Housetraining your new puppy can be relatively easy and very successful if you devote the appropriate amount of time and patience to the task. A successful puppy training plan includes supervision, confinement, encouragement and lots of opportunities to succeed.
Your first task will be to teach your puppy where you want him to eliminate (go to the bathroom) by accompanying him every time he goes outside. Select a specific area where you want him to go that is easy to get to, i.e., close to the door! Your puppy will become familiar with this place as he recognizes his odor from previous eliminations. You should gently praise his sniffing and other pre-elimination behaviors. Make sure to energetically praise your puppy after he eliminates in the proper area. You may want to offer a treat to your puppy as soon as he finishes eliminating (reinforcing the behavior of eliminating in the appropriate spot).
You can help control your puppy’s elimination routine by also controlling his feeding schedule. Most puppies should eliminate within an hour after eating, so it is best to avoid feeding him a large meal right before confinement (leaving him alone while you’re or when your sleeping). You should offer him food two or three times each day at the same times and only make the food available for a maximum of 30 minutes. Your puppy’s last meal of the day should be finished between three and five hours before bedtime so he has plenty of time to go to the bathroom.
Make sure to take your puppy outside for a bathroom break after eating, drinking, sleeping or playing. Develop a schedule of mealtimes, play sessions, confinement periods (for sleeping or rest) and trips outside to the “bathroom” to adjust your puppy to a fairly predictable elimination schedule. Putting your puppy on a schedule will help them learn the routine of going potty outside much faster.
Preventing accidents indoors is the most challenging part of housetraining your puppy. To avoid this, you need to constantly supervise your puppy. When you are not able to directly supervise your puppy, confine him to a small, safe area. This can be a room or a crate. Always take him outside to eliminate just before you confine him. You may want to use a wire or plastic crate to confine your puppy when you can’t directly supervise him (see the article Crate Training).
If you are leaving your puppy home alone every day for long periods, you may want to consider hiring a dog walker so there are no unexpected accidents. Teaching a puppy to eliminate on papers or puppy pads gives your puppy an extra confusing step. Successful house training requires frequent outdoor bathroom breaks. Figure an hour for each month of age and add an additional hour to the total to determine the frequency of potty breaks your puppy needs. For example, an 8-week-old puppy can stay in the crate for three hours. The most amount of time any dog should spend in a crate is 8 hours.
Help your puppy become comfortable in his confinement area by having toys and treats in the area, playing with him in this area, or simply being in the room with him while he rests.
Every puppy that has been housetrained has made a few mistakes, be prepared for them! Punishing your puppy is the least effective way to correct his behavior. When catch your puppy in the act of eliminating indoors, you should correct him with a mild, startling distraction such as clapping. Immediately take him outside to finish eliminating. Remember, puppies do not think like humans and they cannot make the leap between “I am being punished for peeing” to “I need to pee outside.” Instead, they think they are being punished for peeing in front of you and they will start hiding from you when they pee. This confusion will lead to a “sneaky pottier” instead of a well house trained dog.
Correcting your puppy more than 30 seconds after elimination is ineffective because he will not understand why he is being corrected. If you are too harsh with your correction, you will teach your puppy not to eliminate in front of you, even when you are outside. This harsh punishment could also damage your bond with him. Never rub your puppy’s nose in his mess – you will only teach him to be afraid of you.
Some pets “squirt” or urinate when they greet people (they may do this out of nervousness or excitement). Scolding will always make the problem worse. Rather, do not greet your pet right away and ignore him until he settles down.
If (and when) your puppy has accidents inside your home, he may continue to eliminate at the same spot if he can smell the odor from his previous mistake. Use an effective commercial product to remove urine and fecal odor from the spot so he is less likely to return to this area. It may be a good idea to block that area from your puppy so they physically cannot eliminate there again. This can be done by shutting doors, putting up baby gates or moving furniture.
Housetraining your puppy can be a rewarding and bonding experience for both you and your puppy. Be sure to contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns you may have during this important training process.