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How to House Train Your Puppy

Updated on September 25, 2015

Dog House Training

There are a number of ways to successfully house train your dog, no matter what age or breed the dog is. Although, some breeds can be harder to house train, as can unaltered males, you can successfully house train your dog, not matter what.

There are a few keys that you should understand when house training a dog.

  1. Get a clean bill of health from your veterinarian. Because a puppy's state of health will affect his ability to be successfully house trained, you should have a vet examine the puppy (or dog) within 48 hours of bringing the puppy home. Conditions, such as bladder infections, can hinder successful house training.
  2. Keeps a regular schedule. Puppies need to urinate shortly after they eat, drink, play, chew, or sleep. For most puppies, over 10 weeks of age, they will go somewhere between 5 and 10 times a day, if not more. Adolescent dogs (6 to 11 months) will need 4 to 6 opportunities to go, if not more.
  3. Establish a feeding schedule and pick up any remaining food after 10 minutes. What goes in on a schedule, comes out on a schedule.
  4. Do not leave puppies and dogs who are not fully house trained unsupervised. Confine them in a crate when you must leave the house. If properly introduced and used appropriately, crate training is an efficient and humane way to prevent house training accidents and keep the puppy safe. Don't use the crate for excessive amounts of time and never use it for punishment.
  5. Close supervision is essential any time the puppy is not crated when indoors. It only takes a few seconds for a puppy to have an accident, so watch for any and all signs that the puppy may need to go.
  6. Neutralize urine odors with an enzyme-based deodorizer. Dogs are drawn to areas there they've gone before, so it's important to remove all traces of odor. Avoid ammonia-based cleaners because ammonia breaks down to urea, which is a component of urine.
  7. Discipline is not the answer! Never discipline (verbally or otherwise) a puppy for accidents in the house that you did not see or actually witness. The puppy will not understand what he did wrong. (Even if you see your puppy eliminating on the floor, harsh physical punishment is not necessary.) Rubbing his no in it, scolding, or hitting will only teach him to avoid you when he feels the need to go; it can also teach the puppy to find hidden areas in the house to go to the bathroom.
  8. Accidents do happen. Most dogs cannot be considered reliably house trained until they are at least 6 months to 1 year old. Upsets in schedules, moving to a new house, changes in food, illness, and even teething may contribute to temporary lapses in house training. Outside stress, such as weather changes, may also upset your dogs house training process.
  9. If you don't give your puppy the opportunity to ever eliminate on the floor from the start, he will never know anything but pottying outside.

That being said, below you'll find a few methods for easy house training.

The Crate Training Method

Crate training your puppy, or dog, is one of the most humane and effective forms of house training. The problem is that crate training only works if you have a proper crate. When choosing a crate, you want to make sure that it is only large enough to allow the puppy it sit, lay down, stand up, and turn around. Crates that are too large will teach the dog that it's ok to potty on half of the crate and use the other half to relax. Typically, dogs don't potty where they sleep, so that's the sentiment on that one. When using a crate to house train your dog, you can followe the simple steps below.

Introduce the puppy to the crate.

  1. Hold a treat in your hand and lure the puppy into the crate, speaking gentle words of encouragement.
  2. As the puppy enters the crate, say "Crate" or whatever word you want to use as the crating command, and praise the puppy. (I like using "Kennel" or "Kennel Up")
  3. Leave the door open and allow the puppy to explore the crate.
  4. Repeat this several times during the day until the puppy is comfortable.

Never force the puppy into the crate.

Never use the crate as a form of punishment or yell at the puppy when he is going into the crate.

  • For crate training to be successful, the puppy must view the crate as a refuge and associate it with positive experiences.
  • Add special treats or toys to their crate. Food-stuffed toys work well and make the crate a happier place for the puppy.

Take the puppy outside to eliminate on a regular basis throughout the day.

  1. After the puppy eats, drinks, wakes up from a nap, or finishes a hard play session, put the puppy on a leash and take him outside.
  2. Praise him when he eliminates. Use a potty word to help stimulate the puppy to eliminate. (I like using "Potty" or "Go Potty.")
  3. Immediately take the puppy back inside.
  4. Repeat these steps throughout the day.

Choose a spot outside where you will always have the puppy to eliminate.

Always take the puppy out the same door, as this will encourage him to go to the door to tell you he needs to go.

Do not play with the puppy or cause any distractions while you are waiting for the puppy to go. Place sessions should come at a different time and place.

If the puppy doesn't eliminate in 5-10 minutes, bring him back inside and put him back in the crate. Take him outside again in about 15 to 20 minutes.

Supervise or crate the puppy during the day between trips outside.

  1. After the trip outside, if the puppy went potty, give him 30 minutes or so to play and move around the house while you watch him.
  2. Put the puppy back in the crate for another hour, and then take him outside again.
  3. If you need to leave the house, take the puppy outside before you leave, and then put him in the crate.

Never leave the puppy in the crate for extended periods during the day or evening.

  • At minimum, puppies should be taken out every 2 to 3 hours until they are 4 months old.
  • Between 4 and 6 months old, they need to be taken out at least every 4 to 5 hours.
  • Between 6 to 9 months old, they need to go out at least every 5 to 6 hours.

Keep track of how much time elapses between the time the puppy wakes up, eats, drinks, or finishes playing and the time he actually eliminates. This will help you establish a schedule for taking him to his potty area.

Put the puppy in the crate when the family goes to bed.

  1. Before bedtime, play with the puppy until he is tired.
  2. Take the puppy outside to eliminate on last time.
  3. Then, settle him into his crate for the evening.
  4. In the morning, immediately take the puppy outside.

Turn down the lights when you put the puppy in his crate. This will encourage him to sleep through the night.

Alternate House Training Methods

Crate training is typically the most efficient house training method to use. However, there are other options to crate training.

Paper Training

Paper training is a useful house training technique for pet parents who love in very cold climates and for people who have to be away from home for long periods during the day. Although, if you're main goal is to get the puppy to potty outside, paper training is not really the method for you, as it teaches the puppy to potty inside the house.

  1. Confine the puppy in a small bathroom or enclosed area.
  2. Spread training pads or several layers of newspaper on the floor.
  3. Put a small piece of soiled paper on top to direct the puppy to the right spot. (Some training pads are already treated with an odor that attracts dogs. If you are using this type of pad, you can skip this step.)
  4. As the puppy becomes accustomed to eliminating in one section of the room, gradually remove the pads or newspaper from the rest of the area.

Litter Box Training

Yes, you can litter box train dogs. This method is great for small dogs who's pet parent works long shifts and cannot let the dog outside. It is also great for cold climates.

  1. If the dog is already paper trained, you can use soiled paper or puppy pads enhanced with the special inducing odor. Place the soiled paper or the pad inside a dog litter box. (You can use dog litter or paper within the box.)
  2. If the dog is not paper trained, you can still used a soiled paper towels that you used to clean up a mess to put in the litter box.
  3. After playing, eating, drinking, or napping, lead the dog to the litter box and use the potty word to get him to go.
  4. If he eliminates in the litter box, praise and reward him.
  5. Repeat this every time.
  6. If you have to leave, put the dog in a confined area, such as a bathroom or a puppy pin, and place the litter box in the area with the dog.

For more detailed information about how to litter train your dog, you can check out this link.

Umbilical Cord Training

This method of house training entails using a leash to keep the puppy with you at all times.

  1. Attach one end of the leash to the puppy's collar and the other end to your st or belt loop. (If you are going to be seated for a while, you can attach the leash to the leg of the chair.)
  2. Use treats and praise to encourage the puppy to follow you and stay with you. (Be careful not to let the cord become tangled around the puppy.)
  3. If the puppy shows signs of needing to go to the bathroom, guide him to the door and out to the yard. Encourage the puppy to relieve himself and give him lots of praise when he is done. Remember to use the potty word to help encourage him to go.

Whatever method you use to potty train your puppy, make sure to make it as pleasant as possible. Never use punishment or negativity in potty training puppies.


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    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 7 years ago from Georgia

      Crate training is probably your best option. When you can't watch the pup, kennel it. Once the dog is house trained, it's possible. In a lot of cases, though, dogs use their kennel as safety places and places to be alone. There are many dogs who prefer the kennel.

    • profile image

      cara_806 7 years ago

      I'm fixing to get a 6 month old shih-tzu & I am very excited but "nervous" because I just got new white carpet...So crate training would prob. be the best option right?!

      Doesn't sound cruel...I've just always wanted 2 have a dog that could sleep w/either myself or my after awhile of crate training would it be safe 2 let her sleep w/us?!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      That is good to hear. Good luck.

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      kimaya 8 years ago

      Thank you so much for this information. I have had my dad look over the article and he had agreed that is can be very helpful and has agreed that i can use crate-training as an option when i potty train. Thank you!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      Crate training is the most efficient means of house training, but you're not locking the dog up. The dog is only in the crate when you can't watch it, such as when you're at work or school, or if everyone is busy. The dog just sort of hangs out in the crate, but it can't be left in there all the time. It will need a break.

      Wolves have dens they hide in and seek comfort from, crates are a domestic dog's den. JUst never use it as punishment.

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      kimaya 8 years ago

      I am doing my research as "makenna" and i am getting a puppy here soon and my dad said i will be responsible potty training since i am more often home. I am totally in with crate training but my dad said it is cruel to lock a dog up in a pen. i have had trouble explaining to him the benefits of it. but he still is not in for it. how can i tell him that crate training can help with the house training?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      That is good you're doing you're research.

    • profile image

      Makenna 8 years ago

      Great info. I'm reading up on potty training info for when my parents let me get a dog. the accidents that the puppy have is one reason they aren't really sure about getting a dog. I told my mom some of the info, and i think she feels like she knows it wouldn't happen as much now. Thanks!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      You shouldn't leave food for him to free feed. This can cause a number of problems. YOu should create a schedule so that you feed twice a day, taking the dog out immediately afterwards. Try to take a break and go home to let the puppy out. you should NOT leave him in the bathroom alone for 12 hours without a break. You will have a hard time house training him if you do not let him out properly and if you free-feed.

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      edna 8 years ago

      advice sounds good, but unfortunatley i work from 6 am to 6pm and have my puppy in the bathroom, with food water and toys and blanket. when we come home we take him out right away but he will not do anything outside. when he comes in he goes on floor. any suggestions. HELP can email me at address above

    • safetyfirst profile image

      safetyfirst 9 years ago

      Thanks for the info.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      safetyfirst some dog breeds are characteristically harder to housetrain. For example American Bulldogs are one of the worst to house train, small dogs are pretty hard to house train, as well. I'm not sure how exactly to answer your question. I will say that although American Bulldogs are characteristically very intelligent and easy to train commands, they are just harder to house train, whether it be because of the stubborn or dominance factor, I'm not sure.

      drummer boy yorkies can be very hard to house train, especially if you have an unaltered male. It took me over a year to get my yorkie near reliable, and now that he's getting older he's falling backwards. Definitely put the dog on a feeding schedule, when you let the dog free-feed (leave the bowl down all day) you can have a few problems. 1) You are not stimulating dominance of choosing when the dog will eat, as in packs, the pack leader chooses when the rest of the pack will eat, so by putting the bowl down and removing it in 10-15 minutes, you're stimulating that same feel. And, 2) by letting the dog free-feed, you make it harder to figure out your pups schedule. Just remember that you should feed the dog (depending on age) 2-4 times a day when you set up a feeding schedule.

    • drummer boy profile image

      drummer boy 9 years ago from Kirksville,MO

      Thanks for the information. I have a Yorky and this confirmed a lot of things that I have already heard. Something that I found interesting was actually taking the food away after 10 minutes. I always just left the food there, so I am excited to start this new method thanks. I gave you thumbs up.

    • safetyfirst profile image

      safetyfirst 9 years ago

      Good information. Quick question: How different are dog breeds when it comes to training?