Housetraining a puppy?

Question:

What do I need to know about housetraining a puppy?

Answer:

Housetraining a puppy involves clear, consistent communication. You may think you’re being obvious when you tell your puppy to eliminate outdoors, but remember that you two don’t naturally speak the same language. Here are some tips for success:

  • Decide what you want and be consistent. If you you’d like your puppy to only eliminate outdoors, don’t introduce indoor techniques, such as newspapers or potty pads. Mixing and matching methods will just confuse your puppy.
  • Keep realistic expectations. In general, puppies six months and younger must have a midday potty break. If you have a toy breed puppy, she may need even more frequent breaks.
  • Control the environment. It’s very important that you completely supervise your puppy until she is housetrained. If you are not watching your puppy, you risk her having an accident in the house. (And the more accidents she has, the more she is practicing an undesirable behavior.) To ensure your puppy is close enough to keep an eye on, put her on leash and tie the leash to your waist. That way you’ll be there to notice when she starts giving signals she’s ready to eliminate. For times when you can’t supervise your puppy, confine her in her crate.
  • Have regularly scheduled mealtimes. If you leave food out for your puppy all day, she’ll have to eliminate all day. Just put the food bowl down, and after ten minutes, pick it back up whether there’s food in it or not; she’ll soon learn that when the bowl comes down, it’s time to eat. In general, puppies six months and younger benefit from three meals a day. Puppies older than six months do fine with two meals a day. (Fresh water should always be available.)
  • Train your puppy. Leash up your pup and take her outside. When she looks like she’s about to eliminate, give her a cue. It can be “go potty,” “do your business,” or whatever you want, as long as the entire family uses the same cue every time. When she goes, mark the behavior with a verbal signal (such as “yes!”) and then praise her. If after five minutes she still hasn’t gone, bring her back inside and supervise or confine her for fifteen minutes. Then try again. If you give your puppy thirty minutes to find the “perfect spot,” she’ll learn to take that long to find it.
  • Clean up accidents with an enzymatic pet cleanser. If you catch your puppy in the act, interrupt her with a stern “no!” and take her outside. Scolding her after the fact will only confuse her, so simply try to watch her more closely next time.