Tips for Housetraining Puppies

Even though we strongly advise against giving puppies as gifts, the Christmas puppies have arrived and we’ve been getting a lot of calls about housetraining. 

First off, you need to understand your puppy.  Puppies don’t urinate or deficate to annoy you.  Housetraining is a learning process.  Young puppies don’t yet have the bladder and bowel control to “hold it” for long periods of time.

Trainers often use the month of age rule to determine how long a puppy should be expected to go between trips outside.  At one month old, it is reasonable to expect a puppy to go about an hour before urinating again.  At two months old, the puppy can go two hours, and so on.  Take your young puppy outside at least every two hours.  In addition to going outside for play time, don’t forget to take your puppy outside when he wakes up, after meals, and before bed.  If you have a long workday and need to leave your puppy at home, consider a dog walker or puppy day care.

Here are some tips for housetraining your new puppy:

  1. Establish a consistent feeding schedule and based on that, establish your housetraining schedule for trips outside.
  2. Walk your puppy on a leash to the area you’ve designated as the bathroom.
  3. Just as your puppy starts to relieve himself, say whatever words you will use from now on to signal to the puppy that this is a good place to go.  You can say “Go potty” or whatever term you choose, but keep it consistent.  As soon as your puppy is finished, praise him by saying something like, “Good boy go potty!”  In the beginning you’ll be giving the command exactly when your puppy is relieving himself.  He’ll soon make the connection between the command and what you want him to do.
  4. Moving is important.  Moving around, either by walking or play time, will stimulate your puppy’s bladder and bowels.  Give your puppy enough time and exercise when you are on a housetraining walk.
  5. Pick up the water dish at night (about 9pm depending on the time your puppy goes to sleep for the night).  As soon as you get up in the morning, take your puppy outside.  When you come in, refill the water dish.
  6. Accidents happen.  If your puppy has an accident, do not punish him.  If you catch him in the act and he’s a small puppy, you can pick him up and take him outside.  If he is a larger dog and knows “come” you can call him to come to you so you can take him outside.  Either way, get him and walk him on a leash to the bathroom area.  Clean up the accident with an enzyme cleaner that removes the odor.

Readers, do you have any other housetraining tips that have worked for you?  Share with everyone in the comments!

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About Canine Good Citizen

AKC Canine Good Citizen Director, Author of the AKC's official CGC book, "CITIZEN CANINE"
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3 Responses to Tips for Housetraining Puppies

  1. Peter Gobel says:

    After an in-house accident, after the major clean-up, before the enzyme cleaner, I have my students wipe the entire area with a clean dry paper towel and put it into a baggie and keep it by the leash. Next walk, when you get to the potty spot lay out the paper towel, it will still have the stimulating aroma, and this helps the pup locate the potty area.

  2. My personal favorite reward for a young pup going potty in the appropriate area is a short period of house freedom from ex-pen or confinement area.

  3. Wade says:

    I think the hour/month reference is only acurate when the pup is confined to a crate. An awake, playing pup needs taken outside much more frequently. Many articles will say take a pup out every hour, but personally I have never met an awake pup in the 8-12 week old range that waits that long between urges to potty. I take new pups (I train a new pup every year for an assitance dog organization) out every 10-15 minutes, and they almost always go. Much better to to go out frequently and give praise, than to establish poor habits.
    If a puppy has more accidents than one can count on one hand before being reliably housetrained, then the owner isn’t paying enough attention.

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