House Training

Here are the basic rules:

Your pup should be in one of three situations at all times during the learning phase of housetraining:

  • Outside while you watch for and reward urination or defecation with a food treat
  • Inside under your constant supervision (on a leash or a long line)
  • Crated or gated off in a small puppy-proofed room

If your puppy only eliminates outside and you don’t give them the freedom to have “accidents” in the house, then you’ve got a housetrained dog!

Please remember that little dogs have smaller bladders and can’t wait as long to eliminate.

Outside (And yes, you have to go out with them each and every time with treats!)

Take your puppy to your designated bathroom area, on leash.  If you always take your puppy to the same place he will seek it out in the future.  Stand still and quiet, and wait.  As your puppy begins to eliminate say the cue word you have chosen (“Go Potty”, “Outside”).  As soon as your puppy is done, say “YES” and give a fabulous food treat.  The treat delivered immediately at the right time and place is the key to fast and efficient housetraining.  If your puppy doesn’t eliminate within 3 to 5 minutes when outside, watch very carefully or put him in his crate, and take him out again in 10 to 15 minutes.

Inside (Constant Supervision)

Your puppy should have a leash or house line on at all times except sleeping.  You can tie the leash around your waist or have your puppy drag a line.  Make sure that the puppy cannot get away from you, to go and urinate or defecate in another area of the house.  Watch for subtle signs (sniffing, circling), and take your puppy outside frequently (three times an hour when they are a puppy, once an hour if adult):

  • After they eat or drink
  • After they wake up
  • After being released from crate or puppy pen
  • After playing

If you find an accident, YOU made a mistake, not the puppy.  Tighten up supervision.  Increase the frequency of trips outside.   Increase or improve your reward for going outside in the appropriate location.  If you see your puppy begin to eliminate in the house, make a loud, abrupt noise to startle and interrupt him.  Rush your puppy outside and reward for eliminating outside.


House Training FAQ

I had her outside, she did everything, and as soon as we got into the house, she peed again

This happens, and is very frustrating, especially when you have done everything right. Dogs, like people, are usually regular, and therefore, pretty predictable. We suggest you keep a chart for the first month, so you will be familiar with her schedule. Keep a notebook and pencil at the back door (or whatever door you use to take her to the toilet) and write the time of day and the job. I use a capital P to indicate she pooped, and a small p to indicate she piddled. For instance, the chart would look something like this:

7:00 am Pppp
9:30 am p
12:30 pm Pp
3:00 pm p

This helps you to remember that usually first thing in the morning she needs to pee three times and poop once before returning to the house.

How do I punish her, if she goes in the house?

Great question. You absolutely, never, ever punish a dog that is not yet toilet trained for going in the wrong place. It is YOUR job to have her at the right place at the right time, that is, her doggie toilet, when she has to go. If you have to punish something, go and look in the mirror.

If you do punish, you will not teach the dog not to go in your house. You will instead teach her not to go in front of you, and then you are in a real fix, because if she is afraid to go in front of her person, how are you ever going to reward her when she does get it right? Also, I suspect that punishment could lead to stool eating. The dog may understand that the presence of their stool makes their people very angry, so she may get rid of it. One little Yorkie was so clever at getting rid of it, that her person was totally convinced the dog was housetrained – until the Fall came and they turned on the heat. This little Yorkie had shoved her stool down the heating vents on the floor in order to avoid detection and punishment.

How long will it take, to toilet-train my dog?

How long did it take to toilet train your child? Like children, all dogs are different and learn at a different speed. Some get it very quickly and others take a little longer. A lot depends on their very early housing. In Mother Nature’s world, pups are taught by their mum to keep the den clean. If, in the human world, the pups haven’t had the opportunity to do this, it makes it a little harder to change the rules.

How come my dog can go all night without peeing, yet has to go so often during the day?

Again, like people, dogs are not active at night. They are most active at dawn and dusk. At night, pups are sleeping. They are not eating, drinking or playing, which all cause the need to urinate.

When can I trust my dog to be clean in the house?

I’d be a millionaire if I could answer that one. The rule of thumb is for every month of age, she should be able to hold it for one hour. When she is young, the sphincter muscle is not yet developed enough for control, so we suggest you increase the length of time she has to hold it by 15 minutes a week. So when she is eight weeks old, keep her confined for two hours at a time; at nine weeks of age, for two hours, 15 minutes; at ten weeks of age, for two and a half hours; at 11 weeks of age, for two hours, 45 minutes; and bingo, by the time she is three months old, she can hold it for three hours. Although I know of some dogs who can, I wouldn’t expect my dog to hold it for more than six hours at a time. I know how uncomfortable I am if I’m in a situation where I can’t use the toilet.

How do I go from close confinement to giving the dog the full run of the house?

Very slowly. Start by giving access to one room at a time. If you have your pup’s crate in the kitchen, start by allowing your pup freedom in the kitchen when you are there. If you have an unexpected accident, try the umbilical method, which is having your pup on leash, and attaching the leash to your belt. This gets her out of the crate, but not out of your immediate attention. For every ten dry days, you may increase the territory to which your pup has access. If you are on the umbilical cord in the kitchen, after ten dry days, take off the leash. Then after ten dry days, always supervised, give access to the kitchen and back hall. After another ten dry days, give access to the kitchen, back hall and laundry room, or powder room … however your house is set up.

If you have an accident at any time, go back a step. You also need to remember that the minute your pup is out of sight, there is every opportunity for other trouble, like chewing, or counter cruising, or foraging in the garbage

How do I get my dog to let me know when she has to go to the bathroom?

That’s really easy. Once the dog understands that the treat always comes when she goes outside at a specific spot, she will do everything in her power to let you know it’s time! A special little cry, a glance at the door, sniffing, circling, a determined look at you, are all ways she will try to communicate her urgency to you. If your dog goes to the back door and pees because you weren’t there to let her out, she is not ready to be out of your sight yet. Some people have suggested teaching the dog to ring a bell at the back door. Good idea, but not yet. Again, she is not ready to be out of your sight.

Crated or Gated Off

Puppies are less inclined to soil areas where they sleep or eat.  That is why crate training works.  Your job will be to teach your dog to be comfortable in a crate or small gated-off area.  Your dog must equate the crate (or small gated off puppy-proofed area) with feeling good.  Play the “crate game” by having your dog go in and out three to five times (toss in a toy or a treat), then repeat the game for a few sessions over the next day or two.  Don’t shut the door.  When the puppy is happily running into the crate you can shut the door for a second or two.  Lure the puppy into the crate by offering food treat through the back of the crate.  Surprise by dropping food from back so puppy learns good stuff happens when I enter on my own.  It’s the “pennies from Heaven” game.  Then, toss a treat in the crate, shut the door, leave it shut and feed the puppy through the bars or gate.  After a week or so of several sessions a day, start leaving the dog in the crate with a stuffed Kong or Sterile Beef Bone that will keep him busy.  (If a toy has food inside that the puppy has to work to get out, you’re not just keeping your puppy out of trouble, you’re teaching your puppy to chew appropriately.)  Be sure that you have loaded the Kong or bone with an amazingly tasty treat.  Walk away for thirty seconds.  Come back before he is done with the toy, open the door, quietly take the toy away and walk away from the crate.  Don’t give the amazing chew toy to your dog until your next session of the “crate game”.  The dog is learning to like going into the crate and staying in the crate.  All you need to do now is gradually increase the amount of time that your dog is left alone in the crate.

Dogs, like humans, can wait much longer periods without needing to eliminate when they are sleeping.  Don’t assume that because your puppy can hold it over night that he can wait that long during waking periods.  The rule of thumb is, for every month your puppy is old, they can be in the crate for 1 hour (2 months old, maximum 2 hours, etc.).

How do you decide when to start leaving your dog out of the crate?  Consider the age of the dog, the breed of the dog, and the activity level of your dog.  Leaving an adolescent dog home alone in a big house is a recipe for disaster.  Protect your house from a bored dog that’s on the prowl for something to do!!!! Depending on breed, age, personality and energy level of the puppy, you may wish to start letting your dog have a little bit of freedom in part of the house for a minute or two.  Give the stuffed toy, leave for a brief moment, and return.  Assuming that you return to an intact house and a polite dog, you can gradually extend the period of absence, insuring that your dog has been well exercised, has had many chances to eliminate, is comfortable being alone, and knows what to chew on before you leave.