Preventing mistakes is an essential element of your housetraining plan. The way to do this is to supervise or confine puppy 100% of the time. Take puppy out often, particularly after eating, playing, napping, or chewing. Learn the signs that puppy needs out, and react calmly and quickly. say “outside” in a pleasant tone and gently and immediately take puppy outside.
Direct supervision is necessary any time that puppy is not confined. When supervising puppy make sure that your eyes are on her all the time, and that you are taking her out whenever she changes activities, seems like she might need to go, and when it has been a while since she was last out.
- STICK TO A SCHEDULE: What goes in, must come out. Feeding puppy regular meals makes it easier to predict when he’ll need out. You can relax the schedule once you have mastered housetraining. Always have fresh water available.
- TAKE PUPPY OUT OFTEN: Take puppy out after eating, playing, napping, chewing, greetings, excitement, and after any confinement.
- KEEP A LOG: Track when puppy goes so that you can learn her routine. This will help you learn her signs and also to predict when she may need to be taken out.
- MEASURE PROGRESS: Count your accidents, and see them be fewer each week. That’s how you’ll know whether your plan is working or if you need help.
CLEAN UP MESSES PROMPTLY
While many products will cover up odor to our satisfaction, only an enzymatic cleaner will properly break down the odors that make soiled areas so attractive to puppy as a potty spot. Don’t skimp on cleaner, and if you are not sure you have found all soiled areas consider using a black-light to illuminate them.
Always be aware of where puppy is, how long she must be there, and who is the person responsible for preventing (and therefore cleaning up) mistakes.
CRATING is a very good short-term confinement technique that will help your puppy housetrain more quickly. General guidelines for appropriate daytime crating limits are
~ 8 – 10 weeks old: 1 hour
~ 11 – 12 weeks old: 2 hours
~ 13 – 16 weeks old: 3 hours
~ 4 – 6 months old: 4 hours
LONG TERM CONFINEMENT areas are helpful when you need to confine your puppy for longer than she can be expected to hold it in her crate. Set up an easy to clean, puppy-proof room such as a kitchen or bathroom blocked off with baby gates. Put a potty area (potty pads; litter box with sod) at one end and your puppy’s open crate, water, and chew toys at the other. This is not ideal but much better than giving puppy no choice but to soil his crate.
Consider hiring a dog walker or responsible neighbor to take puppy out if confinement will be for more than four hours at a time.
DID YOU KNOW that puppies develop preferences for eliminating on particular types of surfaces early on? Make sure the habits you develop are the ones you want! Practice going potty both on leash and off, in a particular part of your yard, and also off your property. Practice on grass, dirt, gravel, and any other surface you want puppy to be comfortable using.
Avoid accidents on carpet to prevent this preference from forming. This may require temporarily removing area rugs and runners from your home while puppy is learning.
REWARDING SUCCESS is an essential element of your housetraining plan. Instead of letting puppy outside and hoping he will figure it out on his own, always go with him. That way you can witness and celebrate his appropriate eliminations. Set him up to do the right thing by taking him outside often, then reward your handsome little genius as soon as he goes in the right place.
The trick to rewarding puppy for pottying is timing. You want the reward to come soon enough that he associates the reward with the behavior, but not so early that the reward interrupts his business-doing. Your goal is to begin rewarding within one or two seconds of him finishing.
The best rewards come as a surprise. Keep treats and toys in your pocket until the deed is done.
GIVE A TREAT as a terrific reward for successful pottying. Try some chicken or steak, or even a little bit of cheese. Remember, keep treats tasty and tiny.
PLAY TUG if you have a dog who goes crazy for this game. If that’s your girl, stash a toy with those treat bags.
TOSS A BALL if your dog likes to chase. Have a few rounds of retrieve and let your best friend know how happy you are.
START A WALK around the neighborhood as soon as puppy goes potty. That’s right, peeing starts the adventures!
LET OFF LEASH if you are in a safe area, like a fenced yard, you can unclip the leash and say “go play” when puppy is done. Powerful.
THROW A PUPPY PARTY (we’d be happy to demonstrate). Rest assured that your neighbors will think you’ve finally gone off the deep end.
For super–speedy learning the moments before pottying must be boring. Take your puppy out on leash. Don’t start a walk, don’t play, and don’t allow exploration until puppy goes potty. Then REWARD!
Be careful not to accidentally teach puppy that going potty means that the fun ends. Don’t go straight back inside (weather permitting). Do fun stuff for at least a few minutes outside. BONUS: Sometimes puppy didn’t completely empty, so this gives him another chance.
If you take puppy out and he doesn’t go within the first few minutes, take him back to his crate for 15 – 30 minutes then try again. If you think puppy is full, don’t risk an accident. Set up for success.
Housetraining will be difficult if your puppy is infested with intestinal parasites (worms) or has a urinary tract infection or other medical issue. Start your housetraining plan with a checkup.
If you are following your housetraining plan and see no progress, ask us for help in the forum or at your next class. If there is still no improvement, speak with your veterinarian.
SO WHAT’S THE NEWSPAPER FOR?
In another century, we might have glibly answered “reading the news”. As that joke is a little outdated, we’ll have to revert to the old trainer answer of: smacking yourself on the head while saying “I must supervise my puppy.”
In all seriousness: Is there any place for punishment in the housetraining plan for your puppy?
I’m sure that you have already heard that punishing puppy after the fact for puddles and piles is absolutely useless. But what about if you catch her in the act? Punishing puppy while she is going potty on your rug will do more harm than good, as she will simply learn not to potty in front of you. This can make your housetraining efforts much more difficult. Anything that frightens puppy at this age can cause all sorts of problems down the line. You and your puppy will be much better off with a sensible plan that combines avoiding accidents and rewarding successful eliminations.
If you really do catch her in the act (and you will, if you are supervising correctly) immediately say an upbeat “outside” and gently rush her to her potty spot. The goal is to effectively interrupt without scaring puppy. Time and consistency will have your puppy nicely housetrained.