Puppy House Training Basics

Joanna Flower on 6/6/2008

House training is a concern for all new puppy owners. No one wants puppy poo on their new rug. As a new puppy owner you will be exposed to many different styles of house training, some good and some bad. This article explains how you can house train your new puppy using positive reinforcement. Positive Reinforcement uses treats and praise to teach your dog wanted behavior. For example, if your puppy eliminates in an appropriate area he receives gentle praise and a food reward. By giving a treat and praise you are telling you puppy “good job” for eliminating in his appropriate area. Your puppy is more likely to repeat the behavior in order to receive more praise and another treat.

When we begin to house train a new puppy your puppy has homework and so do you. Your homework starts with a “potty schedule”. A potty schedule allows for a set time for specific activities, which means you will be able to predict when your puppy has to eliminate. Potty schedules start in the morning and end at bed time. Scheduled activities should include crate time, play time and feeding time. Puppies will usually eliminate 10-15 minutes after eating or drinking and right after coming out of or going into their crate. Crate time includes over night stays and nap time. It is very important that everyone in the household follows our potty schedule.

Now that you have a potty schedule, you must choose a spot outside that will be our puppy’s “potty place”. A potty place is an area where the puppy goes to eliminate only. This way you can differentiate potty time from play time. The puppy should go to his potty place on leash with his owner. You keep your puppy on leash so you can encourage him with gentle praise and treats when he eliminates (you want to link the praise and treats with the action of eliminating). When he does eliminate say “go potty” or “go pee pee”. Remember that puppies can be distracted very easily so if a squirrel looks at your puppy he may forget that he has to go potty. This is a common frustration felt by new puppy owners “he was outside for 15 minutes and as soon as he came back in the house he pooped on the carpet”. Well there are no squirrels inside looking at your puppy and then he remembers he has to go potty. What can you do to avoid these accidents? Try to keep your puppies mind on the task at hand. Tell him to go potty when he is distracted or walk him away from the stimuli. Keep an eye on him when you come back inside so you can look for potty signals. Tethering him to your belt buckle so he can follow you allows you to watch him closely and can have an added benefit of helping with leash training. If you are unable to watch him put him in his crate.

Crate training is a very useful tool when potty training a puppy. Usually if a puppy’s crate is the appropriate size he will not urinate or defecate in it. His crate should be large enough for him to turn around and stand up comfortably. A crate can be used for over night stays and nap time. Keep in mind that puppies can “hold it” for as many hours as their age in months plus one. For example a three month old puppy should not be expected to hold it for more than four hours.

How do you know your puppy has to eliminate? Well, you have your potty schedule, your potty place and your crate time, now you need your “ohhh the puppy has to pee” time. Being able to recognize signals that a puppy has to eliminate is very important. A puppy may wander off on his own, sniff the floor and circle or, while playing with a toy, stop and urinate (puppies often have to eliminate after playing and chewing). Remember to always keep an eye on your puppy. If your puppy is playing hard with a toy and he takes a break have him go outside to his potty place. If he wanders off or starts to sniff and circle, take him to his potty place. Remember the treats!

Avoid any accidents by following your potty schedule, and use tools such as crates, commands and positive reinforcement. What do you do if you have followed your schedule and watched for signals and your puppy still has an accident? Accidents are a very normal part of potty training. Remember your pup has no idea that pooping on the rug is inappropriate. If you catch your puppy eliminating inside interrupt the behavior with a clap of the hands or an “uh oh”. Do not scare the puppy. Take your puppy to his potty place, encourage elimination with “go potty” and reward him when he goes. Punishment should never be a part of potty training. You want to associate potty training with praise and treats. If you are using punishment, your puppy may associate the act of eliminating in front of you with the punishment. This may cause your puppy not to eliminate in front of you even when outside in his potty area. No putting your pup’s nose in his own fecal matter.

Always remember to be patient. Potty training takes time and consistency. Everyone in the household has to work together. Love your puppy and everything will come with time.