Housetraining Your Puppy

Bringing a new puppy home is an exciting experience and one of the first things any puppy parent should be prepared to deal with is housetraining. Puppies, like human babies, have less bladder control than adults and therefore cannot always wait until someone finds the time to take them out. For owners, this means creating a routine and diligently managing your puppy’s access to a sufficient potty surface. If you have to leave your puppy home for longer periods than his bladder can comfortably hold, then make sure he is in a safe, enclosed area that is large enough to accommodate separated areas for eliminating, eating/drinking, sleeping and playing. This could mean setting up an exercise pen, or some other safely confined space on a floor that is easily cleaned, then providing the pup with housetraining pads on the floor, a bed, water, and some safe toys.

Ideally, most puppy parents want their adult dogs to eliminate outside, in the yard or during walks. In this case, it is best to start teaching your pup from the very beginning that outside is the best place to go. So, while housetraining pads can be helpful, finding the time to take your puppy outside to potty instead will ensure faster progress and more solidified success in the future. Deciphering between peeing outside versus inside is much easier for puppies than distinguishing between peeing on a small pad or the floor a few inches away. As a general rule, puppies should go outside at least every three hours. Adult dogs, if not housetrained, should go out every five to seven hours.

Here are some of the most important factors for successful housetraining.

Establish a routine: Dogs thrive in routine environments, as they provide a sense of security and predictability.

Make sure your puppy has a routine place to sleep and a regularly timed schedule for eating and going outside to potty. By having a feeding schedule, his elimination should be more regular and easily predicted thereby allowing you to take him outside before he has an accident.

Make the potty place the same area every time you go out and keep it close to the door so that puppy doesn’t have to travel far. Going potty should be the first thing that the puppy does when he goes outside, before walking or playing in the yard. Keep him on a leash to limit his options and save the fun till after he has done his job!

Use a cue phrase or word to let the puppy know it’s the time and place to eliminate, such as “Go potty”.

After the puppy has gone in the potty spot praise him immensely! Throw a toy, feed him treats, rub his belly, start a walk or play session, etc. Teach him that eliminating in *this* spot means fun times ahead!

Supervise: always make sure that you are supervising your puppy when he is free in the house.

Limit the area that he has to roam by closing doors, using baby gates, or other safe barricades that will keep the puppy within your sight and under your supervision. This will allow you to monitor when the puppy looks like he needs to eliminate, such as sniffing the ground and/or circling, and then take him outside.

If you catch the puppy in the act of eliminating inside, then interrupt the behaviour by clapping or saying “uh oh” (but make sure not to scare him), then take him outside and praise him for going in the potty spot.

If you discover that the puppy has had an accident in the house when you weren’t looking, do not scold him! Your dog will not understand the correlation between the pee on the floor and the reprimand being given. He will only learn to be afraid of you or that peeing in a place where you are is dangerous, thus he may take to eliminating in a closet or corner instead. Clean the mess thoroughly and take the soiled rags or paper towels and place them in the outdoor potty spot. This will help the pup understand and recognize the area as a place to eliminate.
When cleaning up a soiled area in the house, make sure to use a designated enzymatic pet elimination clean up product. Dogs are easily motivated to continue eliminating in places that smell like they have been soiled before. Enzymatic pet elimination cleaners don’t only cover up the smell, but they also get rid of the enzymes within urine and feces that are recognizable and attractive to the pup as a place to eliminate again.

Manage: When you are not home to supervise your puppy, he should be kept in a safe, confined space. Set him up to be successful!

Crate training is a great tool in housetraining your puppy that can be useful throughout the rest of his or her life. The crate provides a safe place where the puppy can sleep during the night, be secured during a car ride, and feel comfortable being left alone for brief periods of time. Puppies normally won’t eliminate in their sleeping spot, so confining them to their crates helps them to hold their elimination for when they can do it in an appropriate spot. 

An exercise pen can also be used to keep the puppy safe when you are busy doing other things or leaving the house for longer than he can hold his bladder in the crate. Make sure to provide him with pads to eliminate on that are on the opposite side of the pen from his bed and water.

One of the most important points to remember when training your puppy any new skill is to make the experience fun. Behavior that is rewarded will be repeated! Therefore, set your puppy up for success; monitor your puppy whenever he’s outside of his crate and make sure that your puppy feels ecstatic each and every time he eliminates outside! Stay calm when you discover inside accidents and clean the mess thoroughly. Treat your puppy, pet him, play with him and love him for every new success, and surely your relationship and his housetraining skills will flourish!

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