Housetraining 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. Housetraining a puppy is not about the dog; it’s about you, and how hard you are willing to work at it!
Establish a Routine
- Like babies, puppies do best on a regular schedule. Take your puppy outside frequently, at least every two hours, and immediately after he wakes up from a nap, after playing and after eating.
- Praise your puppy lavishly or give a treat every time he eliminates outdoors. You must do this immediately after he’s finished eliminating, not after he comes back inside the house. This step is vital, because rewarding your dog for eliminating outdoors is the only way he’ll know that’s what you want him to do.
- Choose a location not too far from the door for the bathroom spot. Always take your puppy, on a leash, directly to the bathroom spot. Take him for a walk or play with him only after he has eliminated. While your puppy is eliminating, use a word or phrase, like “go potty,” that you can eventually use before he eliminates to remind him of what he’s 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 he’ll eliminate at consistent times as well. This makes housetraining easier for both of you.
Supervise, Supervise, Supervise
Don’t give your puppy an opportunity to soil in the house. He should be watched at all times when he is indoors. You can tether him to you with a six-foot leash, or use baby gates to keep him in the room you are in. Watch for signs that he needs to eliminate, like sniffing or circling. When you see these signs, immediately take him outside, on a leash, to his bathroom spot. If he eliminates, praise him lavishly and reward him with a treat.
When you’re unable to watch your puppy at all times, he should be confined in a crate that is just big enough for him to comfortably stand up, lie down and turn around in. If your puppy has spent several hours in confinement, when you let him out, take him directly to his bathroom spot and praise him when he eliminates.
Expect your puppy to have accidents in the house – it’s a normal part of housetraining a puppy.
- When you catch him in the act of eliminating in the house, do something to interrupt him, such as clap your hands (be careful not to scare him). Immediately take him to his bathroom spot, praise him and give him a treat if he finishes eliminating there.
- Don’t 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 him to the spot and scolding him, or any other punishment or discipline, will only make him afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. Cleaning the soiled area is very important because puppies are highly motivated to continue soiling in areas that smell like urine or feces. Use a good enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle.
A puppy under six months of age cannot be expected to control his bladder for more than a few hours at a time. If you have to be away from home for more than four or five hours a day, you’ll need to allow your puppy to eliminate in a specific place indoors. Be aware, however, that teaching your puppy to eliminate on potty pads may prolong the process of house training because when you later decide you want him to eliminate outdoors, you will have to re-train him.