House training your puppy is about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. The goal is to instill good habits and build a loving bond with your pet.
It typically takes 4-6 months for a puppy to be fully house trained, but some puppies may take up to a year. Size can be a predictor. For instance, smaller breeds have smaller bladders and higher metabolisms and require more frequent trips outside. Your puppy's previous living conditions are another predictor. You may find that you need to help your puppy break old habits in order to establish more desirable ones.
And while you're training, don’t worry if there are setbacks. As long as you continue a management program that includes taking your puppy out at the first sign they need to go and offering them rewards, they’ll learn.
When to Begin House Training Puppy
Experts recommend that you begin house training your puppy when they are between 12 weeks and 16 weeks old. At that point, they have enough control of their bladder and bowel movements to learn to hold it.
If your puppy is older than 12 weeks when you bring them home and have been eliminating in a cage (and possibly eating their waste), house training may take longer. You will have to reshape the dog’s behavior -- with encouragement and reward.
Steps for Housetraining Your Puppy
Experts recommend confining the puppy to a defined space, whether that means in a crate, in a room, or on a leash. As your puppy learns that they need to go outside to do their business, you can gradually give them more freedom to roam about the house.
When you start to house train, follow these steps:
- Keep the puppy on a regular feeding schedule and take away their food between meals.
- Take the puppy out to eliminate first thing in the morning and then once every 30 minutes to an hour. Also, always take them outside after meals or when they wake from a nap. Make sure they goe out last thing at night and before they are left alone.
- Take the puppy to the same spot each time to do their business. Their scent will prompt them to go.
- Stay with them outside, at least until they are house trained.
- When your puppy eliminates outside, praise them or give a treat. A walk around the neighborhood is a nice reward.
Using a Crate to House Train Puppy
A crate can be a good idea for house training your puppy, at least in the short term. It will allow you to keep an eye on them for signs they need to go and teach them to hold it until you open the crate and let them outside.
Here are a few guidelines for using a crate:
- Make sure it is large enough for the puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down, but not big enough for them to use a corner as a bathroom.
- If you are using the crate for more than two hours at a time, make sure the puppy has fresh water, preferably in a dispenser you can attach to the crate.
- If you can’t be home during the house training period, make sure somebody else gives them a break in the middle of the day for the first 8 months.
- Don’t use a crate if your puppy is eliminating in it. Eliminating in the crate could have several meanings: they may have brought bad habits from the shelter or pet store where they lived before; they may not be getting outside enough; the crate may be too big; or they may be too young to hold it in.
Signs That Your Puppy Needs to Eliminate
Whining, circling, sniffing, barking, or, if your puppy is unconfined, barking or scratching at the door, are all signs they need to go. Take them out right away. Consider bell training as a way for your pup to communicate their need to go out (so cues aren't overlooked).
House Training Setbacks
Accidents are common in puppies up to a year old. The reasons for accidents range from incomplete house training to a change in the puppy’s environment.
When your puppy does have an accident, keep on training. Then if it still doesn’t seem to be working, consult a veterinarian to rule out a medical issue.
Do's and Don’ts in Potty Training Your Puppy
Keep the following do's and don'ts in mind while housetraining your puppy:
- Punishing your puppy for having an accident is a definite no-no. It teaches your puppy to fear you.
- If you catch your puppy in the act, clap loudly so they know they have done something unacceptable. Then take them outside by calling them or taking them gently by the collar. When they are finished, praise them or give them a small treat.
- If you found the evidence but didn’t see the act, don’t react angrily by yelling or rubbing their nose in it. Puppies aren’t intellectually capable of connecting your anger with their accident.
- Staying outside longer with your puppy may help to curb accidents. They may need the extra time to explore.
- Clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleanser rather than an ammonia-based cleaner to minimize odors that might attract the puppy back to the same spot.