Housetraining Your Puppy
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 it's 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 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 every time he eliminates
outdoors. You can even give him a treat. You must praise him and give him a
treat 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
- 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 him for a walk or play with him only after he has eliminated. 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 he is supposed to eliminate. 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
- 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.
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
where you are. Watch for signs that he needs to eliminate, like sniffing around
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
When you're unable to watch your puppy at all
times, he should be confined to an area small enough that he won't want to
eliminate there. It should be just big enough for him to comfortably stand, lie
down and turn around in. This area could be a portion of a bathroom or laundry
room, blocked off with boxes or baby gates. Or you may want to crate train your
puppy and use the crate to confine him (see our Crate Training Guide). 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 an accident 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, like make a startling noise (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. 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 .
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, he'll
get confused about where he's supposed to eliminate which will prolong the
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, 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 him to eliminate outdoors. Teaching
your puppy to eliminate on newspaper may create a life-long surface preference,
meaning that he may, even in adulthood, eliminate on any newspaper he finds
lying around the house.
When your puppy must be left alone for long periods of time,
confine him 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 he is supposed to eliminate.