Congratulations! You’ve done your research, brought home all the supplies you need to, and prepared your home for your new family member. Now, it’s time to take your puppy home and begin the long work of house training your dog to avoid frequent accidents in the house. Starting off your puppy young, as soon as you bring them home, is essential to creating the life-long housetraining habit.
The first thing to know is that housetraining successfully and effectively requires a lot of patience, positivity, and regularity. Chances are you won’t be able to train your puppy not to have accidents in the house within the week or the month, or for some puppies, even the year!
Depending on your individual puppy and its age and breed, fully housetraining your puppy can take as little as a month to as long as a year. Smaller breeds have smaller bladders and need to go out more frequently than larger dogs, making putting them on a consistent schedule to go outside difficult. They should be between 2 and 6 months old, give or take a few weeks for the latter end.
Keep in mind that the younger the puppy, generally, the faster the housetraining process will be since they’ve spent less time on a pet store schedule. Expect your puppy to have occasional accidents for a few months after they’ve been housetrained for the most part, especially before they’re 6 months old - they’re still young, growing, and can’t hold it in for so long!
We recommend housetraining your puppy using a crate or pen. While it’s certainly possible to teach your dog not to have accidents in the house without constraining them to a limited area when supervision isn’t possible, using a crate-training system will expedite the process significantly.
Here are some things you’ll need:
<li style="font-weight: 400;">A crate or exercise pen
<li style="font-weight: 400;">A crate divider (if the crate gives the puppy a lot of room to move around)
<li style="font-weight: 400;">Training treats
<li style="font-weight: 400;">Urine stain remover (enzymatic cleanser)
<li style="font-weight: 400;">A clicker or just an excited “yes!”
Crating puppies is a great way to quickly train them to hold it in until you can take them out next. When you’re not actively playing with, feeding, walking, or paying attention to your puppy, keep them in a crate or pen large enough to turn around and lay down comfortably, but not so large that they can “pick” a side to defecate or urinate in, and aside to sleep in.
Get in the habit of feeding your puppy inside the crate, too. You want them to associate it with good things - food, toys, relaxing time - instead of making it a punishment. Naturally, puppies do not want to sleep or sit or eat where they go to the bathroom, so they’ll be more willing to hold it and wait for the next opportunity to go outside than release it while they’re still in the crate. You can buy a crate divider to section off a portion of the area and expand it as your puppy grows.
Forming a schedule
Now that you have your crate setup, it’s time to create a consistent schedule for your puppy. They’ll usually need to pee every 30 minutes to 1 hour, but remember this timing changes depending on the breed and size. Plus, certain activities will cause them to need to pee more frequently. Most puppies will usually have to go after playtime, waking up from a nap, or drinking water.
Take your puppy out as soon as you wake up in the morning to the same spot, whether that’s in your backyard or elsewhere. We recommend picking them up and dropping them off at that spot, so they don’t have an opportunity for accidents on their way to the door. They’ll become familiar with the location and learn that going outside means it’s time to go to the bathroom.
Feed them at the exact same time every single day, so you can have a good idea of when they’ll need to go after eating. If they don’t eat all of it, pick it up and try again later. Leaving it out and allowing them to free-feed throughout the day will make for an unpredictable bathroom schedule.
After that, keep your puppy on a regular schedule and try taking them out to that area frequently every 30 minutes to an hour, adjusting for their own personal preferences. Some puppies just need to go more than others. Once they finally associate going outside with going to the bathroom, the process will become easier.
Take away the water bowl about an hour before bedtime and try to relax them so they’re not playful and in need of a drink just before crating them to go back to bed.
Rewarding and dealing with accidents
Inevitably, your puppy will have accidents, and when they do, it’s important to stay very positive and patient. Punishing your puppy only teaches them to fear you and avoid you when they need to go to the bathroom - next time, they’ll just go in the corner of the bathroom instead of right in front of you.
Instead, positively reinforce your puppy by rewarding them with training treats and a clicker or excited “yes!” when they go to the bathroom outside. Used every time, they’ll associate earning food with going outside and be more likely to do it next time.
Combining the treats with a “yes!” is an important step you’ll need later when weaning your puppies off training treats. Obviously, you won’t feed your puppy every time they go to the bathroom for the rest of their life, so putting it together with a “yes!” (make sure to use the same positive keyword every time) will still let them know they did something right. In the meantime, though, reward after every single positive action outside.
Make sure that you have eyes on your puppy when they’re not in the crate. If you’re not paying attention and they’re frequently having accidents when you’re not looking, your puppy won’t realize they’re doing something wrong if you try to reprimand them 20 minutes after it happened. There is no point in being angry during a situation like this because puppies won’t connect your anger with their mistake.
If you catch your puppy in the act of urinating in the house, clap loudly and gently pick them up to take them outside so they can finish. Don’t scare them, because it’s only meant to be a redirection, not a punishment.
Housetraining puppies isn’t always the easiest, but following these simple guidelines and sticking to a consistent schedule makes it significantly easier. Don’t lose your patience and see an animal behaviorist if possible if your puppy isn’t making any strides after a long time of training.
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