How to House-Train a Puppy
There’s no denying that puppies are adorable, but having to clean up their accidents is not nearly as cute. House-training your puppy may seem like an impossible feat, but if you establish a routine and use the right reinforcement, this process will go pretty smoothly.
Establishing routine mealtimes is a crucial first step in house-training your puppy. This will result in more consistent bathroom times, making your life a lot easier by getting your puppy into a routine. This can also help your pet to develop trust that they will be taken out at regular intervals. If your dog doesn’t finish a meal, take away the food bowl to avoid snacking in between your scheduled mealtimes.
When house-training a puppy, you must be patient and make yourself available to take them out pretty frequently.
“A puppy's muscular development that allows for bladder control is not fully developed until around 16 weeks of age,” wrote animal trainer Kama Rueschenberg in an email to The Active Times. “That means your puppy literally cannot hold their bladder as long as an adult dog. Therefore, frequent potty breaks are a must for successful potty training!”
Each dog may show you that they need to go outside differently, but there are certain signals you should look out for.
“If your puppy barks or whines at you, starts sniffing the ground in little circles, panting, or raising their tail while doing any of these things, it’s time to take them out quickly,” Aimee Gilbreath, the executive director of Michelson Found Animals, told us via email.
Make sure to stay outside with your puppy on a leash when they need to go. “On a leash, lead them around your backyard or the area where you’d like them to eliminate,” wrote Gillbreath. “When they ‘go,’ praise them by saying ‘good potty’ or whatever positive word you want to use consistently. This will help your puppy learn to associate the word or phrase with the act.”
Once they pee or poop, reward them with a small treat, and make sure it is the same treat each time. For this positive reinforcement to work, you must make sure they are completely done going to the bathroom and reward them immediately after.
When you cannot be home to take your puppy out, it is a good idea to use a crate.
“Crate training can help housebreak your puppy,” wrote Gillbreath. “Dogs are naturally hardwired not to eliminate in their ‘den,’ so you can use this to your advantage and housebreak your puppy by crate training.”
The most common misconception among owners is that you should scold your puppy after they have an accident in the house. Negative reinforcement will only teach your puppy to fear you and hide where they go.
“It is commonly thought that if you punish your puppy for an ‘accident,’ they will learn not to go in the house,” wrote Rueschenberg. “That is not the case. Instead, they will learn to make sure you don't see them having an accident. Instead, interrupt the mistake, take them outside, and praise for completing the potty in the correct location.”
If your puppy has an accident inside, quickly clean it up and bring it outside to where you want to train them to go.
“Once urine has soaked through the carpet pad, it is very difficult to clean,” wrote Gillbreath. “I recommend using a pet odor-eliminating cleaner for carpets and fabrics. These products work by breaking down the waste with enzymes and neutralizing the smell so your puppy won’t re-mark the spot.”
If you’ve followed these tips and have been patient with your puppy, but still cannot identify any progress, check in with your veterinarian to rule out any medical issue.
House-training a puppy can feel like a full-time job. If you do not have enough time in your busy schedule to care for your puppy and get your exercise in, try taking your furry friend for a stroll around the neighborhood. Believe it or not, taking walks outside can change your life.