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The puppy stage is so fun and exciting, but it can be a total pain at times. Especially when trying to house train your dog to potty outside.
One of the first and most important steps a dog owner takes to prepare for a happy and healthy life is house training of a puppy or adult dog.
Some pups are just more difficult than others, though.
If you are a proud new parent of an adorable beautiful puppy or dog and you are wondering how to housebreak a puppy or how to house train an adult dog, this post is especially for you.
These tips for house training a puppy will help you keep your sanity while housebreaking a tough-to-train dog.
House Training Essentials You NEED
When Dan had Ginger, she house trained herself and NEVER had an accident.
Roxy wasn’t quite as easy, but she was still housebroken in about two weeks.
We had already decided not to get another puppy and focus on older rescue dogs, but…
When Rico was found, he was living in a box with 5 other puppies on the side of the road.
He was extremely young at only around 5 weeks old and hadn’t learned about not pottying where he sleeps.
Housebreaking a rescued street puppy was really difficult!
Ri was a pretty fearful boy, which made total sense, given his rough start to life. He was afraid of loud noises and scared of the dark.
Our house backed up to a highway that was noisy pretty much all the time. There was one night shortly after his rescue where Rico WOULD. NOT. POTTY.
Dan and I sat outside with him for over an hour trying to coax him to go potty. We finally took a break and all went inside, only for him to immediately pee then poop on the floor!
Another of Rico’s pre-potty training favorite moves was what I referred to as the fire hydrant.
He would be out in the patio playing with Roxy (because he was too afraid to step into the yard except for the occasional potty-sesh) and they’d be running and chasing each other.
All of a sudden they would get zoomies and dash around the living room when he’d start peeing while running!
Picture two crazy puppies zooming around, with one awkwardly spraying pee everywhere, me running after them trying to catch Rico and carry him outside, and Ginger just laying there like what the heck happened to my chill life?!?
I even considered getting him a dog diaper for a while there! Thankfully, I did plenty of research into how to train your dog to pee outside.
He did eventually learn the appropriate place to go to the bathroom was OUTSIDE and stopped having accidents inside the house.
House training your puppy or dog is about consistency, patience, attention, understanding and positive reinforcement.
The house training process does not have to be stressful for you or the puppy because the goal is to introduce good habits and build a loving bond with your pet.
Puppies don’t have the innate sense to know they need to potty outside.
If they haven’t learned where appropriate potty spots are, they’ll look for any spot that’s available.
That means they may try to sneak off to potty on rugs, carpeting, or even loads of laundry they may stumble onto!
Training a puppy to pee outside is the most important thing you can teach your dog.
How to Housebreak a Puppy
The most important part of house training a dog is consistency.
Create a routine and stick to it so they know what to expect each day.
When R&R were puppies, we would wake up in the morning and immediately go potty, then after, I would feed them, then let them out again.
Eventually, once they were older I was able to drop the first potty session and let them out after eating, but it set the foundation for when and where they were expected to go relieve themselves.
Young dogs tend to have extremely short attention spans. A puppy is usually fully trained within 4-6 months, but some puppies may take up to a year.
If you have a small breed dog, keep in mind that they have tiny little bladders!
They’ll need more frequent trips outside as compared to large breeds.
Your puppy’s past living conditions are another aspect that plays a part in how easy or difficult house training can be, like in our case with Rico.
When to Start House Training Your Puppy
The perfect time to start house training your puppy is the day they enter your home! That will help them build a solid foundation to house train more easily.
If your dog is younger than 12 weeks, you can use pee pads and keep them close to the area you want them to potty.
You could also try carrying your dog to the spot in the yard that will eventually be their potty location.
Once they reach 12 weeks old, they will start to have more control over their bladder and bowel movements to learn to hold it a little longer each day.
House Training Step By Step
Build a Routine
When your puppy drinks water, it pretty much runs right through them because they have such small bladders.
The same applies to their food. As a general guideline, your furry little companion can control his bladder during the day one hour per month of age.
So for example, a 3-month-old puppy can typically hold their pee and poop for about three hours.
During the night, they can hold it a bit longer. Most 3-month-old puppies can hold it for 5-6 hours overnight.
Set a Consistent Feeding Schedule
Keeping your puppy on a consistent feeding schedule is a great way to get them on a good potty schedule as well!
Feed their meals at the same times each day, and take away food between meals.
Some owners like to free feed their dogs, where food is available at all times. That has some downsides though, as it makes it harder to get them on a schedule.
It also can lead to overeating. Another downside is that it may take longer to notice if your dog has a health issue that’s been causing them to eat less.
A feeding schedule should be formulated based on their age. Puppies are generally fed 3 to 4 times a day.
Feeding your puppy at the same time each day will increase the likelihood of eliminating it at the same time, making the potty training easier for both of you.
Pull up all the food and water around 3 hours before bedtime. This will help them stay empty longer so they aren’t waking you up 4-5 times a night!
Reward Your Puppy For A Good Job
You should take your puppy outside to the same area every time they need a bathroom break.
If they potty in a few minutes, give them praise as soon as they are finished.
Don’t immediately take your puppy back to their crate, which can be interpreted as punishment.
Instead, choose a 10-minute playtime under close supervision before letting them rest in a crate.
Now, if they don’t go potty, calmly put them in their crate for a short time. Then in 5-10 minutes, take them back out and try again.
Treats For Positive Reinforcement
The biggest help in house training a puppy is using high-value treats and vocal praise. This will vary between dogs, but Rico’s love language was BACON!
For months I made sure I always had bacon in the house and would cook some up a few times a week then break it up into tiny pieces.
Throughout the day, we would try to spend as much time in the yard as possible to make it less scary for Ri, and he would get a bit of bacon every time he went potty in the yard.
He learned to look forward to going into the scary yard as it was worth it for his favorite bacon. Sure, it’s not the healthiest snack, but in small amounts it was well worth it!
Consider Crate Training Your Dog
Some dogs do fantastic with crate training and learn to view it as their safe spot in the house. This wasn’t the case with Rico; we figured it might have been a little too similar to his life in a box.
Many dogs do great with a crate that is big enough for them to comfortably turn around and lay down, but not so large they have room to pee in a corner and still avoid it.
This also has the benefit of keeping them from being destructive while you’re away. It can help soothe anxious dogs if introduced to it properly.
Many new dog owners are a bit reluctant to try confining their puppy in a crate, but the reluctance generally fades after a few days of helping them adapt and seeing how the crate becomes their safe spot.
To keep your dog from feeling isolated, keep their dog crate in an area where the family spends the most time, such as the living room.
Put a comfy, water-resistant bed inside just in case.
Once you’ve introduced your puppy to the crate, begin feeding regular meals close to the crate.
For our two, we put their food right outside the door so they were facing it without feeling pressure to enter it.
If they show no signs of being afraid, then you can move onto the next step.
Start feeding them inside the crate with the door open.
Since they were already used to eating near their crate, we gradually moved it further back each day until they were fully inside with the door open.
After your puppy is eating his regular meals inside the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can keep them inside for short periods while you’re home.
If your puppy is very young then you should expect to take the puppy out on the following schedule:
First thing in the morning.
Right after eating
Upon waking up from a nap
After playing indoors
After spending time in a crate
Last thing at night
How to Potty Train an Adult or Senior Dog
Many adult adopted dogs who lived a lonely life outside don’t have housebreaking skills.
House training an older dog can be a different kind of difficult because you don’t know their past or if they were ever trained to potty outside.
It’s very easy to teach an old dog this new trick compared to a puppy, especially if you’re using a crate method.
Try Using A Dog Crate From Day One
You should start using the crate from the first day they come home. Most dogs don’t like having accidents inside, but don’t know any better yet.
When selecting a dog crate, pick one that is comfortably large enough for your dog. They should be able to stand, turn around, and sit upright.
You don’t want to get one that’s too big, though. That gives your dog room to pee or poop on one side without messing up their bedding.
They may continue to use that side as a bathroom if given too much room.
Keep the crate in a high-traffic part of the house, so your dog won’t feel isolated.
Make sure to give your dog plenty of time outside the crate to play, exercise and just hang out with the family.
Most dogs enjoy resting and recharging in safe and closed-off space that resembles a den, especially when trying to find their place in a new family.
Try not to push them too hard to socialize right off the bat. Everything is new and scary so they’re likely terrified!
Choose a place not far from the door to be their potty spot. That makes picking it up so much easier! Take your dog on a leash directly to that potty area.
Don’t distract your dog with games and talk until after they’ve finished peeing and pooping.
You should just stand still and let them circle and sniff. As soon as your pup begins to go, give a command, such as, “Go pee” or “Do your business.”
Take him for a walk or play with him only after eliminating the stool or urine.
If you clean up an accident at home, try leaving a dirty rag or paper towel in the appropriate place you want them to pee or poop. The smell will help your dog to recognize the area as a place to potty.
Why Does My Dog Pee and Poop in the House?
If you’ve got a dog that was fully house trained and suddenly has issues peeing and pooping in the house, consider the possibility of a medical concern.
Infections, some diseases, and some medications can contribute to house soiling.
Change in Diet
If you’ve recently changed the type of food you give your dog, they may develop some short-term gastrointestinal issues that result in accidents.
To prevent this, always change your dog’s diet slowly over the course of a week or two. Start by swapping ¼ cup of new food with their old food. Increase the amount of new food every few days so they adapt slowly.
Sometimes it’s unavoidable, such as when rescuing a dog that had an unknown diet before coming to your home.
They may need to eliminate more frequently than expected until their tummies adapt to the new food.
Incontinence Caused by Medical Problems
Some dogs’ house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog voids his bladder.
Dogs with incontinence issues typically appear unaware that they’ve soiled
Sometimes your dog can eliminate urine while asleep.
A number of medical issues can cause urinary incontinence such as:
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Hormone-related problems after spay surgery
Territorial Urine Marking
Both males and females can do this, and it often happens when they think their territory has been invaded by another dog or are just trying to claim something as their own.
Fears or phobias
Some dogs can unintentionally lose control of their bladder when they are excited, anxious, or feel nervous.
If your dog is scared of loud noises, like thunderstorms or fireworks, they could have an accident when exposed to those sounds.
Dislike of Cold or Rainy Conditions
Some dogs do not like to go outside when it is cold, snowing or raining, so they potty inside the homes when the weather is bad.
To prevent your dog from acquiring this habit, make sure to give them especially yummy treats or high praise when they do go out.
Don’t Yell or Get Angry at Your Dog
Trust me, I know how frustrating it is to have a tough to train dog, but getting angry, yelling, or rubbing their nose in it is definitely not the right course of action.
It can actually have the opposite effect of causing them to have more frequent issues and escalating to hiding it so they don’t get in trouble.
Patience is key here, and you want to reinforce GOOD behavior, not highlight negative actions.
If you catch your puppy mid-accident, don’t punish them.
You should stay calm and quickly try to move your puppy to the spot you want him to go potty.
According to Albert Payson Terhune “This is the magic secret of dog training — lose control over yourself and you at once lose control of the dog, your strongest and the most irresistible weapon is iron patience.”
Have Good Cleaners On Hand
Often, when a dog has gone pee or poop in one spot, they associate that smell with the urge to go.
A good enzyme cleaner can get rid of the smell and stop them from using that spot again.
Nature’s Miracle Cleaner is highly recommended for breaking down the bacteria and getting out smells that entice them to keep going to the bathroom in the same area.
Train Your Dog To Use A Bell
It’s actually fairly easy to house train a dog to use a bell! Simply hang a bell from the door they use to go outside for bathroom time.
Every time you open the door to take them out, give it a ring.
You’ll then want to encourage them to push it with their nose to ring the bell so they associate that with going outside to potty.
Eventually, they’ll be able to alert you when they need to go!
Be Patient, It Won’t Last Forever
Even though the puppy stage can be tough, it’s truly such a short period in their lives.
Now that you know how to house train your dog, you’ll look back and realize you all made it through! Did you have a dog who struggled?
How did you handle how to house train your puppy? Share with us below!