Everyone knows it is vital to housetrain your new puppy or newly adopted adult dog, but there are many different recommendations out there as to which way is best. Below I have outlined my plan for housetraining your puppy or dog in as little time as possible.
Step 1: Make sure to prevent future accidents.
Your puppy or dog needs to be in one of these three scenarios at all times until they are fully housetrained (meaning there are no longer any accidents occurring inside the house at any time):
- Outside under supervision (so you can reward with a treat immediately after your dog is done pottying—not when they come inside).
- Inside under constant supervision (this means you are directly engaged in watching them, not that they are in the same general area while you watch T.V. It only takes a second for them to wander off and do their business).
- Confined in a crate or dog-proofed space.
If you are gone longer than your puppy can hold it in their crate, then create a long term confinement area that is relatively small, puppy proofed, has their bed, water and yes, an area that is acceptable for them to go potty (typically bathrooms or laundry rooms are well suited for long term confinement areas). The rule of thumb with puppies is they can hold it for about 1 hour per month they are old. Ex. A 2 month old puppy generally can hold it in their crate for 2 hours. Each puppy is different, so make sure to be observant of your own individual puppy’s needs.
Though this step takes the most time, planning and energy, it is well worth it when you don’t have to continually find accidents in the house throughout your dog’s lifetime.
*Tip: Baby gates are helpful for cutting off access to rooms you cannot supervise.
Step 2: Take your puppy/dog out regularly and reward them for pottying outside.
I strongly recommend an actual yummy food reward, not just praise. Most puppies find food much more motivating than praise and this will speed your progress in housetraining. They start to think, “What?! You mean I can exchange my pee or poop outside for yummy treats- I want to do that all the time!” Examples of yummy treats include any soft and smelly treat you can buy at your local pet store, diced cheddar cheese, boiled chicken, etc. If it is safe for your puppy to eat and they love it, use it!
I also recommend taking your puppy or dog out on leash to the area you want them to go potty and simply give them 3-5 minutes to do their business. (Don’t talk to them or pet them, just ignore them and let them focus). If they do not potty, take them back inside, put them in their crate, wait 10 minutes and try again. Repeat as necessary. Once they do potty and you have treated them, you can then let them off leash and play with them. This will teach your dog to potty quickly when let outside.
Step 3: Don’t punish accidents!
This is a vital step and is one main difference in modern housetraining programs as opposed to old-fashioned programs. Traditionally owners were told to bring their dogs to the accident and either rub their nose in it or hit them with a newspaper, no matter how long ago the accident occurred. This is detrimental for several reasons and does not typically have the effect we intend. First of all, our dogs cannot remember what they did an hour ago, five minutes ago, 1 minute ago, etc. They are very much in the moment—action, immediate consequence. Punishing your dog after the fact only serves to make them worried about you and when you might fly off the handle for seemingly no reason. This may end up doing lasting damage to your relationship.
If you do punish your dog in the exact moment they are pottying in the house, they do not learn that it is not okay to go inside, they learn it is not safe to go in front of you. Which means you might end up with a dog that hides behind the couch to eliminate, or even worse eats their feces to get rid of the evidence.
If you find an accident after the fact, simply clean it up with an enzymatic cleaner and vow to keep a closer eye on your dog in the future (this accident means you didn’t follow step 1). If you catch your dog in the act of pottying, try to interrupt the process (picking him up if he’s small, or clapping and urgently saying “outside, outside, outside” can help interrupt your dog without scaring him). Reward your dog if they finish potting outside and then put them away in their crate with a yummy treat while you clean up the mess. *This is not a punishment, it is simply keeping them out of your way while you properly clean up the mess.
Step 4: Write up a schedule for taking Fido outside.
This is especially important if you have a multi-person household– physically write this down and put it up on your fridge. This lets everyone know when they are expected to take the puppy or dog outside so it doesn’t get overlooked. That being said, if your puppy or dog looks like they need to potty, take them out; even if the last time was 30 minutes ago!
Times that our puppies/dogs need to go out: first thing in the morning, 10-15 minutes after eating or drinking, after playing or chewing on something, after waking up from a nap, just before bed—yes it is a lot when they are young. Schedule taking your puppy or dog out every hour or two at first and adjust as needed.
*Tip: Feeding your puppy regular meals (like breakfast, lunch and dinner) instead of letting them munch all day will help you know when they typically need to potty.
Step 5: Be Patient!
This can be a process, especially if your puppy or dog has had a long history of having accidents in the house. If your dog continues to have accidents in the house, then clearly they don’t “know” they need to potty outside. If you have gone 30 days in a row without an accident, you can begin to loosen up your protocol. If an accident occurs, take a step back.
Remember: be consistent in supervising your dog inside and taking them outside regularly, reward generously for success outside and clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleaner. Before you know it, this problem will be a thing of the past and you can enjoy a lifetime with a dog who potties outside instead of on your rug.
*Tip: I mentioned to clean up any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner rather than just any old carpet cleaner. The reason for this is that non-enzymatic carpet cleaners typically just get the stain and smell out to the human nose, but to our dogs it can still smell like a bathroom. Enzymatic cleaners on the other hand completely eradicate the smell even to our pets, making it more likely that they won’t be tempted to potty there again. Brands to check out are: Nature’s Miracle, Get Serious and Sunny and Honey Professional Stain and Odor Eliminator.