9 Steps On How To House Train A Dog

The ups and downs of puppy potty training… just when you think you have it nailed, you find a puddle in the hallway. Keep reading on the 9 top tips on how to house train a dog.

It took Tiger, my stubborn terrier about 12 months before he totally stopped wee-ing in the house. ​Not because he didn't know where to go, I am pretty sure he was just being defiant.

Even though getting a puppy is worth every minute, puppy potty training or house training your dog is very frustrating. It takes time and patience and consistency and reward and oh the list goes on.....

how to house train your dog

Mother nature and puppy house training

Mother Nature is working with you right from the start with puppy training, says Cesar Milan. When the puppies are first born, they eat and they relieve themselves inside the den, but the mother always cleans them. There is never a scent of urine or feces where the puppies eat, sleep, and live. When they get old enough, they learn to go outside by imitating their mother. 

Dogs become conditioned never to toilet in their dens. From 2 - 4 months of age, most pups pick up on the concept of housebreaking and crate training quite easily since it is part of their natural programming.

Another built-in plus when it comes to housebreaking is puppy’s digestive tract, which is extremely quick and efficient. Five to 30 minutes after the puppy eats they will need to go toilet.  This allows your to get the timing right on when to take your pup outside.

House training should take 4 - 6 months but can take longer. Some breeds are harder to house train. Daily Puppy tells us that the breeds hardest to toilet train are:

Terriers

Terriers are highly intelligent, stubborn, territorial and will easily take over as alpha of the family if given the chance.  Oh, I can vouch for that one! My terrier would look at me, then cock his leg and pee inside the house. Pure defiance, I’m sure.

Hounds

Some hound have a difficult time being housebroken - Basset hounds, beagles, bloodhounds, dachshunds, Irish wolfhounds and whippets are among some of the most difficult. Their senses are so incredibly strong, hounds easily forget about toilet time when they catch of something to be chased.

Toy Breeds

Toy breed dogs such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, pugs and Shih Tzus tend to be harder to housebreak. Owners often treat small dogs like babies and carry them outside for potty time instead of leashing and walking them to the potty area.

When to begin house training a dog

It is recommend that you start house training your puppy when he is 3 - 4 months old. Puppies need to have some control over their bladder and bowels before they can learn to hold it themselves.

If you dog is older than this before you bring him home, house training may take longer is he hasn’t yet learned the skills. You will perhaps need to break old habits and create new habits with your new older pup.

The 9 steps on how to house train a dog

1. Designated area

Confinement to a small area such as a small room, bathroom or an enclosed pen works best.

If your puppy is not confined,  you must follow him around to know what he is doing.  Don't take your eye off of your puppy! If you cannot watch them continuously, you must confine them.

A confined space reflects the 'den' instinct. We are conditioning the puppy to avoid messing in their den. 

If you puppy is outside the confined areas and you are not playing with him, put puppy on a leash and keep him nearby. This way you can grab the leash and take him outside to his bathroom spot if needed. 

Confining your puppy will also stop stop him chewing on unwanted items while you are not watching.

2. Regular feeds

Keep your puppy on a regular feeding schedule. It's very important and helpful to you if your puppy eats at a regular time as this mean he will poop at a regular time as well.  Every pup is different, use 30 minutes after eating as a general guide. 

Take away your puppy's food between meals to avoid random eating and pooping times. Keep water available for your puppy but keep an eye on when and how much they are drinking. 

3. Regular Breaks

Remember to take your puppy or dog to the toilet area first thing in the morning, and then frequently throughout the day, approximately every 30 mins to an hour when they are very young. Make sure he goes out last thing at night and before you leave your puppy at home alone. 

Fortunately puppies sleep a lot, but when you see your puppy wake up, take him outside! This gives your dog plenty of opportunities to go to the toilet outside, therefor creating that habit.

Better too often than too late!

When you take your puppy outside, keep him on a leash so that you can control where he goes and so that you know when he has been to the toilet. Once he is more reliable, you can give him more freedom.

 Tip! It may help to set an alarm clock to ring at regular intervals in case you get distracted.  Start with every 30 - 60 mins, then move it out to 1 - 2 hours.  If accidents are happening go back to more frequent breaks. Repetition is key.

4. Same place

Take puppy to the same spot each time to do their business. Use a spot that is quickly and easily accessible. His scent will start to prompt him to go in that spot. 

Where possible, take your puppy on a leash to that spot. Use a cue word or phrase, like "toilet" or "poop" that you can use to remind him what he is there for.  This can make life easier and quicker when you are on holidays, road trips or it is cold outside and you need you dog to go quickly. 

5. Supervision

Stay with your puppy at all time!  You need to supervise your puppy as much as possible throughout the day so as not to miss the opportunity to take you dog outside.   Look for signs that your puppy is about to go to the toilet so you can take them outside.

Sign he might need to go to the toilet:

  • When your puppy whines at night or whines in their pen during the day.
  • When your puppy is standing at the door to the outside.
  • Sniffing the ground and circling 
  • Scratching at the door
  • No warning sign…. and there it is..!!!!

Don't allow your puppy too much freedom outside of his confined area unless you are absolutely certain that his bladder and bowels are completely empty. When you do let him out, keep a close eye on him.

It is a good idea to have him on leash when he is exploring your home.  If he is attached to you, he can't get into too much trouble.  Never tie the puppy to something and leave him unattended. 

6. Reward

Reward, reward, reward!!! To make the process of toilet training successful and as efficient as possible, you need to use reward based positive reinforcement.

When your puppy tells you he needs to go to the toilet or he goes outside, reward him immediately.  Give him a treat, a walk around the neighborhood or a nice long pat and play and use a positive, friendly tone of voice.

Try to reward your dog every time that he goes where they are supposed to. The reward must occur immediately afterwards, not when the dog comes back inside. Your dog needs to associate the reward with going to the toiletin the right spot. 

7. Ignore

As important as positive reward is ignoring unwanted behavior. If you puppy  goes to the toilet in the wrong place, have no reaction.

It is very important to note that young puppies often do not have full control over their bladders yet. This is a developmental process so puppies may make a mistake without being able to prevent or control it.

If your pup pees in the wrong place,  move quickly towards him when he begins to pee and pick him up.  Startle your puppy just a little as  you move towards them to pick them up and take them outside.  Don't scare the pup.  If you puppy finishes outside,  reward your puppy.

Old-fashioned responses such as 'rubbing the dog’s nose in it' or other form of punishment will not teach the dog anything. It may only delay the learning process and make the dog scared of you and perhaps create other behavioral problems.  

8. Clean up

House training your puppy requires lots of absorbent pads and newspapers, lots!!  oh and paper towel and cleaning product.

If you puppy toilets inside, clean the area thoroughly with a non-ammonia based cleaning product to take away the scent. This will reduce the likelihood of the dog using the same place again next time.

As always, never make a big deal about cleaning up after your puppy when an accident occurs.

9. Patience and Consistency

As with humans, all puppies and dogs learn at a different pace. It may take several weeks to months to housetrain your puppy but anything up to a year is possible.

The more consistent you are, the faster your puppy will learn the rules and the quicker he will be housetrained. 

​Oh... and be patient. I cant say this enough. Over the life of you dog, the love and enjoyment you will receive from your dog will far outweigh this toilet training time.

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What happens when you are not home?

There will be time when you have to go out, or go to work. When you are not home, confine your puppy to his puppy area, bathroom, laundry or play pen. Put lots of newspaper or puppy wee pads down over the entire puppy area. Put his bed, toys and food/water bowls there too.

Don’t be concerned if you come home with the paper messed up, chewed and dragged around. This is part of being a puppy, just go with it. Clean up the mess and lay down fresh paper.

Even though puppy is spreading the paper around, he is also forming a habit of peeing on the paper, mainly because he has no choice. He will soon start to toilet in an established place and the mess will get smaller. After some time you will be able to reduce the papered area.

Slowly and gradually move the wee pads or papers to the place where you want your dog to go to the toilet. Don't be upset with your puppy, there will always be minor set-backs. Persistence and consistency... oh an patience!

If you can, arrange for someone, a friend, family, neighbor or pet walker to take him outside while you are not home.

When can your puppy have more freedom?

As your puppy becomes more reliable about using his toilet area and his bowel and bladder control develops, he can begin to spend more time outside his room or pen with you in the rest of your home.

Begin by giving him access to one room at a time. Let him eat, sleep and play in this room but only when he can be supervised. When you cannot supervise him, put him back in his room or pen.

Eventually your pup will have enough control that he will be able to "hold it" for longer and longer periods of time. Let your puppy do this on his own time. When training is rushed, problems usually develop. Don't forget, most puppies are not completely house trained until they are 6 months old.

House training an adult dog

If you rescue or adopt a dog there may be a chance that he isn't house trained.   If you get an adult dog that isn't house trained , take him to the vet for a check up. You want to be sure that the problem isn't medical.

If your dog is happy and healthy, commence the 9 steps on how to house training your dog. Be extra firm on your dog. He already has his own habits that you will need to break. Be firm, be patient, be consistent and be kind.

Dog house training challenge....

And... for those of you who are wanting that little extra challenge, watch this!

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