How to House Train a Puppy

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Puppy on a potty training pad

Getting a new dog is always a happy and exciting experience. As you are welcoming a new member to your family, it can be easy to forget about the unpleasant part. You will now have to housetrain your puppy, and that can be a very frustrating task.

So, let’s go over some of the essential concepts of housetraining so that you can get through this stage with as little aggravation as possible.

How Long Does It Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

It is hard to put a definite time frame on the process of training a puppy. It will depend on several factors, including:

  • How stubborn that particular puppy might be
  • The amount of time devoted to housetraining
  • Your ability to communicate with your dog

Of those three factors, two of them are completely within your control. You cannot control the attitude of your puppy, but you can definitely control your actions. In most cases, this will be enough.

As a tentative time frame, we would say that your puppy should be house trained by six months of age. At that point, you may still see the occasional “accident,” but they should at least be complying most of the time.

When to Start Potty Training?

There are many opinions on this subject. Some people say that it’s never too early to start teaching a dog where to use the bathroom. While this attitude isn’t totally incorrect, you must understand that young puppies do not have the physical capacity to control their bladder and bowels. They also lack the mental development to understand commands and patterns in the way that older puppies would do.

Portrait of a little dog.

Because of this, most authorities say that you should begin potty training at twelve weeks. For some pups that show exceptional responsiveness, you might start at eleven weeks, but no sooner than that. If you start too soon, you will only confuse your dog.

Steps for Housetraining Your Puppy

There are several steps that you can take to make the house training process much easier. Here are four of the most important:

Regular Feeding

Anything that you can predict is something that you can control. Thus, if you want to be able to predict your dog’s bathroom habits, you need to give them a consistent feeding time.

In many ways, this is a no-brainer. Defecation and urination are the results of eating and drinking, so you can always predict that one will follow the other. The only trick lies in finding the right interval between them. If your dog always goes to the bathroom about 15-20 minutes after eating/drinking, you know about when they need to go outside.

Create A Schedule

Once you have established a consistent feeding time, you can gradually figure out a schedule by which you can control your dog’s bathroom habits. Dogs respond well to consistency, so go ahead and take that concept to the maximum extent.

We already mentioned the importance of meal timing, but you should also establish a routine for yourself. For instance, you should always get in the habit of taking your dog out first thing in the morning. You should also establish proper milestones to keep track of your puppy’s progress.

Keep It Consistent

When you take your dog outside, you should always make sure to take them to the same spot. Again, dogs respond well to consistency and this is another way to give it to them.

Cute black small dog pissing or wee on grass.

Reward Generously

When you want to teach anything, you have two basic options: Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. These might also be described as rewards and punishments. Many dog owners concentrate too much on punishments and not enough on rewards. In our experience, positive reinforcement generally produces better results. That is why you should always reward good behavior with plenty of treats and praise.

Supervise Your Puppy

When you are in the process of house training your dog, it is important to give the dog close and constant supervision.

You should definitely limit your pup’s movement during this phase of the process. If they are allowed to wander around, they will be likely to do their business in the closest dark corner. For extreme cases, you could try some crate training. This will limit your dog’s movement to an extreme degree, so don’t do this for more than a few weeks.

A long leash will do a lot of good, as it will make your dog feel like they have a little more privacy. Dogs don’t need a whole lot of privacy, so that should be good enough. Nevertheless, you should watch your dog and learn their habits so that you can recognize when they are about to relieve themselves.

When You’re Away

This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of potty training. It is always much harder to deal with behavior problems that occur when you are not home. However, there are several things you can do to ease this frustrating problem.

You could get some help from your friends or neighbors. Obviously, you have to make sure that you can trust these people. If this is not an option, you might consider training your dog to use a bed of newspaper when you aren’t home. If you go this route, use a large plastic tray to deal with any excess.

Puppy Pads and Paper Training

As we mentioned earlier, puppy pads and newspapers are very useful things. If you cannot take your dog outside to use the bathroom, this is the next best thing.

Puppy on absorbent puupy training pad.

It is easy to acquire old newspapers, so don’t worry too much about that part. You can go to your local newspaper office and get as much as you want. Most of the time, they will give this stuff away.

Obviously, you need some kind of a tray in which to place the newspaper. Otherwise, you will end up with a big mess on your hands, defeating the entire purpose of the newspaper. Puppy pads can also be used in place of newspaper, or you can put it on top of the newspaper. These pads are impregnated with a scent that makes a dog want to soil it, and so it can provide a little extra push in the right direction.

Of course, there are some downsides to this method as well. For one thing, you will have to be sure to change the newspaper on a regular basis. Ideally, you should change the paper every time it becomes soiled, but this is probably not a practical option for you. Instead, change the newspaper every other day, and that should be enough.

The main thing to watch here is the attitude of the dog. You should not try to train a dog in two ways at the same time, so don’t paper-train your dog until they have learned to go outside. In other words, make sure they master one concept before you try to introduce a new one.

Using a Crate to House Train Puppy

This is a method that is used when all other methods have failed. It’s harsh, and a little unpleasant for the dog, but it should solve even the most stubborn house training issues.

Labrador puppy chocolate color lies on the parquet floor near the cage.

Of course, there are several things that need to be considered. First, make sure your dog has enough room to move around. They should at least be able to turn around and lie down, and you should give them a blanket or an old pillow to make it a little easier on them. You must also make sure that they have regular access to fresh water.

In the end, timing is the most important aspect of this method. Your dog will be inclined to hold their functions, but they can only do it for so long. Thus, you need to make sure that you take them outside at the right time. Otherwise, they may soil their cage. If this happens, they may even get used to the filth. If this happens, the crate training will be ruined.

Handle Accidents Calmly

This part has a lot more to do with your attitude than with your dog’s behavior. When you are house training your dog, you can bet that there will be some frustrating moments. When this happens, it is important to keep your cool and resist the urge to lose your temper.

Negative reinforcement doesn’t tend to work very well here, so you shouldn’t go any further than a scolding. Physical discipline will probably just confuse the animal, as they are just doing what comes naturally for them. Instead, interrupt the dog as they are doing their business and take them to the right spot. This might very well make a mess, but you’re just going to have to deal with that problem. It’s part of owning a dog.

When using the right spot, reward your puppy. This will create a positive association in the mind of the dog.

Final Thoughts

It would be no exaggeration to say that this is the most difficult part of training your puppy. No other aspect of dog training is quite so messy and frustrating, so you should be very glad when it’s finally done.

By following the advice in this article, you can get a very good start. However, we would also urge you to pay attention to the behavioral cues that your dog shows in response to the training. Based on this feedback, you can tell if your dog is getting the idea, and thus gauge your progress.