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House Training Your Dog 

Note: Use exactly the same house training methods if you have a dog that was not initially house trained properly. 

Note: If you have a puppy or dog that was doing well and now is having accidents, take your dog to the veterinarian with a urine and/or stool sample to make sure it is not a health problem.

To house train your puppy: 

Your Goals: 

1. For your puppy to eliminate outdoors and not indoors (some people teach their small dogs to use a litterbox - it's taught in the same manner, just teach the litterbox instead of outdoors by taking your dog on leash to the litterbox)

2. For your puppy to  let you know when he needs to go out. 

3. For your puppy to be able to "hold it" until you can get home to take him out. 

The concept "outdoors" is not a very clear one to dogs - they do however become conditioned to eliminate on a certain surface.  So if your puppy gets a lot of opportunities to eliminate on your carpet, he will learn that carpet is where to "go". 

What you need to do is to teach your puppy where to "go" - for example, outside in a certain grassy area or outside on the woodchips.  To teach your puppy this, you need to take him out when he naturally needs to eliminate.  Also, you need to take him to his spot outside on leash (or on a flexi-leash).  Once he "goes" you praise him and give him a treat.  Do not bring him back inside for the treat.  Have a treat in your pocket and give it to him right after he "goes". 

You need to build up a huge "bank account" of praise and rewards for the puppy eliminating in front of you outside.  You want your puppy to learn that eliminating in front of you is good.  A huge mistake that people make is to start out harshly punishing their puppy, even scaring him, for having accidents inside and then letting the puppy outside without accompanying him so he does not get rewarded for eliminating outside.  The huge mistake in this is that the puppy figures out that it is always dangerous to eliminate with you present and always safe to eliminate with you absent.   You, thus, have not been successful in house training as far as teaching outside instead of inside.  You have, however, taught owner absent versus owner present and you now have a dog that will sneak away from you and have accidents in the house.

When you take your puppy out on leash at a time you know he has to go, you can teach your puppy to eliminate on a command that you choose.  Some possibilities are "Hurry" or "Get Busy".  To teach your puppy to "go" on command, at first wait until he starts to "go" and say your command.  This is how you teach him the word.  After a week or two of saying the word as he is going, then begin to say the word when your dog begins to circle to "go".  After a week or so, say the word when your dog starts to sniff.  Eventually, you can say the word when you take him to his spot and then he will understand to "Hurry" or "Get Busy."

Here's how you set it up so you can take your puppy out when you know he has to "go": Consistently schedule your puppy's time.  Fortunately with a young puppy, if you make his feeding schedule predictable and make sure he is not gulping down tons of water he will be pretty predictable as to when he has to "go" (if he is drinking a whole lot of water, get him checked by your veterinarian).  The other tool that works wonders is teaching your dog to enjoy napping in his crate.  Most puppys like to keep their sleeping den clean and thus will try to not eliminate in their crate.  The crate, therefore, will help teach your puppy to "hold it" until it's time to be taken out.  The important thing is not to abuse the crate.  A puppy should only be left in a crate for a time period equal to his age in months plus one hour.  Thus, an eight week old puppy (two months old) can be crated only for 3 hours at a time (small breed puppys can "hold it" for even less time).  To use a crate to help with house training, the crate should be only large enough for the puppy to sleep in comfortably.  Until he can keep crate bedding clean, leave bedding out of the crate.  Also do not place newspapers or pee pads in the crate.

 To make sure your puppy likes the crate, at first keep the crate door open and sneak treats and toys in the crate when your puppy is not looking.  Teach your puppy a game of running into the crate after you toss a treat in.  As you toss the treat in, say a word that you want to mean crate such as "Crate", "Kennel", or "Go to Bed".  Use the same word everytime.  Never put your puppy in the crate with an angry demeanor.  You can use the crate for time out, but act happy when you put him in.  Time out is not punishment, it's just management so your puppy can no longer make you upset.  It's keeping the puppy safe.  Also use the crate for nap time.  If your puppy is falling asleep or getting tired, place him in his crate.  Before you put your puppy in his crate for a nap, make sure he is empty (has pee'd and poo'd) .  If he cries, ignore him.  If he settles or falls asleep, open the crate door.  If he is asleep, you don't have to awaken him, just open the door.  Teach your puppy that the way to get the crate door to open is to settle down.  Some dogs absolutely love the crate from day one and others have more problems being left in the crate.  If your dog is one that has problems, get help from an experienced trainer.   Puppys that have been raised in a dirty manner, such as those from puppy mills  sometimes will not keep their crate clean.  They will have accidents and lie right in it.  If your dog has this problem, get help from an experienced trainer. 

More advice on your puppy's schedule.  Your puppy will have to eliminate after he awakens from having been asleep, after he has eaten, after he has finished playing, after he drinks water, and after just about any change of activity.  So get him on a consistent schedule and take him out after every activity change.  Fortunately, because young puppys need to eliminate so much, you will have a lot of opportunities to praise and treat your puppy for eliminating outside.  You will also have a lot of opportunities to teach your puppy to eliminate on command. 

Here's how you use the crate, your gated room, and the carpeted areas of your house.  First, you need to know if your puppy is "empty" or "full" meaning does he have to eliminate or not.  Many of my clients find it a good idea to keep a notebook to help learn the puppy's schedule, help members of the household work together, and learn what their puppy's idiosyncrasies are.  For example, some puppys eliminate when taken outside.  Their owners think they are empty, but five minutes later they eliminate again inside.  If this is a pattern, it's a good one to be aware of.  Now you can figure that your particular puppy really is not empty unless he has eliminated two times.  Here's an example of how you can work out a time period with your puppy.  You take him out in the morning and he pees and poos.  Now he's empty so you allow him in a carpeted area and play fetch with him for 5 or 10 minutes.  Next you feed him breakfast.  Now he's full.  Take him out.  He may not eliminate right after he has eaten.  If he does not, put him in the crate for a short nap and do whatever you need to do.  After 20 or so minutes, if he is quiet, take him outside.  If he pees and poos, now he is empty.  If not, put him back in the crate for 5 or 10 more minutes and repeat this until he eliminates when you take him out.  If ever you have to leave your puppy for longer than he can be left in the crate, you need to leave him in an area that is not carpeted with a puppy gate to keep him from the carpeted areas.  You may put papers down so he has someplace to eliminate.  The way I use papers is as a "safe zone" but not as a "rewarded zone".  I totally ignore him if I see him going on the papers.  This gives me a place I can leave him if I must be gone too long.  If you must work all day, it's great to be able to hire a dog walker or neighbor to let your puppy out during the day. 


Accidents in the house - what do you do about them?  When you first start to house train your puppy you will try to manage his schedule in a way that you take him out whenever he may have to "go".  Meaning you take him out a lot.  Now even with doing this, your puppy may still have some accidents in the house.  If he ever has an accident that you do not catch in the act, you are to just clean it up (still warm does not count as catching in the act - you were nevertheless too late).  Never scold or punish your puppy for accidents you did not see happen.  You may think that your puppy is especially smart and has figured out your scolding, but the truth is, your are teaching your puppy the wrong thing.  If he is smart he will learn that seeing poo or smelling pee on the floor is dangerous and he will look "guilty" when he sees it.  Actually, he's not really feeling guilty, he is just trying to appease you so you won't be upset due to the mess on the floor.  The funny thing is that it doesn't matter whose mess it is, he will act the same way.  Punishing your dog after the act does not teach him that the act of "going" in a particular place is bad.  In fact, at the exact time he did pee or poo, it was rewarding because you weren't there to say one way or the other and it did make him feel relief.  The other problem with reprimanding your puppy after the act is that he will be confused and may become untrusting or scared of you.  This, of course, is not good for your relationship.  If your puppy does have an accident in the house and you did not see him do it, it is your fault for giving him too much freedom and not watching him.  Use the crate if you can't watch him.  If you think he is empty and you can't watch him, gate him in his puppy room - the one with tiled flooring and let him play by himself.  If he does have an accident, just make a mental or written note about him actually not being empty, clean the mess up, and say nothing to the puppy about it. 

Cleaning up puppy accidents:  Use an odor neutralizer such as Nature's Miracle.  Never use ammonia since that's what urine smells like and it will make your puppy "go" there again.  I also recommend not letting your puppy watch you clean up the mess.  I'm not sure whether this makes a difference or not, but to be on the safe side, do not let your puppy see you taking care of the mess. 

If you catch the puppy having an accident in the house right in front of you, this is actually a good thing - maybe not for the flooring, but it's good if you handle it so your puppy learns in a good way.  You do NOT want your puppy to be scared to eliminate in front of you because then you won't be able to teach him not to eliminate inside.  What NOT to do if you catch him in the act is to frighten him of you.  You do not want to be harsh. You do not want to hit him with anything, not even a newspaper.  And, you definitely NEVER want to rub his nose in it.  Here's what you need to do.  Just as you see him "go", say "Ah Ah" just to startle him enough to stop in mid-pee or poo.  Scoop him up in your arms and take him outside to his place (when house training and when you are actively supervising, you can leave a small cord, about a puppy length and a half, tied to his collar, then you can calmly step on the line and you will not have to chase him or grab for him to scoop him up).  You are really doing good if you catch your puppy in the act,  you say "Ah Ah", scoop him up, take him out, he still has to finish doing his business, and you get to praise him as he "goes" and treat him right after.  That's a teachable moment and sweet success!  If he gets tons and tons of successes outside and if you can catch him three times in a row going inside without any unseen accidents, now you are really being a successful teacher.  

To teach your puppy to tell you when he needs to go out, I suggest hanging a sleigh bell on his going-out door and teaching him to tap it with his nose to go out.  To teach this, everytime you take him out, which is alot, have him stand with his nose close to the bell.  Tap the bell lightly with your finger as you say, "Do you want to go out?", tap the bell again and say "Good dog" and open the door to take him out.  Anytime your puppy hits the bell, even if by accident, ask "do you need to go out?" and immediately take him out. 

To teach your puppy to "hold it" so you can go to work and not always be a doorperson for your dog, condition your puppy to rest in the crate for gradually increasing lengths of time - dependent on your puppy's age (puppys cannot be left in a crate for a longer time period than their age in months plus one hour - small breed puppys can "hold it" for even less time).  Teaching a puppy to "hold it" is partly just letting the puppy grow and mature, since puppys can only hold it for so long.  A good way to start is by using the crate for your puppy's nighttime sleeping.  Puppys can "hold it" for longer during the night, as long as they remain asleep.  The crate should be in your bedroom so if the puppy awakens, you can hear him as he starts to be unsettled and needs to go out.  If you take him out during the night, take him on leash, never let him play, and do not coddle him.  After he eliminates, put him right back to bed.  You do not want him waking you up to play or get attention.   During the day, if you do not want to use the crate everytime you think your puppy is "full", you can tether the puppy to you.  Put your puppy on a six-foot leash and either hold the leash or, if safe to do so - meaning your puppy isn't large enough to pull you down, attach the leash to your waist or belt.  Your puppy will tend to "hold it" if he does not have much room in which to move around.

From my experience house training puppys, they seem to reach a time in their training where they are pretty reliable, but not perfect.  This seems to happen when they are somewhere between 6 and 9 months of age.  I notice that they seem to still be relying on me to know to let them out.  Maybe sometimes they will ring the bell, but if they really have to "go" they will still make a mistake in the house once in a while.   This is where many people make the mistake of giving their puppy too much freedom.  He's good 85% of the time.  Only trouble is, if he is having any accidents in the house at all  he is not house trained and that 85% will continue to get worse (Of course, it does not count if he's sick and has diarrhea  or if you leave him in the house longer than he can possibly "hold it").  Once you reach this stage, you need to continue to use the crate and gate.  Anytime your puppy is allowed on carpet, you need to supervise closely.  At this stage, instead of playing automatic doorperson at every instant, you will feed your puppy and then instead of immediately letting him out or putting him in his crate, you will let him on the carpeted area, but watch him like a hawk.  If he gives any indication that he's "asking" to go out, ask "Do not need to go out?", take him to his bell, tap his bell, and take him out.  If he starts to circle or sniff say "Ah Ah", take him to his bell, tap it and take him out.  If he starts to "go", also say "Ah Ah" and take him out.  If he runs over and rings the bell, you are having success.  Take him out and celebrate after he goes. 

If your puppy is sneaking off to an out-of-the-way place in the house and having accidents:  Clean the accident up with a product that totally eliminates urine odor - Nature's Miracle is a good example. Never clean with ammonia - since urine and ammonia smell alike.  Also, make sure you supervise him better and gate off the area that he is sneaking to.  It also helps to feed him in that same spot (after you have cleaned it) or to sit in a chair and read a book in that spot with him tethered to you.  The reason this helps is that now the out-of-the-way place has become not so out-of-the-way since your puppy has eaten and hung out there.  Puppys usually do not want to eliminate in their eating or resting places.

Puppies Pee A Lot!Puppies Poo A Lot!


You went Outside! Good Dog!!

Have a Cookie!


Here's to success in House Training!!!


From Personalized Dog Training by Martha Windisch.  Located in South New Jersey in the town of Chatsworth.

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