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House Training your Puppy or Adult Dog     by Jackie Nelson

House Training Puppy


Another Article that may be of interest to you. House Training Adult Dog - A step by step guide

Whether you have a new puppy, rescued adult, or problems with marking, the basics of house training can solve all of these problems. Housetraining is the process of creating desired habits for urinating and defecating. These desired habits typically include the timing of the event and the location. Creating a new habit means preventing the old habit from occurring while making the new habit more rewarding. Before we get down to the basics, the concept of what is rewarding in regards to urination and defecation must be visited.

When an animal urinates or defecates it is inherently rewarding - it feels good to relieve the urge to go. This is called a self-rewarding behavior. The animal gets rewarded every time they go regardless of your presence or desire. The more times an animal is rewarded for a behavior, the more likely they are to repeat it. So if a dog has been marking in the house for 3 years, it is harder to challenge that reward history than with a dog that has marked once. A dog that lived in a cage for years has a harder reward history to challenge than a new puppy raised in clean conditions. With the more challenging reward histories, the basic plans may need tweaking to the individual dog and circumstance. Remember to visit the Dog Chat discussion board for more help.


In order to prevent the dog from repeating the self-rewarding potty behavior we do not want, confinement is the key. What confinement entails depends upon the dog and your circumstances. A crate that is just large enough for the dog to comfortable lay down, stand up, and turn around is one of the most common methods. Confinement can be a small room, an exercise pine, or a room with a surface the dog will not potty on (like a kitchen with a hard floor). Chose what is best for you and your dog. So long as the dog will not urinate or defecate in the area, the choice of confinement is appropriate. Many dogs are specific to a surface. They may urinate on bedding even in a small crate. For these dogs removing the bedding or using non-absorbent bedding may be necessary.

Confinement also continues when the dog has free time. Your dog must be 100% ACTIVELY supervised when out. This means you are looking at your dog, not reading a magazine or watching television. Many people find it helpful to leash their dog to them with a 6 foot leash. This prevents the dog from wandering off and keeps the dog within eyesight. Once your dog has a solid history of the potty habits you desire, freedom can slowly be added. In the meantime, confinement and supervision are essential to preventing the dog from repeating the self-rewarding potty behaviors you do not desire.



Dogs thrive on consistency. When they know what to expect and when to expect it they feel secure. Dogs that have learned to urinate and defecate on a schedule learn to hold their bladder and bowels in between potty breaks. To create consistency in housetraining a strict schedule is very important. Write out your schedule and post it in a convenient place like the refrigerator door. Making a schedule you can check off as you go along can be helpful. Using a timer to keep yourself on schedule is also a great method. A schedule should look something like this (depending on your dog and your schedule)

6:00 am Wake up, potty break

6:10 am Eat breakfast in crate

6:20 am Potty break, play until owner leaves for work

7:00 am In crate while owner goes to work

12:00 pm Potty and play break

12:30 pm Back in crate

5:00 pm Potty and play break, hang out with owner

6:30 pm Eat followed by potty break

Until bedtime play/crate depending on what owner needs to do around the house, potty before bed

Playing puppies may need to go out up to every 15 minutes. Keep this in mind. Never hesitate to add a potty break if your dog appears to need to go out.

To avoid dogs that go outside and play when they should have a potty break, take your dog out to the same place each time. Do not play with your dog. Set a timer for 2 minutes. If you know your dog needs to go and has not, back in the crate for 15 minutes and try again. Repeat until success. This creates a dog that goes quickly at potty time.

The more consistent you are, the better your dog will know what to expect and fall in with going potty at appropriate times in appropriate places.


So just how do we make our version of potty training more rewarding than what the dog was doing on their own? By adding a valued reward. Value depends on the individual dog. Most dogs value a tasty bite of food. Many dogs value play with a toy (fetch, tug). Other dogs love to be picked up and pet. Use a reward that your dog likes, not one you think they should like. Whatever you select, be sure this reward (type of food, specific toy) is only used for going potty in the right place. Reward your dog immediately after they go and quietly praise the dog while they go. Use your potty cue “Hurry, go potty” as the dog starts to go and “Good boy, hurry, go potty” while the dog goes. Be quiet and perky. Don’t be so excited verbally that you distract the dog from going. Immediately give your reward when the dog finishes going. With a solid reward history for the right behavior, your dog will want to potty in the right spot with you.


Tips and Tricks

Take your dog out on leash so they cannot wander off and be distracted.

If you are using newspapers or wee-wee pads take your dog in a leash or cover a small penned area with papers so the dog cannot wander off.

Use the same principles to train a dog to newspapers or wee-wee pads. Just go to the place you have the papers instead of outside

Do not leave the dog with unlimited access to the potty area (papers in their pen, dog door access). Teaching the dog to hold their bladder and bowels requires then to not be able to go any time they wish.

Have reasonable expectations. A puppy can hold their bladder for their age in months plus one until they reach 8 hours. So a 2 month old puppy should not be left crated for more than 3 hours.

You may need to set an alarm at night to take a new puppy out. Slowly set the alarm later and later until you have a pup sleeping through the night. Avoiding the pup waking you up will encourage them to sleep until woken.

Before adding any freedom, have AT LEAST 3 weeks of perfect pottying. Add freedom in small increments with 3 weeks of good behavior in one area before increasing the size.

If your dog has an accident you gave too much freedom or did not take them out when needed. Instead of blaming the dog, reflect on your plan and what you could do to prevent this from happening in the future.

If your dog has an accident in front of you stay calm. Calmly say “Oh dear” and put the dog in their confined area while you clean up the mess.

Punishing a dog for urinating or defecating in front of you can make the dog hesitant to go in front of you. This can create problems when you take your dog and want them to go in front of you. It also creates dogs that run off and hide to potty out of your sight in the house. Keep your cool and focus on what you can do to prevent accidents.

Dogs with long histories of poor potty habits will take longer to change. Stick with it and prevent accidents. Change will come.

All members of the household and regular caretakers such as pet sitters should follow the same training plan. This includes using the same schedule, cues, and rewards. Consistency is essential. The dog will have a better understanding if all caretakers provide the same picture.

Author: Jackie Nelson

Another Article that may be of interest to you. House Training Adult Dog - A step by step guide



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