Housetraining 101

Housetraining your dog or puppy requires patience, commitment and lots of consistency – this is all new for your dog and you have to teach him or her what is expected. Accidents are part of the process, but if you follow these basic housetraining guidelines, you can get the newest member of your family on the right track in no time!

Establish a routine

Like little humans, dogs and puppies do best on a regular schedule. The schedule teaches them that there are times to eat, times to play and times to do their business. Generally speaking, a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is two months old, they can hold it for about two hours. Don’t go longer than this between bathroom breaks or you’re guaranteed to have an accident.

  • Take your dog or puppy outside frequently – at least every two hours for puppies – and immediately after they wake up, during and after playing, and after eating or drinking.
  • Pick a bathroom spot outside, and always take your pooch to that spot. While he or she is relieving themselves, use a specific word or phrase that you can eventually use before they go to remind them what to do. Take them out for a longer walk or some playtime only after they have eliminated.
  • Reward your puppy every time they eliminate outdoors. Praise or give treats, but remember to do so immediately after they’ve finished, not after they come back inside. This step is vital, because rewarding your dog for going outdoors is the only way to teach what’s expected of them. Before rewarding, be sure they’re finished. Puppies are easily distracted and if you praise too soon, they may forget to finish until they’re back in the house.
  • Stick to a regular feeding schedule: what goes in on a schedule comes out on a schedule! Feeding at the same times each day will make it more likely that they’ll eliminate at consistent times as well, making housetraining easier for both of you.
  • Pick up the water dish about two and a half hours before bedtime to reduce the likelihood that they’ll need to relieve themselves during the night. Most puppies can sleep for approximately seven hours without needing a bathroom break. If your dog or puppy does wake you up in the night, don’t make a big deal of it; otherwise they will think it is time to play and won’t want to go back to sleep. Turn on as few lights as possible, don’t talk to or play with your puppy, take them out and then return them to bed.

Supervision is key

Don’t give your dog or puppy an opportunity to soil in the house; keep an eye on them whenever they’re indoors.

  • For the first couple of weeks, a new dog of any age should be supervised when he has the full (or even partial) run of the house. 
  • Watch for signs that your pooch needs to go out: barking or scratching at the door, squatting, restlessness, sniffing around or circling. 
  • When you see these signs, immediately take them outside to their bathroom spot. If they eliminate, praise them and reward with a treat.

Mistakes happen

Expect your puppy to have a few accidents in the house – it’s a normal part of housetraining. Here’s what to do when that happens:

  • Interrupt your puppy when you catch them in the act and immediately escort them to their bathroom spot. Praise your pup and give a treat if they finish there.
  • Don’t punish your puppy for eliminating in the house. If you find a soiled area, the mistake is all on you and it’s too late to do anything about it. Just clean it up. Rubbing your puppy’s nose in it, taking them to the spot and scolding them or any other punishment will only make them afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. Punishment will often do more harm than good!
  • It’s more effective to clean up the mess and put it in the designated elimination spot, so the smell will help your dog recognise that this is where to go. Clean the soiled area thoroughly – dogs are highly motivated to continue soiling in areas that smell like urine or faeces. 
  • It’s extremely important that you supervise to minimise the number of accidents. If you allow your dog or puppy to eliminate frequently in the house, they’ll get confused about where they’re supposed to go, which will prolong the housetraining process.