House training is one of the first things you and your puppy will do together, and it is one of the most important lessons of your puppy’s life! When house training a puppy, the three most important things are having patience, being consistent, and implementing a lot of positive reinforcement.
At the core of it, house training is simple: when your puppy eliminates in the designated area, they get a reward such as praise or a treat. A daily routine and stable training techniques will help your pup learn how to do their business outside like a pro!
Crate Confinement and House Training
The best method for house training a puppy is keeping your pup in a confined space, such as a crate. Then, the more your pup learns to eliminate outside, the more freedom they can have in the home.
A dog crate is a useful tool when you begin house training your puppy. The crate should be big enough that your puppy can move stand, lie down, turn around, etc. but small enough so that they can’t use one corner as a bathroom and another corner as their bed.
Short Term Confinement:
- Short term confinement of your puppy to a crate will allow you to watch for any signs that your pup might have to go and maintain control of the house training routine.
- The crate or short term confinement area should only be used to contain your puppy when you are unable to keep full attention on your pup and only for an hour or less at a time. When you let your puppy out of their crate, take them right outside.
- Puppies have to go right when they wake up, it’s a good idea to start waking your puppy up and taking them outside right away – otherwise, you’re likely to miss it, and an accident will happen.
- When using the crate to house train your puppy, it is a good idea to confine your pup to the crate with a chew toy and bring them outside every hour. Run with your pup to the designated elimination spot, as puppies often lose control en route.
Long Term Confinement:
- If you must leave your pup alone for more than an hour, a long term confinement area will be necessary.
- Long term confinement should be a larger space big enough to place a comfortable bed, fresh bowl of water, plenty of hollow chew toys (stuffed with dog food), and a doggy “potty” (such as pee pads) placed the farthest corner from their bed.
- Your puppy will feel the need to play, chew, and eliminate throughout the day, so your pup must be left somewhere they can satisfy their needs without causing any damage.
Taking Your Puppy Outside
- Take your puppy outside as often as possible. You will be spending a lot of time doing this in the first few months!
- When you take your puppy outside to do their business, you should take them to the same spot each time. Doing so will add to the consistency of the training and the scent from previous times will prompt your pup to go again.
- When you are at the spot, be sure to instruct your puppy with a command such as “Go pee!”. Your pup will learn to associate the act with your words, and you will be able to prompt them more quickly in the future.
- Stay with your puppy outside to make sure they do their business, even if it takes a little while – your puppy might need some time before they are ready to go.
- Once they have done their business, make sure to reward your pup! A treat, some praise, a walk, or some playtime will positively reinforce the behavior.
Knowing the Signs
If your puppy shows any of the following signs:
- Scratching at the crate/house door
- Circling and sniffing (especially both at the same time!)
Be sure to take them out right away so you can teach your pup to communicate with you rather than doing their business inside.
- Setbacks are a part of house training your puppy. When they occur, make sure to keep up your routine and focus on training rather than feeling discouraged or irritated.
- Stepping in a puddle can be very frustrating, but it’s important that you don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident inside as this will teach them to fear you. Additionally, if you find an accident but didn’t see it happen, do not react angrily to this either. Your puppy will not associate your reaction with having done their business inside.
- However, if you do see your puppy going inside, you can make a loud noise, like clapping, to get their attention and indicate they are doing something wrong. Then take your pup outside to finish their business and reward your pup, as usual.
- Clean indoor accidents with an enzymatic cleaner – this will minimize any leftover odors and will help prevent your puppy from being attracted back to that spot.
- Maintain a regular feeding schedule and remove unfinished food between meals
- The best time to start house training your puppy is between three to four months old. At this point, your puppy will have gained control of their bladder and bowels enough to learn to wait until outside to go to the bathroom.
- You should be sure that your puppy has access to fresh water when confined for an extended period.
- House training can be challenging with a work schedule, but your puppy will need someone to take them outside in the morning and middle of the day for the first few months.
- If you find that you are following all these steps and your puppy continues to have accidents inside, you might want to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical issues.