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How to Housetrain a Puppy

House training a puppy takes time and patience. To make the process quicker and easier for you, we’ve broken it down into 5 simple steps that have proven successful. 

Step 1: Establish Routines

If you feed your puppy at the same times each day, the chances are good that they’ll have to go potty around the same times each day. This will make it easier for you to predict when they’ll need to go outside.

Take them out as soon as they wake up and after eating or drinking, since these are times they’ll likely feel the urge to go. Routinely going outside will also help your puppy recognize that it’s the place to do their business. If you’d like to try to prevent trips to the backyard in the middle of the night, place their water bowl out of reach about two and a half hours before bedtime.

Step 2: Take Them Out Frequently

Because puppies have little bladders, it’s impossible for them to hold their bladders as long as healthy adult dogs. Therefore, two hours is the maximum amount of time you should allow between trips outside. A potty break every half hour to an hour is best.

Step 3: Pick a Potty Spot

Another trick for teaching your pup where to go is always to take them to the same spot in the yard. Smelling their scent from earlier potty breaks will help them remember what they are supposed to be doing in this spot. You might also want to try saying a phrase like “go potty” when you arrive at your destination. Your dog will learn the meaning of the phrase, and hearing it will prompt them to do their business.

Step 4: Reward Them for Going

Rewarding your puppy for going potty will teach them that it’s a good behavior. The timing has to be just right to do this effectively, so be sure to give them praise and a treat immediately after they finish.

If you wait until you get back inside, your puppy may get confused about which behavior you’re rewarding. If you start praising your pup while they’re going, they might get distracted and stop before their bladder is completely empty. This could result in accidents when they decide to finish going later in the house.

If you’re looking for an alternative to treat-giving, try rewarding your puppy with a fun game, like tug-of-war, or a walk around the neighborhood.

Step 5: Keep Your Pup Under Supervision

Watch closely for signs that your puppy has to go, like sniffing around the floor or circling. If you notice one of these behaviors, stop them in their tracks and rush your puppy out to the backyard before they can go on the carpet or tile.

Be sure also to watch for signs that your pup isn’t feeling well. Their feces and urine can be good indicators of this. If you notice that they’re having diarrhea frequently, yelp or whine while they’re urinating, have blood in their urine or stool, urinate in dribbles, or are leaving piles of vomit in the yard or house, your puppy may have ingested something harmful or have a urinary tract infection (UTI).

A pet insurance plan can help cover the veterinary costs of treatment for upset stomach, UTIs, swallowed objects, toxic ingestions, and more. Find out more about dog insurance.

Tips for housebreaking a puppy

Additional Things To Remember

Below are some other important things to consider when housebreaking your puppy, in addition to the five steps mentioned above.

Make Arrangements When You’re Away

Since puppies can’t hold their bladders longer than a few hours at a time, it’s best to make arrangements for someone to let them out if they have to be alone all day. You can find professional dog sitters and walkers on Care.com and at petsitters.org, the website of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.

You can also construct a special indoor area for your puppy to go potty in while you’re out. However, doing this could potentially make the process of house training your dog take longer since they’ll be receiving conflicting cues on where to go. If you have a fenced in yard a, getting a doggy door after your puppy is housebroken can be a great benefit. It’ll allow your puppy to go out on their own to do their business and play when no one is home – so no sitter required. You should keep in mind, though, that the door is not only dog-sized but raccoon- and skunk-sized too.

Prefer to keep your puppy indoors during the day? There’s always the option of purchasing a dog litter box (they do exist!) or here’s how you can make your own indoor potty area for your pup:

  1. Block off a space with baby gates. Make sure the space is big enough to allow your puppy to do their business and have a clean, dry spot to play and sleep.
  2. Place a plastic baby pool or box of some sort filled with dog litter or sod inside the gated area. You should be able to find dog litter at your local pet store. Newspaper can also do the trick.

If you clean up an accident in the house using paper towels or rags, try putting them in the pool or box. The scent will help your puppy understand the purpose of the area you constructed.

Don’t Punish Indoor Accidents

It’s a common misconception that rubbing a puppy’s nose in an area where they’ve had an accident or scolding them will teach them not to go in the house. Punishing a puppy for having an accident can actually do more harm than good. Your puppy may think they’re being punished just for going potty and become afraid to go in your presence or to go at all. Instead of trying to correct your pup after they’ve had an accident, clean the soiled area thoroughly so they won’t feel inclined to go in that spot again. Ask your veterinarian or check your local pet store for products designed specifically to clean pet urine and feces.

It’s important to remember that even the best-behaved puppies will have an occasional accident, but following the steps and tips in this article can be a big help for preventing them, and for turning your pup into an independent, outdoor potty-going pro!


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