7 Rules for Successfully House Training Your Puppy

Behavior & training
puppy sitting next to a wet spot on tile floor

House training your puppy takes time, supervision and consistency on your part. A lack of supervision allows your puppy to have mistakes in the house and prolongs the house training process. We have all heard stories of dogs that were “born house trained” or of dogs that learned to go outside in 2 days. The owners of these dogs were lucky; this is not the norm. House training takes time and the entire family must be consistent to help the puppy learn. House training can take several weeks or even months to produce a reliable puppy. The key is to prevent accidents from occurring!

Young puppies may need to eliminate every 1-2 hours during the day when they are awake and active. A good rule of thumb for determining how long a medium or large puppy can hold his bladder while you are at work or asleep is to calculate the number of months in age and add one. For example, a 2-month old puppy, when resting, can typically hold his bladder for 2 to 3 hours. Smaller breed puppies need to eliminate more frequently. This means that you will need to make arrangements for the puppy to have a potty break during the day while you are at work. You may also need to get up in the middle of the night to take your puppy outside for a few weeks. It is unfair to expect your puppy to hold it for 8-9 hours, when he is physically unable to do so.

House training Rules:

  • Crate Train your New Puppy.

    Would you allow a toddler to run around your house without a diaper? We use playpens and cribs to insure that toddlers don’t get into mischief and the same idea can be applied to your puppy. When you are unable to supervise your puppy’s every action, the puppy can be comfortable and safe in his crate.

    Don’t think of the crate as a cage; think of the crate as your puppy’s bedroom. The crate can be a “safe haven” when your puppy wants to get away from small children or too much activity. The crate is a management tool. It does not train your puppy, but it prevents your puppy from getting himself into trouble. When your puppy is not in his crate, he must be closely supervised by an adult to be sure good habits are being formed. If an adult is not available, the puppy is better off in his crate.

  • Establish a Puppy Potty Schedule.

    Like babies, puppies do best on a regular schedule. Take your puppy outside frequently, one time per hour in the beginning, and immediately after he wakes up from a nap, after playing and after eating or drinking. Feed your puppy a set amount on a regular schedule rather than keeping a bowl of food available at all times. This will help you determine when he will need to go outside to eliminate.

  • Reward Good Behavior.

    When it is time for your puppy to go outside say, “outside” and take your puppy to his elimination area. Once you are outside, tell him to “go potty”. Once he eliminates praise him and offer him a tidbit of food.

    Puppies can easily become distracted when they are outside. It is important that your puppy learns that when you say “go potty” that it is time to eliminate and that this is not playtime. If your puppy does not eliminate after 2 to 3 minutes, bring him inside, crate him for 15 minutes and then take him back out. After he has relieved himself, you can say “go play” and he can have some freedom to explore outdoors or you can play a game of fetch. Even if you have a fenced-in yard, you should go outside with your puppy and ensure that he has eliminated. If you don’t, your puppy is going to come back inside and relieve himself on your carpet.

  • Supervise, Supervise, Supervise.

    Don’t give your puppy an opportunity to soil in the house. He should be supervised at all times when he is indoors. After he comes in from eliminating outdoors, allow him to have supervised freedom in the house. After the supervised freedom time you should either put him in his crate or tether him to you. If your puppy begins to sniff, pace or whine before his next scheduled bathroom break, give him the cue “outside” and take him to his elimination area.

  • Expect Accidents.

    You should expect your puppy to have an accident in the house – it’s a normal part of house training a puppy. If you catch him in the act of eliminating in the house, say “outside” and either pick him up or grab his leash and lead him outside immediately to the designated elimination area. (Cleanup comes afterwards.) Yelling, hitting or scaring your puppy will only teach him not to eliminate in front of you. This doesn’t mean that he won’t eliminate indoors, but that he will learn to hide his mistakes behind the couch, in shoes, spare rooms etc. If you find a mess after the fact, it is too late to punish the puppy. He will not associate the punishment with his behavior if it occurred more than a second ago.

  • Clean the Soiled Areas.

    Clean soiled areas with an enzymatic-based cleaner from your local pet supply store. Examples are Equalizer, Get Serious or Natures Miracle. It is important that you clean the soiled area well, because puppies are drawn back to previously soiled areas.

  • Allow Freedom.

    As your puppy matures and begins to have fewer accidents you can begin to allow more freedom. Extend his scheduled bathroom breaks from every hour to every hour and 30 minutes and allow him longer unsupervised play in the house. If your puppy regresses, go back to the point that you were last successful.

Training Tip!

If you’ve consistently followed the house training procedures and your puppy continues to eliminate in the house, there may be another reason for his behavior. Consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical condition that may be contributing to the problem.