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: 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 housetraining. 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 3: 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.
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 Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.