Housetraining Your Puppy

The best way to housetrain your puppy is to use a crate. Since most dogs avoid soiling where they sleep, a crate encourages control. Before four months of age, a puppy doesn't have much bladder capacity or sphincter control. He'll need to relieve himself frequently. Many people mistakenly think that when a puppy can make it through the night without going to the bathroom, he can hold it for 8 hours during the day. The truth is that bodily functions slow down at night, enabling dogs (and people) to sleep through the night. Not true during the day.

The many times a puppy will need to relief himself are predictable - upon waking, after eating, during or after play or excitement, during or after chewing, and just because it's been a while. If you puppy sniffs around and circles with his head down, it's likely he's about to squat - not always, but sometimes. Watch for these signs so you can quickly carry your puppy outside.

Follow these simple rules, and housetraining will be painless and relatively quick:
  • Praise your puppy every time he eliminates outside. Continue praising quietly the entire time he's squatting. Verbal praise is fine.
  • When you cannot supervise him, crate him. When you let him out of the crate, immediately take him outside. Once he's gone out, he can play in the house under supervision.
  • When you take him out, ask "Do you want to go out?" in a happy voice, pick him up and carry him where you want him to go. As he gets older, you can stop carrying him. Carrying is for young puppies, that will go en route, even in the house.
  • Teach your puppy where the bathroom spot is. Take him directly there, and wait until he goes. Go to the same place each time you take him out. Play with him in another location, not his bathroom spot.
  • Feed a high quality diet on a regular schedule. Do not vary the schedule, even on weekends, and do not vary his diet during housetraining.
  • Withhold water 3 hours before bed, and take him out last thing before bed.
  • Avoid using newspapers. Paper training teaches a dog to eliminate in the house.
  • Have a stool check done for worms and monitor his stools. A puppy's stools are an indicator of health, proper diet, and proper feeding. If stools are loose, and he's free of worms, you may be overfeeding.
  • Keep a journal of all eliminations, including accidents, noting time of day. You may notice a pattern, such as a frequent  accident around the same time. Taking her out just before that will help her learn (and you won't have to clean it up).
What about accidents? Never use punishment. Here's what to do:
  • Clean up with a non-ammonia cleaner. Ammonia draws the dog to the spot.
  • If you catch your puppy in the act of relieving himself, say "Ah Ah!" to interrupt him, pick him up and carry him to his spot. Wait until he relieves himself there, praise and take him back inside.
  • If you didn't catch him in the act, simply clean it up. Don't mutter under your breath; don't point to it; don't drag him over to it; don't tell him how angry you are; don't even sigh and act upset. Such punishment will only confuse him, and will prolong housetraining. Most importantly, it will cause your puppy to distrust you.
If housetraining your puppy doesn't seem to be progressing as you think it should, seek the help of a positive trainer or behaviorist. Click here for information on our telephone, email and in-person behavioral consultations.