Housetraining for Puppies and Adult Dogs

Dogs are basically clean animals. They do not like to spend time when they have urinated or defecated. Some dogs adopted as adults may need a refresher course in housetraining. The same rules apply to re-training an adult dog and training a puppy. Accidents are part of the process, but if you follow these basic housetraining guidelines, you can get the newest member of your family on the right track in a few weeks’ time. Remember that the keys to success are consistency, supervision, crate training and sticking to a schedule.

Steps to Successful Housetraining

  1. Establish a routine. Keep meals on a schedule and provide bathroom breaks accordingly. Your dog should be taken outside shortly after eating or drinking. He should also be taken out immediately following naps and play sessions.
  2. Go outside with your dog. When your dog gets to the designated bathroom area and is relieving himself, use a specific word or phrase that you can eventually use before he goes to remind him what to do.
  3. Reward your dog every time he eliminates outdoors. Praise your dog and give him a treat immediately after he has finished eliminating and not after returning inside.
  4. Watch your dog at all times when inside the house. If you are unable to be with your dog, confine him to a crate. Dogs do not like to soil in their “dens” so they are likely to eliminate in their crate. Take your dog out of the crate at regular intervals and directly outside. Reward him if he goes to the bathroom outside. If he does not, take him back inside and either watch him closely or return him to the crate for a little longer. Then, take him back outside. Watch for sniffing and circling. These are usually signs that your dog is ready to eliminate.
  5. If you catch your dog urinating or defecating inside, interrupt by clapping your hands. Get him outside and use your command to remind him what to do. Praise him and give him a treat if he goes outside.
  6. Never physically punish your dog for inappropriate elimination. Your dog will associate you with the punishment and will not want to go in front of you. This may ruin your chances to praise your dog for going in the correct area because he is now afraid to eliminate in front of you.

Troubleshooting Tips

Problem: Your dog will not defecate or urinate outside in front of you, but will immediately sneak into another room to eliminate

Solution: First, do not forget about the crate training. If your dog will not go outside, put him back in his crate for another 15 minutes to half an hour and then take him outside again.

Your dog may not feel comfortable eliminating in front of you. If you keep him with you in the house and go out with him, then he will eventually have to go to the bathroom (hopefully outside). In this case, it is very important to praise and reward him when he eliminates where he should. Be careful in this situation to avoid strong reprimands if accidents happen in the house.

Problem: Your dog is eliminating in the crate.

Solution: Be sure to give your dog plenty of opportunities to go outside. Do not expect a puppy under four months of age to be able to “hold it” for much longer than three to four hours.

Dogs do not like to lie where they have eliminated, so your crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably. If your crate is too large, your dog may urinate or defecate in one corner and lay in the other; therefore, defeating the purpose of the crate as a housetraining tool. As tempting as it may be to place a nice, soft blanket in the crate, this should be avoided during the housetraining period. You dog may get accustomed to urinating on the blanket, which complicates housetraining.

Problem: You have a two month old puppy and you work full time.

Solution: A typical puppy is not physically capable of holding urine in his bladder for eight hours until he is about four months old. If you have a puppy younger than that, either come home mid-day or arrange for a neighbor, friend or family member to let the dog out to the bathroom. This is temporary until your puppy reaches four months of age.

If you cannot arrange for someone to let your puppy out to the bathroom, housetraining may take longer than normal since your puppy is learning to eliminate inside and you will have to break this habit later.