9/6/2018 by Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA
House training! It’s a lot of work and sometimes feels like an uphill battle. But, it’s also a great opportunity to start growing a loving bond with your dog. House training is all about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. Remember: peeing and pooping are natural, healthy functions, so punishment and scolding should never be used when house-training a pet.
The process of house-training takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, so don’t get discouraged. Both puppies AND older dogs can be successfully house-trained with patience and persistence. Begin training the day you bring a new dog into your house – it’s never too early to start!
A word about puppies: Keep in mind that it will be around 12 weeks of age before your puppy has enough control of his bladder and bowels to voluntarily “hold it.” Also, smaller breeds have smaller bladders and faster metabolisms – just expect accidents early on and have lots of paper towels and pet-safe cleaners handy!
Here are 10 tips to get the process going:
- Praise that pup! Use verbal, happy praise immediately after they eliminate. Also giving a treat is fine, but make sure it’s immediate. The idea here is to associate the praise/treat with what they just did. If the treat is given even a few minutes later, the connection of potty outside = yummy treat will be lost.
- Peeing feels good. When a puppy’s bladder is full, the act of emptying it is a reward in itself. So, if your dog isn’t completely house trained, keep them in a comfy pen or crate, unless you can closely supervise them. When you take them out of the pen/crate – go outside immediately. The idea is for them to associate the outdoors (not your living room carpet) with the positive sensation of eliminating.
- Drink. Eat. Pee. Poop. Puppies usually eliminate immediately after eating or drinking, so be sure to go right outside as soon as they are done. Stay outside and watch, so you can immediately reward any potty happenings. If he doesn’t go, try again in 15-30 minutes.
- Beds and not bathrooms. Dogs don’t typically eliminate where they sleep. That’s why crate training is so effective. Refer to Step #2. Don’t forget to praise them like crazy when they go outside! If your pup does have an accident in their crate, be sure and wash their bedding and clean the crate thoroughly to eliminate odors.
- Take it outside. If you started with pee pads, start moving them outside at around 12 weeks to help your pup make the transition between relieving themselves inside and outside.
- If it smells like a potty… If you have an object or area your pup (or other dogs in the household) have already marked outside, trying walking in that area with your pup to entice a potty moment, then praise, praise, praise when they go!
- Poo on cue. As explained in step #3, eating/drinking usually triggers the need to go. Keep your pup on a regular feeding schedule, and you will soon learn their potty schedule. too.
- Wait for it… Most dogs want to sniff around a bit before they go… they don’t like being rushed any more than we do, so please wait patiently. Don’t play with, pet, or talk to them until after the deed is done.
- Going round and round. If you're having a problem getting your dog to have a BM outside, try dropping a few small treats in a circle. Once they start sniffing and moving in a circle, mother nature sometimes kicks in!
- Accidents happen. Be Prepared. Invest in lots of paper towels. Many household cleaners are not very effective at completely removing pet odors, so consider using a product designed specifically for the purpose. These usually have bacteria and/or enzymes that “digest” organic compounds to completely remove the smell. Be sure to follow the directions – some have to sit overnight to completely work. Cleaners with strong smells like vinegar and ammonia don’t usually work well – your pet may actually try to cover up the smell by urinating on the spot.
Lastly – Hang in there! Don’t be surprised at setbacks - Stay the course, and accidents will become less frequent over time. Keep it fun, keep it positive – you’re teaching a skill that your pet will use for the rest of their life. Think of it as the start of all the incredible things you can learn and do together!