House Training a Puppy: Tips and Techniques for Puppy Potty Training Success

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House Training a Puppy

“Take time to give your ‘best friend’ lots of attention and lots of love.
Your ears (and your neighbors) will thank you.”

House training a puppy is usually a top priority for most pet owners. Getting a new puppy is enormously exciting. There's not much cuter or more fun than a puppy! But as soon as you bring your new friend home you'll probably start to think about puppy potty training.

House Training a Puppy
Photo by Susan Utley

Some owners find house training a puppy a very challenging, even stressful experience. However, with enough patience and persistence you can housetrain your puppy in just a few weeks. Here's how.

Praise and Reward

House training your puppy is like every other kind of training. That means your puppy will learn best if you give him praise and rewards when he does things that you like. When you take your puppy outside and he potties, be sure to give him lots of praise and some treats. You really can't praise your puppy too much for doing a good job when he relieves himself where you wish.

On the other hand, punishing your puppy for an accident doesn't do any good. Your puppy doesn't have a long attention span at this age. If you punish him for something he did ten minutes ago, he has no idea why he's being punished. He will simply associate you with irrational behavior and probably avoid you.

Never hit your puppy with a newspaper or rub his nose in a mess. How would you like it if someone did it to you? It will have about the same result with your puppy. If you do catch your puppy in the act of having an accident, don't waste time scolding. Instead, clap your hands or make noise to try to stop what's happening. Carry your puppy outdoors so he can finish. Then praise your puppy for pottying outside.

Be Consistent

Your puppy has a very small bladder and he will need to go outside often, especially in the beginning. You can help your puppy avoid many accidents and teach him what he is supposed to do by taking him outside at regular, predictable times. House training a puppy becomes much easier if you will take your puppy outside at the following times:

  • As soon as you wake up in the morning
  • Right after your puppy eats
  • After every nap
  • After every play session
  • Right before bedtime

You can help your puppy get through the night without having an accident if you will remove his food 3-4 hours before bedtime. Remove the water dish an hour or so before bedtime. However, very young puppies (8-14 weeks old) may still need to go outside during the night.

After your puppy is about four months old he should be able to get through the night without needing to go outside, but this will obviously vary from one puppy to the next.

Look for Signals

House training a puppy depends a great deal on your puppy learning how to signal you that he needs to go outside to relieve himself.

Part of house training is your puppy learning control, but unless he learns how to let you know he needs to go out, the control won't work. After all, your puppy can't control himself forever.

At first your puppy's signals may be vague, so watch for the following signs from your puppy:

  • Sniffing the floor
  • Looking at the door
  • Looking for a hiding place
  • Going back to a place where he?s had an accident
  • Looking at you
  • Disappearing for a while

Any one of these signs may be your puppy's way of indicating that he is looking for a place to potty. You will need to be very vigilant in the first few weeks so you notice these signals. As your puppy gets better at communicating with you he'll be able to let you know more clearly that he needs to go outside. He may bark or scratch at the door, for instance.

Using Crates

You may wish to make crate training part of your house training. Crate training a puppy is not hard and it can help with house training, especially at night. Dogs in general prefer not to soil an area where they sleep. If your puppy is sleeping in a crate then he will usually try to wait to go outside before relieving himself. Naturally, you should not keep a puppy in a crate for so long that it would be a hardship for him. If your puppy sleeps in a crate overnight it can encourage him to sleep through the night without having an accident, provided he is not too young.

You can also use a crate for your puppy during the day if you need to be away from home. But remember, if you are going to be away for more than three or four hours you should have someone come in to check on your puppy and give him a potty break.

House Training Complete!

House training a puppy generally takes a few weeks. Your puppy should pick up the basic idea in just a few days but it will probably take a few more weeks for your puppy to be considered reliably house trained. Even then, there may be times when your puppy will have an accident if something unexpected happens. Some dogs may be well house trained but they will still have an "accident" if it is raining or snowing and they don't particularly want to go outside.

Whenever your puppy does have an accident you should make sure you clean the area thoroughly and remove any trace of the odor. If the odor remains, your puppy may be drawn back to the area and potty there again. Use vinegar and water to go over the area or enzymatic cleaners to remove dog spots.

Some dogs are harder to house train than others. Some breeds seem to be harder to train, too. Male dogs are usually harder to house train than female dogs for some reason. Many people report house training problems with Toy dogs. However, if you are consistent and keep working with your dog, you should be able to succeed.

House Training a Puppy is Very Important

Many young dogs are turned in to shelters each year by their families because the dog continued to soil in the house. So, it's important to really teach your dog good house training skills.

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