No matter what you call it - potty training, house-training or housebreaking - your new puppy will need it. And accidents are just part of the process. In fact, accidents are a common reason dogs are re-homed or end up in shelters. Potty training takes time, patience, understanding, attention, consistency and commitment. But with those and a few tactics, you can get your dog house-trained in as little as a few weeks. Here are tips on how to potty train your new dog or puppy and other relevant information.
When to Begin House Training Puppy
It's recommended that you start potty training your puppy between 12 and 16 weeks of age. This is because, at this time, your pup will have enough control over his or her bladder and bowel movements to learn to hold it.
Pro Tip: Puppies older than 12 weeks of age who have been going to the bathroom in a crate or kennel may take longer to house train because you'll have to change their behavior through positive reinforcement.
Establish A Regular Schedule
Like adult dogs, puppies thrive on routine. Because of this, it's a good idea to establish a regular schedule to teach them when it's time to do their business (as well as when it's time to eat, play, sleep, etc.).
1. Take your puppy outside regularly and frequently.
It's recommended that you take your pup out every two hours. In general, puppies can hold their bladder for about one hour per month of age. So a two month old can probably hold it for two hours, a three month old for three, and so on. It's best to stick to this guideline for a better chance at avoiding accidents.
Pro Tip: If your puppy doesn't relieve his or herself when you take them outside, go inside and come back out again in a few minutes.
2. Pick a regular bathroom spot outside.
Always take your puppy to that spot and try to head out the same door every time.
3. Use a voice command or cue while your puppy is relieving themselves.
This will help your dog learn to associate going to the bathroom outside with it. For example, you can use "potty" or "go potty" "pee,""piddle," etc.
Pro Tip: Keep your puppy on a leash (even if you have a fenced in yard) so you can see what's going on and react immediately.
4. Reward your puppy every time they eliminate outside.
Offer treats immediately after your puppy finishes. This helps your dog associate going to the bathroom outside with positive experiences, teaching them this is the way to do it. This step is vital.
Pro Tip: You can also use verbal praise or pets as a reward, but studies have shown that treats work better.
5. Maintain a regular feeding schedule.
Feeding your puppy at the same time every day increases the chances that they will go to the bathroom at consistent times too.
Pro Tip: Avoid feeding your puppy within two hours of bedtime to decrease the chances that he or she needs to go out in the middle of the night.
Specific Times To Take Your Puppy Out
1. Right Before Bed
It's best to take your puppy out right before bed, to give them the best chance to make it through the night. Many puppies can sleep for seven hours a night without needing a potty break, since they aren't being active.
If your puppy does wake up to pee, don't make a big deal of it. Turn on as few lights as possible, take your puppy out, use your cues and rewards, then return to bed.
Pro Tip: Place your puppy's crate in or near your bedroom so you can hear your dog whine, which is his or her way of telling you they need to go out.
2. After Waking Up And Naps
It's also best to take your pup out right away after waking up. Not only will there will be more urgency for them after holding for so long, but starting each day the same way helps establish a routine for your puppy.
Naps also require a potty break afterwards. Think of them as a shorter version of your morning routine, where you take your puppy out to pee right after waking up.
3. After Eating Or Drinking
Puppies tend to eat three to four meals a day when growing and most will need to go out after eating. It's recommended you only wait between five and 30 minutes to take your puppy out after meals - the younger the puppy, the sooner after a meal they should be taken out.
In addition, keep an eye (or ear) out for when your puppy drinks water. They'll likely need to go out soon after this too, just like mealtime.
Pro Tip: Pick up your puppy's water bowl at night, about two and a half hours before bedtime, to decrease the chances they'll need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
4. After Playtime
Playing is exciting for puppies and this can stimulate the digestive tract or cause a loss of bladder control. Ever met a puppy who peed when greeting you? That's often from excitement. So try to give your puppy potty breaks during playtime and take them out right after.
Signs Your Puppy Needs To Go To The Bathroom
Ways To House Train Your Dog
1. Crate Training
Crates are a very effective tool when it comes to potty training. It works because, in general, dogs are clean creatures who don't want to sit in a urine-soaked crate. The key is to have the right size crate. You'll want one that is just large enough for your dog to lie down, stand up and turn around, but not so large that they can use the corner to urinate and lie down away from the mess. When you hear your dog whining or scratching, they are telling you they need to go out. Take your dog out immediately so as not to teach him or her that it's okay to go in their crate.
Pro Tip: If you're iffy on using a crate, just remember that dogs are den animals that often find comfort and security in having a space of their own. And you can easily train your dog to like the crate using positive reinforcement and rewards.
2. Paper Training
Paper training involves the use of puppy pads and paper. This gives your dog an approved spot inside to go. But this method can be a little challenging because you are reinforcing two different options - the approved area inside and outside. You may end up running between puppy pads and taking your dog out every hour or two.
To use puppy pads for house training, place several in a designated area (ideally near your dog's bed or crate). Change the pad when your dog uses it, but place a scrap of the soiled one on the fresh pad. This will help remind your dog that the pads are for going to the bathroom. Once your dog is peeing in the same area, slowly migrate the pads towards the door where they go out to the bathroom. Do so by taking the pads closest to the bed or crate and placing them a little farther out each time your dog shows they are peeing in the right spot. Continue removing pads until there are just one or two left.
Dealing With Accidents
Accidents can occur with puppies up to one year of age. Don't scold or punish your pup for having an accident, because that will teach your dog to fear you. Clean the accident by first soaking up the urine with paper towels and then use cleaners to finish the job. Make sure to use thorough cleaners that remove the odor completely so your dog doesn't return to the spot to pee again.
If you catch your dog mid-accident, get their attention or pick them up and take them out to finish their business. Make sure to applaud them when they do go to the bathroom outside. Using positive reinforcement has been shown to be highly successful in potty training.
In addition, you may want to consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker if you can't be home during the day. This will allow your dog to continue house training, even if you can't be the one to do it.
Pro Tip: If your house training doesn't seem to be working, you may want to see a vet to rule out any health issues or conditions (like urinary tract infections), that can cause bladder control problems in dogs.
How Long Does House Training Take?
There is no set timeframe for how long it takes to potty train a dog and many factors can affect the timeline - such as your dog's age, size, breed and history as well as what methods you use and how consistent you are. Think about how different the body and behavior of a 2 month old puppy is from a 5 month old. Some dogs take weeks, others take months. But your dog will get there with some patience, consistency and love.