House Training Your Dog or Puppy

House training your dog or puppy requires far more than a few stacks of old newspapers—it calls for vigilance, patience, plenty of commitment and How-To-Potty-Train-a-Puppyabove all, consistency. The key to training your dog to eliminate outside (where you want him to) is to prevent accidents, and to reward success.

Adult dogs have better bladder and bowel control, and can “hold it” for a longer period of time than puppies. The rule of thumb with puppies is to take their age in months, add one, and that’s the number of hours the puppy can “hold it” during the day (i.e. A four-month-old puppy can be expected to be clean for up to five hours during the day).

Here are some simple steps to help you and your dog find success!

  • Feed your dog on a schedule (he’ll eliminate on a schedule, too).
  • Keep his diet simple and consistent (avoid table scraps and canned foods; a high quality dry kibble produces the least waste).
  • Choose an area, about ten square feet, outside, where you wish your dog to potty.
  • Take your dog on leash to the area, pace back and forth (movement promotes movement) and chant an encouraging phrase (“do your business, do your business“).
  • Do this for no more than three minutes:
    • if he eliminates, give huge amounts of praise and play.
    • if he doesn’t eliminate, keep him on leash, go back indoors, keep dog on leash with you or confined in a crate.
  • Try again in an hour; eventually your dog will eliminate appropriately and you can give huge amounts of praise and play.
  • REMEMBER! Do not punish accidents! Ignore them, and reward success!

3 Strategies for House Training Your Dog or Puppy

In an ideal world, puppies come from a highly reputable source, where someone lovingly keeps the litter area clean at all times. The new caretaker has a fenced-in yard to which no other dogs have access and a stay-at-home schedule that allows frequent potty trips to that yard. Under these circumstances, most dogs are house-trained in only a few weeks. However, most of us live in the real world.

Real People, Real Pets
In the real world, puppies may have spent enough time in a second-rate facility, puppy mill, or pet shop to become accustomed to lying in their waste, which makes crate training difficult. We may hold jobs that preclude a schedule compatible with a puppy’s developmental needs, or live in housing without fenced-in yards, thus forcing us to paper-train until our pups are fully immunized. The further a lifestyle varies from the ideal, the greater the challenge house-training is.

Real world house-training requires a strategy based on three components:

  1. Consistency: a consistent walking schedule catered to the dog’s developmental stage and individual preferences.
  2. Confinement: a method that helps build bladder and bowel control
  3. Cleaning: a good enzymatic odor neutralizer to clean up accidents

house training your dog or puppy

Pencil Him In
What is a suitable schedule? Puppies can control themselves roughly one hour for each month of age, up to nine or ten hours. At three and a half to four months, they can usually stay clean for six to seven hours overnight, but eliminate more frequently during the day. Check out our Mid-Day Services!

Three walks a day is fine for most dogs eight months or older.

A puppy usually needs to eliminate after waking, eating, and exercising. Charting his output will help you predict his needs more accurately. Does he soil five or fifteen minutes after dinner, two or ten minutes after waking?

Hold It!
For the first few weeks in a new home, a new puppy may seem like a pee-and-poop machine, but as he matures and develops muscle tone, he will learn to control himself for longer periods between potty trips. Confinement, preferably in a training crate, builds control by associating the pup’s distaste for soiling in his special area with soiling inside the house in general. It is patently unfair to crate a pup for longer than he is physically able to control himself. In these cases, confine him to a small space such as a bathroom or kitchen with papers at one end and a bed and toys at the other. It slows the housebreaking process and confuses the dog a bit, but it is the best option, short of hiring a pet sitter, if no one can be home with the puppy during an average work day.

Whether using papers or a yard, the pup should wear a leash and collar and remain under your control. If you don’t acclimate the pup to your presence while he’s relieving himself, you may create a dog who won’t soil in front of you but waits until he’s back in the house and can disappear behind the sofa or under the dining room table. Do not allow puppies access to carpeting, especially wall-to-wall, when it nears time to eliminate, for they often return to and re-anoint accidents here. Should an accident occur, get out the odor neutralizer immediately and clean, clean, clean.