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How to Housetrain Your Puppy

Dogs can be housetrained at any age; however, puppies learn much faster than adult dogs.

The cuteness of puppies allows most owners to ignore small accidents, but larger accidents from adult dogs pose a much greater problem.

Housebreaking requires a bit of trial and error, but a little patience goes a long way. After each meal, nap, and play session, dogs need a restroom pause.

Depending on their age and breed, most dogs eat multiple times a day, so anticipate their need for a break to prevent accidents.

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Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.

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How to Get Started

1. Create a Schedule

Schedule

When it comes to housetraining your puppy, it’s important to base potty breaks on their age, activity level, and mealtimes.

A two-month-old puppy will need a break every two hours, while a three-month-old should be able to wait for about four hours. Larger breeds may have a greater capacity, while smaller breeds may need more frequent breaks.

As your puppy grows, they will be able to hold it for longer periods of time. By four months, they should be able to wait for about five hours, and by seven months, they should be able to wait for about eight hours.

However, it’s important to remember that every pup is different, and you should always be aware of their individual needs.

In addition to basing potty breaks on your puppy’s age, it’s also important to pay attention to their activity level and mealtimes. Puppies who are more active may need more frequent breaks, while those who are less active may be able to hold it for longer periods of time.

It’s also important to take your pup outside after meals, as this will stimulate their digestive system and increase the likelihood of a successful potty break.

Overall, housetraining your puppy takes patience and consistency. By understanding their individual needs and basing potty breaks on their age, activity level, and mealtimes, you can help them learn to relieve themselves outside and develop good habits. With time and effort, your pup will become a pro at housetraining!


2. Choose a Location

Dogs At Fenced Dog Park

It is crucial to remember, when housetraining your dog, that they rely on olfactory signals to remind them of expected behaviors. This means that if you want your dog to use a specific location, such as an indoor toilet area or an outdoor spot, you need to be consistent.

Whether you choose to use newspaper, pee pads, a doggy litter box, or an outdoor area, make sure to always transport your dog to the same spot. This will help them associate that location with the act of elimination and make it easier for them to understand what is expected of them.

In addition to consistency, it’s also important to be patient and positive when housetraining your dog. Praise them when they do eliminate in the correct location, and avoid punishing them when they make mistakes.

Punishment can actually make housetraining more difficult, as it can cause your dog to become anxious or fearful. By using consistent location cues, positive reinforcement, and plenty of patience, you can help your dog develop good housetraining habits.

Remember, every dog is different, and it may take some time for them to fully understand what is expected of them. But with time and effort, you can help your furry friend become a pro at housetraining!


3. Concentrate on the Act

cheerful dogs running outdoors

When housebreaking your dog, it is essential to keep him on a leash until he has effectively eliminated. This will prevent him from becoming distracted and playing inside the house, which can lead to accidents. As a reward for eliminating, you may remove the leash and allow him to play.

In addition to using a leash, it is essential to be consistent and patient. Maintain a regular feeding and elimination schedule, and be sure to take your dog outside frequently, especially after meals and playtime. Be prepared for setbacks and mishaps, as housetraining is a time-consuming process.

Positive reinforcement is another useful strategy for encouraging good behavior. Reward your dog with a treat or some playtime when he successfully eliminates outside. Punishment can make housetraining more difficult and can cause your dog to develop anxiety or fear.

Overall, housebreaking a dog requires consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. By using a leash, adhering to a schedule, and rewarding good behavior, you can help your dog develop excellent housetraining habits and become an expert.


4. Name the Deed

Happy fluffy dog on terrace

It is essential to use a consistent cue word when housetraining your dog. Choose a simple term or phrase, such as “go potty” or “do your business,” and ensure that everyone in your household uses it consistently.

Once your dog has eliminated outside, be sure to reward them with plenty of praise, playtime, or a small, healthy treat that won’t disrupt their regular diet. This positive reinforcement will teach your dog that eliminating outside is a desirable and rewarded behavior.

In addition to using a consistent cue word and positive reinforcement, it is crucial to be patient and consistent during housetraining. Adhere to a regular feeding and elimination schedule, and take your dog outside frequently, especially after meals and playtime.

Remember that every dog is unique, and housetraining can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Be prepared for setbacks and accidents, and avoid punishment, which can cause your dog to develop anxiety and fear.

By using a consistent cue word, positive reinforcement, and plenty of patience, you can help your dog develop excellent housetraining habits and become an expert at eliminating outside.


5. Confine and Supervise

A Smiling Dog Plays with its Owner in The Yard

Confinement can be an effective tool when housetraining your puppy. Puppies generally don’t want to eliminate in an area where they sleep or play, so confining them to a small area can teach them to hold it until they are taken outside.

However, it’s important to choose a confinement area carefully. A small room may not be effective, as a puppy may still be able to eliminate in one corner and sleep in another. A crate can be a good option, as it confines the puppy to a small, easily cleaned area.

If your puppy isn’t productive during a potty break, it may be helpful to confine them to the crate for 15 minutes before trying again. This can help them understand that eliminating outside is the desired behavior.

If your puppy defecates or urinates in the crate, it’s important to clean it up thoroughly and avoid punishing the dog. Instead, focus on using positive reinforcement for eliminating outside and be patient as your puppy learns.

Overall, confinement can be a helpful tool when housetraining your puppy. By carefully choosing a suitable confinement area and using positive reinforcement, you can help your puppy develop good housetraining habits and become proficient at eliminating outside.


6. Watch for Warnings

black-muzzled dog

It is crucial to be aware of your puppy’s behaviors and signals during housetraining. Prior to defecating, puppies frequently scent and walk in circles, so keep an eye out for these behaviors and take appropriate action.

If your puppy squats indoors, it is essential to stop the behavior immediately and transfer them to the designated legal toileting area. Use your cue word, such as “go potty,” and praise them when they eliminate in the correct location.

It is essential to avoid punishment when housetraining your puppy, as this can make the process more challenging and may cause your dog to develop anxiety and fear. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement for excellent behavior, and be patient as your dog learns.

In addition to observing your puppy’s behavior and using positive reinforcement, it is essential to adhere to a consistent feeding and elimination schedule. Take your puppy outside often, especially after meals or playtime, and be prepared for setbacks and accidents.

Remember that housetraining requires time and effort, but with patience and consistency, you can help your puppy form good habits and become an expert at eliminating outside.


7. Clean Accidents

Owner Clearing Dog Mess With Pooper Scooper

When housetraining your puppy, it’s important to eliminate the smells that can lure them back to areas where they have previously eliminated. Even if you have cleaned up the mess, the odor can linger and attract your puppy back to the same spot.

To eliminate these odors, it’s helpful to use an odor neutralizer specifically designed for pet messes. These products work by breaking down the enzymes in the urine or feces, which eliminates the odor and discourages your puppy from returning to the same spot.

When using an odor neutralizer, make sure to follow the instructions carefully and use enough product to completely eliminate the odor. It’s also important to avoid using any products that contain ammonia, as this can actually attract your puppy back to the same spot.

In addition to using an odor neutralizer, it’s important to continue to supervise your puppy and redirect them to the legal toilet area. With consistency and patience, you can help your puppy develop good housetraining habits and eliminate the risk of accidents in the future.

Remember, housetraining takes time and effort, but with the right tools and approach, you can help your puppy become proficient at eliminating outside.


8. Reward Good Behavior

Trainer gives the husky a reward

Rewarding excellent behavior is an integral part of pet training and is crucial for ensuring a happy and well-behaved companion.

Positive reinforcement, which consists of rewarding a pet’s positive behavior with treats, praise, and playtime, is an effective training method that is applicable to all types of pets.

One of the most essential things to remember when employing positive reinforcement is to promptly reward your pet after it demonstrates the desired behavior.

This teaches your pet which behavior is rewarded and reinforces the desirable behavior. For instance, if you are training your dog to sit, you should reward it promptly after it sits, rather than after it has stood up again.

It is also essential to communicate with your pet using consistent and unambiguous signals. For instance, if you are using a clicker to train your dog, ensure that you always click the clicker at the precise instant the dog demonstrates the desired behavior. This teaches your companion the connection between the desired behavior and the reward.

When selecting rewards for your pet, choose items or activities that are highly motivating to your pet. Food treats are the most effective reward for some dogs, while others prefer playtime or praise. Experiment with various rewards to determine which are most effective.

When training your pet, it is crucial to be patient and consistent. Positive reinforcement training requires time and effort, but with consistent practice and rewards, your pet will learn to behave well and become a cherished family member.

In conclusion, rewarding excellent behavior is an essential component of pet training and can contribute to the development of a happy and well-behaved companion.

By using positive reinforcement, clear signals, motivating rewards, and consistent training, you can teach your pet to behave well and transform it into a cherished family member.


9. Be Patient and Consistent

Young woman teaching her dog giving a reward for good behavior

Patience and consistency are crucial components of pet training. Whether you are teaching your pet a new behavior or attempting to break a negative habit, you must approach the process with patience and consistency.

First, it is essential to recognize that pet training takes time. Similar to humans, pets require time to learn and acclimate to new routines and behaviors. Be patient and give your pet the time and space it needs to learn at its own pace; do not expect it to learn everything immediately.

Additionally, consistency is essential when instructing your pet. This involves utilizing the same signal word, hand gesture, and reward every time the behavior occurs. For instance, when teaching your dog to sit, use the same signal word, hand gesture, and treat or praise every time.

In addition to being compassionate and consistent, it is essential to establish realistic training goals for your pet. Do not expect your pet to immediately acquire complex behaviors or tricks; begin with fundamental commands and build from there.

And remember to celebrate minor victories along the way, as this can help you and your pet remain motivated throughout the training process.

If you are struggling with your pet’s behavior, it is imperative that you seek professional assistance. A trained animal behaviorist or pet trainer can provide valuable guidance and support, as well as assist you in developing a customized training program to meet your pet’s specific needs.

In conclusion, consistency and patience are essential when training a pet. You can help your pet learn new behaviors and become a well-behaved family member by approaching the process with patience, consistency, and achievable goals.


10. Use a Crate or Playpen

Husky dog in outdoor chain link Dog Kennel

Using a crate or playpen is an effective tool for managing your pet’s behavior and keeping them safe and secure. Whether you are housetraining a new puppy or protecting your home from a curious pet, a crate or playpen can provide a safe and comfortable space for your pet to rest and play.

When choosing a crate or playpen, it’s important to select one that is appropriate for your pet’s size and needs. The space should be large enough for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but not so large that they can eliminate in one corner and sleep in another.

It’s also important to make the crate or playpen a positive space for your pet. This means providing comfortable bedding, toys, and treats, and avoiding using the space as a form of punishment. With positive reinforcement and consistent use, your pet will come to view the crate or playpen as a safe and comfortable space.

Using a crate or playpen can also be an effective tool for housetraining your pet. By confining your pet to a small space, you can help them learn to hold their bladder and bowels until they are taken outside. And with positive reinforcement and consistent training, you can help your pet learn to eliminate in the designated toilet area.

Finally, it’s important to never leave your pet in a crate or playpen for extended periods of time. While these tools are useful for managing behavior and keeping your pet safe, they should not be used as a substitute for proper exercise, socialization, and interaction with their human family.

In conclusion, using a crate or playpen can be an effective tool for managing your pet’s behavior and keeping them safe and secure. By selecting an appropriate space, providing positive reinforcement, and using consistent training, you can help your pet learn good behavior and become a well-adjusted member of your family.


11. Problems and Proofing Behavior

Dog Waits for Walking with Leash

Housetraining a puppy can be frustrating, but it’s important to approach it with patience and positive reinforcement.

Yelling at or hitting your puppy for accidents is not only ineffective, but it can also create negative associations with elimination and cause your puppy to hide deposits from you.

Instead, focus on catching your puppy in the act and redirecting them to the designated legal toilet area. Use a cue word, such as “go potty,” and reward your puppy with treats and praise when they successfully eliminate in the right spot.

This positive reinforcement teaches your puppy to go in the right place and avoid accidents, as they learn to associate elimination with rewards. Timing is also crucial when housetraining your puppy.

Verbally correcting your puppy for an accident that occurred five minutes ago won’t work, as the dog won’t understand the cause and effect. Instead, focus on catching your puppy in the act and redirecting them to the designated legal toilet area.

Positive reinforcement is a more effective motivator than punishment for both humans and dogs. By rewarding your puppy for good behavior, they will be more motivated to please you and avoid accidents.

This creates a positive cycle of good behavior and rewards, leading to a well-trained and happy puppy. In conclusion, when housetraining your puppy, it’s important to avoid negative reinforcement and focus on positive reinforcement and consistency.

By catching your puppy in the act, using a cue word, and rewarding good behavior, you can help your puppy learn to eliminate in the right spot and become a well-trained and happy member of your family.


12. Be Prepared for Setbacks

Young Woman Train German Shepherd Dog to Sit

Housebreaking your companion can be a difficult process, and setbacks are unavoidable along the way. It is essential to anticipate obstacles and approach them with patience and a commitment to consistency.

Changes in routine, stress, illness, or even a momentary lapse in concentration can all contribute to setbacks. It is crucial to maintain composure and avoid becoming frustrated with your companion when setbacks occur.

Punishing your pet for indiscretions can actually exacerbate the issue, as it can create negative associations with elimination and cause your pet to conceal elimination.

Instead, focus on identifying the source of the setback and addressing it with perseverance and consistency. For instance, if your companion has an accident due to a change in routine, such as a new work schedule, you may need to adjust your housetraining routine accordingly.

If your companion has an accident as a result of tension or illness, you may need to provide additional support and care during their recovery. Consistency is also essential when confronting setbacks.

This entails utilizing the same signals, rewards, and consequences each time the undesirable behavior occurs and avoiding inconsistent signals or routine changes.

By remaining consistent, you can help your companion learn appropriate behavior and avoid future setbacks.

Finally, it is essential to seek professional assistance if you are having difficulty housetraining your companion.

A trained animal behaviorist or pet trainer can provide invaluable guidance and support, as well as assist you in developing a customized training program to suit your pet’s specific requirements.

In conclusion, setbacks in housetraining your companion are inevitable, but they can be surmounted with patience, consistency, and a commitment to positive reinforcement.

By remaining calm, addressing the cause of the setback, and, if necessary, seeking professional assistance, you can help your companion become a well-trained and joyful family member.

Conclusion

Training a Puppy in the Sunshine

Housebreaking your puppy requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement.

By providing a designated legal toilet area, using a cue word, rewarding good behavior, and avoiding negative reinforcement, you can help your puppy learn to eliminate in the right spot and avoid accidents.

It’s important to remember that setbacks are an inevitable part of the housetraining process. However, with patience and a commitment to consistency, setbacks can be overcome.

By staying calm, addressing the cause of the setback, and seeking out professional help if needed, you can help your puppy become a well-trained and happy member of your family.

Overall, housetraining your puppy may take time and effort. But, the end result is a well-behaved and happy pet that will bring joy to your home for years to come.

By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this article, you can set your puppy up for success and enjoy a harmonious relationship with your furry friend.

Author Image

Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler

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