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Housetraining 101: 9 Steps to a Potty-Trained Pup

Note: This post is part two of a housetraining series. Check out part one, Housetraining 101: The Basics

Here it is: your simple, magic-secret-free guide to housetraining your dog. How long this process will take depends on how consistent you are with it and what experiences, or lack thereof, your dog has already had with housetraining. If you’re really good, it can take as little as a week or two. Otherwise, about 1 – 2 months.

You can’t prevent every accident in the house; expect to be cleaning up a few messes. Just keep in mind that every accident your dog has in the house sets you back in your training that much more, because it reinforces that “going” in the house is an option.

1. Pick a potty spot

Believe it or not, you can actually teach your dog to use one small area of your yard as her bathroom, instead of creating a minefield of deposits all over the place. Pick the area you’d prefer she use. When you let her out, take her to this spot. Dogs are creatures of habit and if you’re consistent about this, she’ll grow to prefer it over any other area.

2. Get a crate

Preferably, before your new dog comes home. Buy a crate that is just big enough for your dog to stand up, lie down and turn around comfortably. If it’s much bigger, she might pick one half as her bed, the other as her bathroom. Take some time to introduce her to the crate before you use it to confine her.

3. Set up a play pen area

A two-month-old puppy can be expected to “hold it,” in her crate, for no more than three hours at a time. A four-month-old, about five hours. And no dog should be crated more than six hours during the day. If you will be away from home (work, school, etc) longer than this, and can’t arrange for anyone else to come take your pup out, you’ll need to create a “play pen.” Choose an area with floors that won’t be hard to clean if Sparky makes a mess. The kitchen is usually a safe bet. Build a small pen area with baby gates or an exercise pen (found at any pet store). Put her crate and some toys in this. For best results, add some form of “potty” or pee pad.

4. Set a routine

Dog owners often report that when they take the dog outside, she doesn’t go. This is usually solved by giving the dog a consistent routine. Schedule meal times and potty breaks and Sparky will soon adjust accordingly.

5. Supervise, supervise, supervise

Can’t overstate the importance of this one! When you can’t keep an eye on Sparky, she needs to be in her crate. When you CAN watch her, watch her closely. I’m talking your complete and total attention here. She’ll usually give some subtle warning that she needs to go, like sniffing or circling. However, some puppies will squat with no warning whatsoever, so keep her close so you can interrupt her if necessary.

6. Take the puppy out according to schedule

Take your dog outside every 1-2 hours. When you take Sparky out of her crate, put her on leash and take her directly out to her “potty spot” first thing. No playing, petting, or cuddling until after you do this.

7. Heap on the praise

When she goes in her potty spot, praise her lavishly. No skimping on this, especially early on in the game. As soon as she’s done, reward her with anything she really likes: treats, playing with toys, ear rubs, whatever.

8. Come back inside the house…

If Sparky peed and pooped outside, you can reward her with a little bit of freedom in the house. If she did one but not the other, or didn’t go at all, back in the crate she goes. Take her back outside in fifteen minutes and see what happens.

9. When puppy has an accident

Scenario one: You discover the mess three hours, 30 minutes, or 20 seconds AFTER she did it. Find an old newspaper, roll it up and smack yourself on the head. Ok – not really. Just remember to do better next time. You can’t punish a dog after the fact. She won’t know why you are punishing her.

Scenario two: You catch Sparky in the act. Interrupt her with a sharp noise, like “ah ah!” or clap your hands. Don’t get emotional (“No! You baaaaad dog! Wait til your FATHER gets home.”). Take her by the collar and rush outside to her bathroom spot. If she goes, praise her. If she doesn’t, oh well. Just remember to supervise better next time.

I know how frustrating it can be, but never scream, hit or shake her, rub her nose in the mess or otherwise punish her. Yeah, she may learn not to pee in the house, but she’ll also learn never to pee in front of you again, indoors OR outdoors, because for some weird reason it makes you all crazy and scary. Instead of peeing on the rug in plain sight, she’ll go under the table or in a back room where you she figures you can’t see her. Not cool.

Need more help than this? Check out:

A Guide to Surviving Life With Your New Puppy

“I knew getting a puppy would be a challenge, but holy crap, I was not prepared for THIS.” Sound about right?

This guide is about what to do when raising your new dog turns out to be a lot harder than you expected.

It’ll give you a detailed potty training plan, teach you how to solve housetraining problems, stop obnoxious puppyhood biting, teach your dog good habits, and build that beautiful bond you were dreaming about before you brought your dog home.

Click here to learn more