Proven Tips for Successful Puppy Housetraining

Learn some tips for successful puppy housetraining.

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 puppies.”

“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:

  1. PREVENT indoor accidents by confinement, observation and close supervision.
  2. 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).

Additional Resources

FROM THE PETS ADVISER SHOP

  • Dorothy UK

    Please do not be tempted to train your puppy to eliminate in the house. It must be taken into your garden/yard every hour, after it eats or drinks and when it wakes up after a nap. You should also take it out just before you go to bed, every time you see it eliminate you must praise your puppy. I use a catch phrase when my puppy has a pee, I say “get one” while it is urinating and “big job” when it passes faeces. If you do this your dog will pee on command when it is older. (Unless it’s bladder is empty)

    You should set your alarm and try to take your puppy out about twice during the night. If like me you are a heavy sleeper and you don’t trust yourself to wake up, take the lazy way out. My puppy’s sleep in the laundry room until they are toilet trained, during the day I dip newspapers into the urine which it has passed in the garden and put these on top of a thick pad of newspaper at night, they are drawn to this because of the smell and they will pee on this during the night. Nevertheless I go to bed very late and get up very early when I have a puppy.

  • http://www.dogtrainingbells.com Gio

    Good article, though @ Dorothy, there are easier ways to train ones puppy and I would adopt the method of using training bells from the first few months as these are recommended by trainers also.

  • Jonathan

    This is always a tricky area when it comes to training your puppy and I agree that in my experience dogs normally respond better to positive reward that to negativity. They tend to get that hang dog expression when you tell them off, which makes you feel bad and the dog feel worse!

  • Natalie

    I have an old dog now, but he has been with me since I was 7. What I found, is that my my dog tend to be more obedient if you reward it when it listens to you, but keep it at moderation. You also have to punish it if it does something stupid. Like once before my dog peed on the duvet during a cold winter day. I hardy was able to wash it, because it was weekend and the laundry service nearby all closed down. So I got really frustrated and decided not too feed my dog for a day for the bad behavior. I know I might be harsh, but since then, he never peed on any of our furniture!

  • http://www.petsadviser.com/ PetsAdviser.com

    @Natalie, not feeding your dog for a day is cruel. We certainly don’t recommend punishing your pet this way.

  • Beth

    We have a 16 week old pug. We have had him for a month. My dad and my husband seem to think that rubbing his nose in his feces will teach him not to poo in the house. They are both around the same age, 55 and 60. would it be wrong to rub their face in their feces when they become in continent?

  • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

    @Beth: No, please do not let them rub the puppy’s face in the feces! Simply clean it up without making a big deal. It’s a minor setback, and with focused training the puppy will learn eventually. Reward good behavior.

  • http://suburban-k9.com/ Matt

    Good old-fashioned hard work is the answer. Keep an eye on your dog, take him out when necessary, praise for doing the right thing, calmly correct mistakes, and you will get the results you want. Many people seem to think puppies can be trusted unsupervised for a few minutes, but that’s all it takes for them to go in the house and then start to wonder what is and isn’t allowed.

  • Cam

    This really solved my problem, thank you!

  • http://www.mypetscareandhealth.com/ Suzanne

    I love this advice. My husband and I got two puppies just a year ago. I tend to be the one with more patience and consistency. If you follow these simple rules, you will train the pup. Take him out all the time. Tell him to “go potty” or “do your business” or “get busy.” Trust me, treats go a long way in reinforcing the good behavior. Think about potty before your pup does. Always, as soon as they wake up, after they eat, after they play. Using a crate is the best way for your pup to learn what is and isn’t his. Basically, he should learn that everything is yours and you share when he is good. My girls now go voluntarily into their crates when they get tired. It is their safe place. And never, ever, ever leave them unsupervised. Even if you have to take them into the bathroom with you when you have to go! It might seem that it takes forever, but it doesn’t. Just think of the years of companionship and love you will get from your dog. What a deal!

  • Phil

    Hmmm. My puppy would not potty outside after 2 months of constant training. After 1 time rubbing his nose close to it, and then putting him in submissive and vulnerable position, and scolding him, He has never done it in the house again!