When you introduce a puppy into your life, she will bring all her energy, love, and loyalty with her. However, with that adorably furry ball of cuteness comes great responsibility --- especially when it comes to house training a puppy.
Your new life with your puppy is an exciting time for you both, but it’s also a time full of changes and challenges. New people and a new home can be thrilling and overwhelming for your puppy, and that’s often when accidents happen!
Your puppy will do everything she can to learn what you want of her, but like any baby animal, she needs time to understand and react to the new rules in her life. The best chances of house training success occur when the pet parent is consistent, gentle, and patient throughout the entire process. Always remember that your puppy is young and trying her hardest to please you and that accidents are a reality.
All puppies learn at their own pace, so keep that in mind and remain patient as you house train your puppy. This process can be frustrating at times, but if you stay calm, you and your puppy will succeed sooner than you think.
Our guide and tips can help you approach house training a puppy the right way.
Why is house training a puppy important?
As soon as your puppy was born, she was taught by her mother not to go to the bathroom where she sleeps. The mother licks her puppies to stimulate urination, then cleans up after them so there is never the smell of elimination in the “den.” Puppies learn to follow their mother’s example and go to the bathroom outside of their sleeping area.
This instinct is the same one you want to connect with when you house train a puppy. This process is important because it strengthens the trust and bond between you and your young dog. Toilet training a puppy also provides these benefits to a pet parent:
- You can relax and enjoy your time indoors without continually worrying about accidents occurring.
- You can take your puppy to other pet stores or other people’s homes and not have embarrassing messes to clean up.
- You can travel in your car with your dog knowing she won’t have an accident on the seats or in her crate.
Perhaps most importantly, if you house train your puppy or adult dog, but she suddenly has an accident indoors, that may indicate she is suffering from a health problem. Eliminating indoors is often a symptom of health conditions like kidney or liver disease, digestive disorders, or urinary tract infections.
When should you begin to house train a puppy?
Start the house training process the very first day you bring your puppy home by creating a training schedule. Because they are so young and small, puppies’ bladders are weak and not capable of retaining lots of urine for long periods. As such, puppies under six months of age need to eliminate frequently during the day, usually every 1 to 2 hours.
A good rule of thumb is that puppies can hold their bladders for the number of hours correlating to their age in months; thus, if your puppy is 6 months old, she should be able to control her bladder for close to 6 hours. Remember, all puppies learn on their time frame, so this rule should be considered a flexible one.
Here is a sample house training schedule to use and revise to fit your lifestyle. Take your puppy out to potty at these times every day:
- First thing in the morning
- After eating
- After drinking
- Upon waking up from a nap
- After spending time in a crate
- After playing indoors
- Before bed at night
Establish a routine, then stick with it
The fastest way to house train a puppy is through a consistent routine that includes feeding, walking, and regular elimination locations for your puppy. Once you have these phases in order, you must follow through with them daily.
Start by establishing a regular feeding schedule for your young pup. Like people, dogs are habitual animals; there is comfort and security in knowing when they will be fed. About 10 - 15 minutes after your puppy finishes eating, she will need to relieve herself, so you can start a habit of taking your puppy outside as soon as she eats her food.
This post-meal “potty stop” will teach your dog to associate going to the bathroom outside after her breakfast and dinner. Make sure you keep an eye on how much water your puppy drinks; if she ingests lots of water on certain days, make an extra effort to get her outside more often.
Morning and walking routines
Take your puppy outside the first thing every morning to let her potty, and do the same every 30 - 60 minutes afterwards depending on your puppy’s age. Although your puppy may be able to hold her bladder for up to three hours at three months of age, never push your puppy to the maximum time limit. Not only will your dog be intensely uncomfortable, but you’re asking for an indoor accident at that point.
When you walk your puppy outdoors, take her to the same spot she eliminated in the previous potty break. She will recognize her own scent, which will encourage her to go in that same spot again. Stay outside at all times with your puppy when she goes to the bathroom. Use a specific keyphrase, such as “Do your duty” or “Go potty,” to help add further encouragement to the act. As soon as your puppy eliminates, praise her and reward her with a short walk or a small treat.
Signs your puppy needs to go outside
Part of house training a puppy involves careful observation of the young dog and an awareness of her attempts to communicate her needs to you. Many puppies provide “toilet signals” to indicate they need to eliminate and are waiting for you to take them outside. Here are some signs that your pup may need to hit the lawn:
- Licking her groin or rear end
- Frequent yawning
- Pawing or scratching at the door
- Sudden changes in play, activity, or behavior
- Returning to and sniffing areas of previous indoor accidents
- Standing or sitting by the door
Keeping an eye on your puppy and paying attention to what she “tells” you are vital components to house training a puppy successfully. If you are too busy or distracted to “listen” to your dog, don’t be surprised if she has an accident in the house.
What products do you need to toilet train your puppy?
There is a vast array of canine house training products that apply to many different living environments, situations, and even dog breeds. In general, these are the items that every puppy owner should have available for house training their dog:
- Puppy training crate
- Pee pads
- Enzymatic waste and urine cleaner
- Poop bags
- Paper towels and cloths
Cleaning up an accident is less frustrating when you have the materials on hand to tackle the mess quickly and efficiently.
How do you house train a puppy at night or when you are out?
What should you do about house training a puppy at night, or when you need to leave the house for a while? These two scenarios share some similar solutions to this problem. Whether you are going to bed for the night or leaving for a day-long work shift, you need to continue your puppy’s house training. Don’t leave your puppy to wander around the house at night or while you are gone. She will likely have an accident because you aren’t there to let her outside.
The best way to handle this situation is to crate your puppy at night or while you are at work. Place some pee pads on the base of the crate along with a blanket, puppy bed, and some toys. Give your puppy time inside the crate, so she comes to see this space as her “den.” Instinct will kick in, and the puppy will learn to hold her bladder to prevent elimination in her sleeping area. Accidents will likely still happen --- that’s what pee pads are for --- but they will be contained in one space that is easier to clean than a carpet or couch.
Crating a puppy is ideal for nighttime, but be sure to place the crate somewhere near you so you can hear your puppy if she cries to go outside. Although a crate is helpful for overnight training, it should not be a substitute for taking your puppy outside to eliminate. If you are raising a puppy, expect to have a rough sleep schedule for the first 3 - 4 months until your puppy’s bladder is strong enough to keep her comfortable overnight.
What should you do if your puppy has an accident?
It’s a fact: accidents happen, especially with little puppies. What should you do if your puppy pees indoors? Your reaction to accidents is critically important to your puppy’s relationship with you. Positive reinforcement is a must to successfully house train a puppy. Here is what you should and shouldn’t do if your puppy has an accident:
If your puppy has an accident, do not:
- Scream, shout, or yell: emotional outbursts will only teach your dog to fear you.
- Rub or force the puppy’s nose into her pee or poop: your dog will learn that going to the bathroom is wrong and will be punished, leading her to eliminate in hidden areas, such as behind the couch, to avoid your anger.
- Hit or physically discipline your puppy after the accident: Puppies have short-term memories, and if you use negative reinforcement techniques, she won’t make the connection between the accident and your hurtful behavior.
If your puppy has an accident, do:
- Accept the mess: there’s no unringing the bell, so learn from the incident and keep a closer eye on your puppy next time.
- Clean up the mess right away: If you let the urine or feces sit on the floor too long, it can cause permanent stains and damage, and your puppy is likely to use that spot again. Clean up the mess with an enzymatic cleaner that breaks down and removes waste from surfaces.
- Use positive reinforcement techniques: If you catch your puppy peeing or pooping indoors, say, “Oops!” or “Uh-oh!” and quickly take her outside to finish eliminating in her outside spot.
Keep calm and house train on
House training a puppy is a long and at times, frustrating process, but the lifetime of love and affection your puppy will bring to your home is well worth a few months of hard work. Remember to remain calm and patient with your puppy. She is a baby, and her body isn’t mature enough yet to let her hold her bladder or bowels for long.
Create a schedule and consistent routine, stay positive and keep an eye on your puppy. Your pup will be house trained before you know it and well on her way to becoming a happy, healthy adult dog.
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