How To House Train Your Puppy
When it comes to house training a puppy, well…it’s a good thing they’re cute! Teaching your puppy how to live in a human world with designated places to go to the bathroom takes patience and consistency. But if you follow these basic rules and tips, you will learn how to house train your puppy with fewer mistakes and headaches.
When to Start House Training
Experts recommend that you start working with your puppy on house training when they are 12-16 weeks old. It takes about 12 weeks for them to have enough control over their bladders and bowel movements to learn to hold it. If your puppy is older and isn’t house trained yet, no problem, it’s not too late to start.
What to do
SET UP THEIR SPACE
The best way to start house training your puppy is to set up a place where your puppy can be when you can’t watch her. There are a few different ways to do this:
1. Crate – Some people use a crate as their dog’s home base where the dog spends time. Some people choose to have their puppy sleep in the crate.
Some trainers insist that you have to put your puppy into a crate at night to train them. I have raised puppies both ways, and find that it is helpful. However, I had a puppy that was the runt of the litter and very insecure. I chose to have her sleep in my bed for comfort and got up with her every couple of hours for the first few months.
It’s important that your puppy doesn’t feel like the crate is a punishment. You should put treats and toys into the crate so they are happy to go in, and never force them in. Putting a blanket or sweatshirt in that smells like you inside and a blanket over the top when it’s time to sleep can help them relax.
2. Exercise Pen – If you want to give your dog a little more space during the day, you can set up an exercise pen. We like the ones that have doors that you can use to let your dog in and out.
These can be set up anywhere (even outside) and make a small safe space for your puppy to spend time when you can’t watch them. You can also attach the crate above to the pen so they have a place to sleep if they get tired.
**Be aware that this might take a little experimenting. Dogs don’t like to go to the bathroom where they sleep, which is why confining them to a small space is important. So, if you allow your dog to have too much space, they might have enough room to designate a corner as the ‘potty area’.
WHEN TO TAKE YOUR PUPPY OUT
Puppies need to go out a lot at first. You should start by taking them out every 30 minutes when they’re not sleeping. You’ll also need to take them out:
When they wake up in the middle of the night (or set an alarm every 2-4 hours through the night and take them out if you don’t hear them get up)
When they wake up in the morning and from naps (with very young puppies, you’ll want to carry them outside so they don’t have an accident on the way to the door)
After they eat, drink a lot of water, or play
So, you can see that you’ll be walking your puppy a lot! But it’s really important to be consistent in the beginning. You can cut months off the process of house training your puppy if you get this part right.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU TAKE YOUR PUPPY OUT
When you get outside keep your puppy on the leash and wait calmly for them to go. Don’t play with them or distract them. It’s also good to connect a word or phrase to them going so they learn it as a cue over time. I use “Find a spot”, but anything is fine, as long as you always use the same cue. Over time they will learn that when you ask them to ‘find a spot’, it’s time to pee or poop.
Once she pees or poops, reward her with praise, a treat, and some playtime. If you have a fenced-in area, you can take her off the leash to play as a reward. No fenced in yard? A 10–15 minute walk around the neighborhood is a great reward once you have the ok from your vet that they are ready to venture out into the world.
If they don’t go, bring them back to their confined area, and walk them again in 15 minutes.
ADJUSTING TO YOUR PUPPY’S SCHEDULE
Soon your puppy will teach YOU how long they can go between walks. If you’re taking your puppy out every 30 minutes, but she has an accident after 20 minutes, you should change your schedule. Take her out every 20 minutes until her bladder gets bigger and she can hold it longer.
SIGNS YOUR PUPPY NEEDS TO GO OUT
There are a few things you can look for that will help you know when your puppy needs to go out including whining, circling, sniffing, and barking.
If they are not confined you might see them barking or scratching at the door or sitting by the door. My puppy hits the door with her paw.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR PUPPY HAS AN ACCIDENT
One of my favorite puppy trainers always says, “If your puppy goes in the house, roll up a newspaper, and hit yourself in the head with it.” Meaning, if your puppy has an accident in the house, it’s your fault, not theirs. Either you didn’t take them out enough, took your eyes off them, or allowed them too much freedom too soon.
So, don’t scold your puppy for making a mistake. Instead, think about how you can train them better. Also, yelling at a puppy for making a mistake can cause them to develop fear around going potty, or become afraid of you. If you actually catch them in the act, a stern ‘no’ is ok (just not too loud or scary). But if you missed the act, just clean it up and figure out what you can do better.
After they make a mistake, take them out right away, and if they go again give them a lot of praise and treats.
Feed your puppy on a regular schedule. Eating and drinking stimulates them to go. So don’t feed them in between meals, unless you take them out right away.
Decide on an area in your yard to be the potty area, and take your puppy there to go every time. This not only keeps your whole yard from getting messy, but the smell will prompt them to go.
Don’t take out a treat while they are going. Instead, wait until they’re done. They can get distracted and not finish.
Clean up accidents in the house with an enzymatic cleaner instead of ammonia-based cleaner to minimize odors. It also gets rid of the smell that might cue your puppy to go there again.
Remember that your energy is very important when you’re training your puppy. If you’re anxious or rushed when you take them out, they will get stressed out, and be less likely to go.
WHAT IF YOU CAN’T BE HOME?
‘It’s very important to keep your puppy on their schedule when you’re house training. If you can’t be there to walk your puppy, you’ll need to find another way for them to go out.
If you are keeping your puppy in a crate while you’re gone, you’ll need a way for them to get out of the create every hour or two when they are small. It’s not healthy for them to go too long without being about to stretch their legs.
Get a Dog Walker – If you need to be out for more than a couple of hours, you’ll want to hire a dog walker to come to take your puppy out while you’re gone.
Hire a Local Teenager – I know a lot of teenagers who would be happy to walk and play with a puppy. Find some in your neighborhood as a cheaper solution.
Head Home on a Break – If you have any breaks in your schedule, head home to walk your pup.
WHAT IF YOU HAVE NO WAY TO WALK YOUR PUPPY?
If you can’t find anyone to walk your puppy while you’re out, block off the kitchen or other small room with a puppy gate and put training potty pads or a grass potty’ in the area. This will create an indoor dog potty where they can go while you’re out.
No matter what you use, the goal is to give your dog a “legal” place to potty when they can’t hold it anymore.
**Just a thought on this… I trained a puppy years ago with indoor puppy pads and had a really hard time getting him to stop using the puppy pads and only go outside when he was older. I would walk him for an hour, and then he would get inside and run to the puppy pads to pee. So, I really recommend sticking to a walking schedule if at all possible. But if you have to leave your pup, this is a much better option than leaving him in a crate for hours.
WHAT IF YOUR PUPPY ISN’T GETTING IT?
If your puppy is taking a long time to house train, here are a couple of things to think about…
Any change in routine can be confusing to a puppy who is trying to learn something new. If you move, go on vacation, or leave them with a relative or sitter it might take longer for them to fully grasp the housebreaking rules. Be patient and consistent and they will get it.
Your puppy’s not getting it? Keep on training. At some point, it will click for them, and they will get it.
If you have tried and nothing is working, bring your puppy to the vet to rule out any medical issues.
Conclusion – You’ve got this!
Although it can be frustrating, putting in the time to housebreak your puppy is worth it! I know it’s daunting, but just take it a day at a time.
And remember, they’re just babies. It takes them a while to learn how we want them to behave, but once they get it, they will be housebroken for the rest of their lives.
You can do it! You’ve got this!
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