I am getting a new puppy this week!
It is an exciting time — but to be honest, I dread the housetraining routine. Just thinking about it reminds me of an old joke…
Ever Heard This One?
“M-R not puppies!”
“O-S-A-R puppies! C-M-P-N?!”
“L-I-B! M-R puppies!”
Long before text messaging, this joke would bring peals of laughter from my childhood friends. It was funny because of the reference to puppies peeing!
Of course, if you are in the midst of housetraining a puppy, the humor may be lost on the constant task of the cleanup! What are the most effective methods of housetraining a dog? Keep reading, and you’ll find out.
Watch and Learn
The first key to effective training is to observe your puppy’s behavior. Your pup may need to go potty eight to 10 times a day! Puppies usually need to eliminate soon after waking, eating, drinking or playing. You will begin to understand your dog’s body language when she has to go. When you notice your puppy whimpering, whining circling and sniffing — it is time! (What are you waiting for, a handwritten note?) Take your pup to the potty area immediately.
If the potty area is outside, your puppy will eventually go to the door as an indication. If you are using papers or Wee-Wee Pads, place them in the same designated area and train to that spot. Use a keyword — as your dog is peeing or pooping say, “Go pee pee,” or “Go potty.” She will begin to understand the correlation of the word. Above all, be consistent with your program.
Crates Are Great
A young puppy should never be allowed the run of the house. Housetraining requires confinement of some sort, for his protection and yours.
The natural instinct of a puppy to seek safety and comfort from the den-like enclosure of a crate makes for a perfect housetraining tool. Dogs typically will not soil their sleep area. Crates also protect your belongings from sharp puppy teeth and protect your pup from electric cords, plants, stairs and areas that require supervision.
But… if you want this to work, you’ve got to know how to properly crate train.
Follow these guidelines:
- Never use the crate as a punishment! Your dog will come to fear it and refuse to enter it.
- Puppies younger than 6 months shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a clip. They can’t control their bladders and bowels for that long. The same goes for adult dogs that are being housetrained. Physically they can hold it, but they don’t know they’re supposed to. Don’t be cruel.
- Crate your dog only until you can trust her not to destroy the house. After that, it should be a place she goes voluntarily.
- If your puppy continually soils the crate, discontinue using it for housetraining.
Always take your puppy to the “potty area” as soon as you take her from the crate or area of confinement. Reward her as soon as she relieves herself.
Watch This Video
In the video below, Bernadine Cruz, DVM, gives an overview of some methods:
Crime and Punishment
Animal experts agree: Rewards are the most successful training reinforcement. Never punish your puppy for accidents.
As soon as your dog successfully eliminates — in the designated training spot — praise her and/or offer a treat. She will learn very quickly the way to get the reward. If she makes a mistake, do not scold or reprimand. Just clean up and start back with the training. Punishments, either by scolding or physical corrections, compromise the trust factor with your puppy. You will end up with a dog that is fearful and anxious.
If your dog soils in the wrong place, she does not understand the mistake. Correcting her after the one-second rule will not work. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when dog owners rub their dog’s nose in urine. Do not rub your puppy’s nose in urine! It doesn’t work, and will never work. Ever. Don’t be cruel.
Clean the floor thoroughly with an enzymatic solution. Do not use ammonia; dogs instinctively return to areas marked with the scent of their waste, and the aroma of ammonia may be confused with urine. If your dog continues to return to the same spot, you may move potty papers in that area. Help him understand the right place to potty and want to go there.
Saved by the Bell
Puppies are babies, and they will forget training if they are involved in a more interesting activity. Sometimes the urgency hits and they will just start to pee before they give a signal.
When you see your puppy begin to urinate or defecate in the wrong place, distract her. A loud clap, whistle or bell will break her attention just long enough to scoop her up and get her to the right potty place. Encourage her to continue elimination with your special command and then reward the success.
Practice — and Patience — Make Perfect
Housetraining a puppy takes compassion, consistency and patience. It is your responsibility to help your puppy understand where and when to potty. Let me try to simplify this. Regardless of the method, housetraining employs two general guidelines:
- PREVENT indoor accidents by confinement, observation and close supervision.
- Take your puppy outside on a regular schedule and REWARD her for eliminating in the designated area.
Remember, a puppy less than 12 weeks old will not have developed bladder or bowel control. A dog may not be fully housetrained until 8 to 12 months old.
Magic Formula? Not So Much
Sorry, there are no magic formulas for housetraining a puppy successfully. It requires the pet parent’s investment of time and effort. The payoff is a happy, trusting relationship with your new fur-child.
If you find you need additional help, professional guidance is available. Contact a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT), a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB), or a board-certified veterinarian behaviorist (Dip ACVB).
- WebVet: Housetraining your new puppy
- ASPCA: More advice on housetraining your puppy