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Housetraining! (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Overview

The key to housetraining success is being able to predict when your puppy needs to go, getting her outside in time, and then rewarding her for doing the right thing in the right place. This gets her in the habit of pooping and peeing outdoors.

To prevent mistakes, make sure your puppy is closely supervised when she’s not in her crate or playroom — no running loose in the house, or even in the yard, for the first four to six months of her life. Even one mistake can set back the housetraining process.

In order for housetraining to work, everyone who handles your puppy must understand and follow the same program. Inconsistency will easily confuse your pup.

Note: If your puppy has an accident, don’t punish her; it’s your fault for allowing it to happen. Just clean up thoroughly and be sure to watch her more closely next time.

Steps to fail-proof housetraining

1. Take your puppy out of her crate every one to two hours to pee. Put her on a leash to take her outside so she’s less likely to be distracted.

If she goes right away:
Praise and reward her immediately by giving her high quality treats (we recommend three liver treats —
you don’t want to under reward), and take her off leash so she can play freely.

If you don’t have a fenced in yard, let her let play inside your home for a while. Keep a close eye on her because activity can stimulate the bladder and you’ll want to run her right back outside if she shows signs of wanting to go to the bathroom again, like sniffing or circling.

Once she’s had some time to romp, put her back in the crate with her chew toy until the next bathroom break in another hour or two.

If she doesn’t go:
1. Give her some water and put her back in the crate for 15 to 30 minutes before taking her out again.

Note: Don’t leave your puppy in the crate for more than two hours at a time during the day, or overnight for more than six or seven hours.

2. Gradually increase the time your puppy stays outside her crate — but only if you’re willing to watch closely and run her outside as soon as she shows signs of wanting to go again, like sniffing or circling.

3. Put her in her playroom if you have to leave for more than an hour. When you get home, immediately take your puppy outside. If she goes to the bathroom, reward her with supervised free time in the house or yard. Then put her back in the crate, and start the cycle over again until it’s bedtime for both of you.

DogTime tip: If you’re gone from 9 to 5 most days, follow the crate training program at the beginning and end of the day and on weekends. When you can’t be there, she can stay in her roomier playroom.

Troubleshooting

If your dog is taking way too long to be housetrained: Identify the source of the problem. Here are the most common obstacles to a housetrained dog.

A health problem. It’s not uncommon for a urinary tract infection or some other ailment to make housetraining next to impossible. If you’re having serious housetraining problems, ask your veterinarian to check your puppy’s health

Too much water. Ask your vet how much water your puppy needs and let her know if your puppy drinks excessively. If nothing is wrong, limit her water to the daily recommended amount.

You’re carrying your puppy to her outdoor toilet instead of walking her outside. This is often a problem with small breed puppies, but can also result in large breed puppies while they’re still light enough to carry.

Too much free time in the house with not enough supervision. Your puppy shouldn’t have any unsupervised free time in the house. Period. If you’re having trouble keeping an eye on her, tether her to your belt or to a table near you, or keep her confined in a crate or puppy playroom until you have time to pay close attention.

Failing to make sure she empties her bladder before coming inside. You must be there to see your puppy go so you know her bladder is empty before bringing her inside. Don’t leave your puppy in the yard unattended!

Rewarding your puppy with free time in the house even if she didn’t potty outside. Don’t cave in! If your dog hasn’t gone to the bathroom after five minutes outside, preferably on leash, return her to her crate and try again later.

Your puppy has had so many accidents in the same spot she’s convinced the area is her private indoor toilet. If this is the case it may take longer for you to convince her to go outside. After all, wouldn’t you find it hard to use an outhouse after years of indoor plumbing? The solution for this problem is to make sure your puppy has no access whatsoever to the area she’s using as her toilet. Gate it off, close a door if you can, or watch your puppy like a hawk.

If your puppy consistently eliminates in her crate:
This usually happens because a puppy was somehow forced to pee or poop in her living quarters. Maybe she was trapped in a crate for several days. Puppies with this type of background often do best if you forego the crate and tether her with a short rope to your belt, or to a nearby table, and then double the frequency of your trips outside.

Be sure to offer enthusiastic praise every time she go in the right place at the right time. Above all be patient; it’s not your puppy’s fault she was forced to learn such a bad habit in the first place.