether them to you with a six-foot leash once they eliminate outdoors, or use baby gates, to keep them in the room where you are. Watch for signs that they need to eliminate, like sniffing around or circling – or simply changing activities. When you see these signs, immediately take them outside, on a leash, to their bathroom spot – say “hurry up”. If they do not eliminate, they go back in the crate/confinement area with a good chew toy – try again in 5-15 minutes. If they do eliminate, praise them lavishly, and reward them with a treat or a play session. Once back inside tether them to you OR ensure they are baby-gated into the same room as you are in.
ConfinementWhen you’re unable to watch your puppy at all times, they should be confined to an area small enough that they won’t want to eliminate there OR, for long periods of time, an area where they CAN go to the bathroom (i.e. an exercise pen with plenty of newspaper on the floor or a bathroom with newspaper. A short-term confinement area (less than a 4-hour stay) should be just big enough for them to comfortably stand, lie down and turn around. You may want to crate train your puppy and use the crate to confine them (see our resource Crate Training). If your puppy has spent several hours in confinement, when you let them out, take them directly to their bathroom spot and praise them when they eliminate.
Oops!Expect your puppy to have an accident in the house – it’s a normal part of house training a puppy.
When you catch them in the act of eliminating in the house, do something to interrupt them, like picking them up (be careful not to scare them). Immediately take them to their bathroom spot, praise them and give him a treat if they finish eliminating there.
Do not punish your puppy for eliminating in the house. If you find a soiled area, it’s too late to administer a correction. Do nothing but clean it up. Rubbing your puppy’s nose in it, taking them to the spot and scolding them, or any other punishment or discipline, will only make them afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. Animals don’t understand punishment after the fact, even if it’s only seconds later. Punishment will do more harm than good.
Cleaning the soiled area is very important because puppies are highly motivated to continue soiling in areas that smell like urine or feces (see our resource Cleaning Odors and Stains).
It’s extremely important that you use the supervision and confinement procedures outlined above to minimize the number of accidents. If you allow your puppy to eliminate frequently in the house, they will get confused about where they are supposed to eliminate which will prolong the house training process.
Paper TrainingA puppy under six months of age cannot be expected to control their bladder for more than a few hours at a time. If you have to be away from home for more than four hours a day, this may not be the best time for you to get a puppy. If you’re already committed to having a puppy and have to be away from home for long periods of time, you’ll need to train your puppy to eliminate in a specific place indoors. Be aware, however, that doing so can prolong the process of teaching them to eliminate outdoors. Teaching your puppy to eliminate on newspapers may create a life-long surface preference, meaning that they may, even in adulthood, eliminate on any newspaper they find lying around the house.
When your puppy must be left alone for long periods of time, confine them to an area with enough room for a sleeping space, a playing space and a separate place to eliminate. In the area designated as the elimination place, you can either use newspapers or a sod box. To make a sod box, place sod in a container, like a child’s small, plastic swimming pool. You can also find dog litter products at a pet supply store. If you clean up an accident in the house, take the soiled rags or paper towels, and put them in the designated elimination place. The smell will help your puppy recognize the area as the place where they are supposed to eliminate.