How to housetrain your pup

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House training – it’s one of the most asked about topics in the dog training world. It can be one of the easiest things to train, yet it is one of the most common reasons that dogs are relinquished.  Fortunately, the “how-to’s” are the same whether the pup is 8 weeks or 8 years so all new dog parents – of puppies or rescue dogs – read on.

Bulldog puppy on a leash

The physical aspect of house training your pup

Puppies can physically only “hold it” for so long.  A good rule of thumb is 1 hour per month of age plus one. That is, if your pup is 4 months old, they physically should be able to go 5 hours between potty breaks. Older dogs may just need a refresher course or if they have always been an outdoor dog treat them just like you would a puppy.

Forming good habits with positive reinforcement

It is critical that your pup understands that you LOVE it when they potty outside.  No amount of scolding or punishing is going to help your dog be trained, but positive reinforcement will do wonders. Follow these steps to house train your dog:

  1. Start your training with a crate and leash. If you can’t be with your pup at all times, put him in a crate – think of it as a play pen – a temporary place to keep him from getting himself into trouble.
  2. Start slow – take your pup out every hour until you get a feel for how long he can “hold it.”  When you let him out of the crate, put the leash on and head outside with some treats.
  3. Keep him on the leash and lead him to where you want the designated potty place to be.
  4. When you reach your destination, say “go potty”, or whatever words you want him to associate with the deed.
  5. Once he goes – it’s a BIG party – treats, praise, happy dance if you are so inclined.  Many people give treats when they go back into the house after potty – that only teaches the dog that you like it when they come in the door with you – you must treat when they potty.
  6. Once you’re inside the house, the leash can come off and play begins if you are in a fenced area.  Outside must always mean potty first, play after to him.

One additional thing that happens when you use this technique is that your pup learns to potty “on command”.  He gets used to hearing those words – and goes.  This comes in very handy if you are traveling and must use rest stops, before you go into pet stores or vet offices, or if you are walking in an unfamiliar place.

Be patient, it’ll happen!

There will be times, especially at first, when you go through the routine only to have him not potty.  If you have no results in 5-10 minutes, go back in the house and he goes back in the crate (no play time).  Wait another half an hour and try again.  If you are not crate training your dog, use your leash.  The best way to keep track of your uncrated dog is to have his leash on and tie the handle to your belt loop.  This way he can’t sneak into a corner to go and you can watch for signs that he needs to go outside.  Most dogs will begin to circle and sniff looking for the perfect spot.  If you see this, take him outside right away.


Clean up accidents with a proper solution

There will be accidents. What you clean with is very important.  Use a product that has enzymes that are meant to destroy (not just mask) the odor.  Every pet store carries these products.  Dogs will go repeatedly back to a place that they have gone before, so it is important to use a product that lifts that scent.

Potty pads may not help

I am not a fan of potty pads since they don’t teach the dog to go outside, however, I can see the need to use them sometimes.  If you are going to use potty pads – only use them while you are not home, and only in an enclosed area like a crate or pen.  Once you are home, the dog should learn to go outside.  If you have trouble getting them to go outside – take a used potty pad with you and lay it down where you want them to go.  Remember to praise and treat when they go potty outside.

Timing and consistency are key

As with most things timing and consistency mean the difference between success and failure.

  • Most dogs all have general times that they will need to go out.  First thing after waking up, after eating, after napping, and right before bedtime.
  • The age and how far along they are in their training will affect how often in addition to these times they need to be taken out.
  • Watch for signs that they are asking to be taken out. Some dogs go to the door that leads them outside. Some bark, some whimper, some scratch on the door, some can be taught to ring a bell, some come to you and just stare. Whatever their signal is – you MUST be consistent about taking them out when they ask – or they will stop asking.
  • There is a possibility that you will have a dog that asks to go out over and over just because it’s a fun new game. Go ahead and take him out – on the leash – and go through the routine. Remember no potty, no play.

It doesn’t sound too hard, does it? If you follow these simple instructions, you will have a  happy, house-trained dog in no time.

Good luck dog parents!

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