Housetraining your dog or puppy requires far more than a few stacks of old newspapers—it calls for vigilance, patience, plenty of commitment and above all, consistency.
By following the guidelines outlined below, you can minimize house-soiling incidents. Virtually every dog, especially puppies, will have an accident in the house, and more likely, several. Expect this—it’s part of living with a puppy.
Establish a routine
Generally speaking, a puppy can control his bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is two months old, he can hold it for about two hours. Don’t go longer than this between bathroom breaks, or he’s guaranteed to have an accident. If you work outside the home, this means you’ll have to hire a dog walker to give your puppy his bathroom breaks.
Pick up your puppy’s water dish about two and a half hours before bedtime to reduce the likelihood that she’ll need to potty during the night. Most puppies can sleep for approximately seven hours without having to eliminate.
Supervise your puppy
Tether your puppy to you or a nearby piece of furniture with a six-foot leash if you are not actively training or playing with him. Watch for signs that your puppy needs to eliminate. Some signs are obvious, such as barking or scratching at the door, squatting, restlessness, sniffing around or circling. When you see these signs, immediately grab the leash and take him outside to his bathroom spot. If he eliminates, praise him lavishly and reward him with a treat.
Keep your puppy on leash in the yard. During the housetraining process, your yard should be treated like any other room in your house. Give your puppy some freedom in the house and yard only after she has become reliably housetrained.
Confine your puppy when you can’t supervise her
Or you may want to crate train your puppy and confine him in the crate. (Be sure to learn how to use a crate humanely as a method of confinement.) If your puppy has spent several hours in confinement, you’ll need to take him directly to his bathroom spot as soon as you let him out—and praise him when he eliminates.
Oops! Take mistakes in stride
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 him in the act of eliminating in the house.
Make a startling noise (be careful not to scare him) or say “OUTSIDE!” Immediately take him to his bathroom spot, praise him, and give him a treat if he finishes eliminating there.
Don’t punish your puppy for eliminating in the house. If you find a soiled area, it’s too late to administer a correction. Just clean it up. Rubbing your puppy’s nose in it, taking him to the spot and scolding him, or any other punishment will only make him afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. In fact, punishment will often do more harm than good.
Clean the soiled area thoroughly. Puppies are highly motivated to continue soiling in areas that smell like urine or feces. Check with your veterinarian or pet store for products designed specifically to clean areas soiled by pets.
It’s extremely important that you use the supervision and confinement procedures outlined above to minimize the number of accidents. If you allow your puppy to eliminate frequently in the house, she’ll get confused about where she’s supposed to eliminate, which will prolong the housetraining process.
Make plans for when you’re away
If you already have a puppy and must be away for long periods of time, you’ll need to:
Arrange for someone, such as a responsible neighbor or a professional pet sitter, to take him outside to eliminate.
Train him to eliminate in a specific place indoors. Be aware, however, that doing so can prolong the process of housetraining. Teaching your puppy to eliminate on newspaper may create a life-long surface preference, meaning that even as an adult he may eliminate on any newspaper lying around the living room.
In the designated elimination area, use either newspapers (cover the area with several layers of newspaper) or a sod box. To make a sod box, place sod in a container such as a child’s small, plastic swimming pool. You can also find dog-litter products at a pet supply store.
If you clean up an accident in the house, put the soiled rags or paper towels in the designated elimination area. The smell will help your puppy recognize the area as the place where she is supposed to eliminate.
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