House training a puppy is one of the most frustrating – but important- parts of dog ownership. It requires a great investment of time, a lot of patience, and plenty of cleaning supplies. It is important to remember that house training doesn’t have to be difficult – dogs have a natural aversion to messing in “their” space, so with the right scheduling, preparation, and attitude, house training can be far less stressful than owners anticipate.
What You Will Need
- A feeding schedule
- A yard or outdoor space your puppy can call her own
- A crate or small area to use for confinement training
- Cleaning supplies
Successful house training is rooted in a schedule. Keeping your dog on a regular schedule of feeding, walking, eliminating, and sleeping will help give the dog structure, and will teach her the appropriate times to go. Puppies possess a reflex called the "gastro-colic reflex,” which means when a pup eats a meal, the stomach is stimulated, which in turn stimulates the lower bowels. This is why dogs usually feel the need to defecate about 30 minutes after eating.
Because of this reflex, veterinarians recommend that puppies be fed at regular scheduled times. Knowing that your dog will likely need to relieve themselves after eating, you can then take her outside after a meal. It is not recommended to allow your puppy access to food all day long, as this makes more work for owners since they then have to be prepared to take their pet out every time the pup eats something.
Take your puppy out after each meal, first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. You should also be sure to hurry your puppy outdoors after she wakes from a nap, when you return from short trips and your puppy has been left alone, or when your puppy begins to pace or circle the floor.
When you take your dog outside, be sure to go with her. You can’t expect her to know what to do if you just open the back door and shoo her outside.
Dogs learn by association. Pick one or two areas of the yard that are appropriate for your dog to use as her “bathroom” areas. When she urinates or defecates, praise her as if she’s just won the Nobel Prize and then bring her indoors immediately. This way, she will associate eliminating outdoors with receiving praise.
Always stick with positive reinforcement. Do not ever punish your puppy for messing in the house, as she will not be able to associate the punishment with the behavior. Yelling at your dog, spanking your dog, or rubbing her nose in the mess will only make her fearful of you. If she has an accident, remove her from the room, and clean up the mess out of her sight. If you catch your dog “in the act,” pick her up and take her outdoors immediately. Praise her when she finishes in the appropriate spot.
If you work for eight hours a day and you can’t get home to let your puppy outside, confinement can be a useful house training tool. Crate training is especially helpful, or, if you don’t have a crate, confine the dog to a bathroom while you are at work.
If these steps are followed consistently, house training should take no longer than 1-2 weeks. If it takes longer, you can consult your veterinarian for more advice. Consistency is the key to house training. Set a schedule and stick with it. If you can’t be home to stick with the schedule, ask a friend or neighbor to step in for you to ensure your dog is fed and let out at the same time each day. Remove your puppy’s water dish about two hours before bed time. This will reduce the chances that she has to get up to go in the middle of the night. If your dog does wake you, simply get up, take her outdoors and bring her right back inside. Don’t interact with her, as she will think it’s time to play.