Training a puppy or an adult dog to eliminate in a specified area is really quite easy, but it does require time and patience. The process of house-training is the same whether you have a puppy or an adult dog. However, young puppies do not have the muscle control of an older dog and need to eliminate every 1-3 hours until they are 4-6 months old.

Step 1: Make a schedule and stick to it. (This applies to meals, exercise, potty-breaks, and resting.)

  • Always take your dog outside first thing in the morning, before going to bed, and before being confined or left alone for periods of time.
  • If you have a puppy, take him out more frequently. In addition to first thing in the morning, take your puppy outside after meals, playtime, and waking from naps.
  • If you see signs that your dog needs to eliminate, such as pacing, whining, circling, sniffing or leaving the room, take him outside as quickly as possible to prevent an accident.

Step 2: Supervise and confine.
A crucial part of house-training is preventing elimination indoors. Puppies and untrained dogs must be supervised so they can be taken outside if it appears they need to relieve themselves. Whenever you are unable to supervise your dog (you are out of the home, in the shower, cooking dinner, etc.), he should be confined to a crate, pen, or small, pup-safe room. The purpose of confinement is to encourage the dog to wait until taken outside to eliminate so that his area will remain clean. For house-training purposes, the confinement area should allow enough space for the dog to stand, sit, turn around, and lie down comfortably but not enough to easily move about (unless incorporating pad training). Remember that puppies have limited control over their muscles and need to eliminate frequently; confining a young pup for longer than their bodies can handle will thwart house-training. The metabolism slows down overnight so they can go a bit longer between potty breaks, but puppies still need an opportunity to go in the middle of the night.

Step 3: Take your dog outside.

  • Pace back and forth with your dog rather than standing still. This will help stimulate the need to eliminate.
  • If your dog is getting distracted while outside in a yard, take him out on a leash.
  • Remember, patience is a virtue when it comes to house-training. Give your dog 5-10 minutes to eliminate. If he does not, go back inside and either confine him or keep him with you. Take him out again when he shows signs of needing to eliminate or in about 5 minutes for young puppies or 20 minutes for a teenager/adult dog, whichever occurs first. Continue this until he relieves himself.

Step 4: Reward your dog:

Reward your pooch with praise, treats, play, or a walk whenever he eliminates in the appropriate area. Use whatever he loves the most. Give treats outside as the dog is finishing. Giving treats indoors rewards the dog for coming inside, not for eliminating.

Accidents happen, it’s okay!

If you catch your dog in the act of eliminating inside the house, interrupt the behavior with a verbal cue like “not here” or clap loudly enough to startle but not to scare. Immediately, quickly, and gently lead or carry your dog outside. Allow your dog to finish eliminating outside and then reward him.

Do not punish or even acknowledge an accident after the fact. If you do not catch your dog in the act, simply clean up the mess using enzymatic cleaner. Your dog cannot connect punishment with something that happened even minutes ago. Punishment may make a dog fearful and worsen house-training problems. Puppies will make mistakes and it may be that you did not recognize the signs or take them out enough.

Paper Training:

You might decide that teaching your dog to eliminate on puppy pads, newspaper, or in a litter box is best for you and your dog. The concept is the same, regardless of where you want your dog to relieve himself. Take him to the appropriate spot, reward him when he goes there, and supervise and confine him to prevent accidents.
 

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

Recent Articles

A dog is most impressionable before 14 weeks of age. Proper socialization will help her become desensitized to her surroundings and therefore reduce the likelihood she will be afraid of things as she grows older. You should continue with socialization as your dog grows in order to maintain her confidence and help her

Clicker training is a positive reinforcement method of training. Studies have shown that animals respond best when an action is followed by a reward. The animal is therefore more likely to perform an action if they believe it will be followed by something good, such as a tasty treat. In clicker training, the clicker

Is your dog a notorious thief around your house? Do you often find yourself chasing your canine companion around trying to get back what he stole? It’s times like these that will make you grateful for taking the time to train your mischievous canine to “Drop It.” 

Here’s a couple tricks to make teaching your

Canine enrichment is a great way to reduce your dog’s stress and boredom. Like puzzles do for us, canine enrichment offers your dog the opportunity to exercise his brain while also having fun. 

Canine enrichment can help with a wide variety of behavioral issues including destruction, barking, escaping, anxiety