House Training Basics
House Training is best managed by creating a schedule for water, food, potty breaks, play time, handling/grooming, and crate time AND adhering to it EVERY SINGLE DAY.
How long can a puppy stay in the crate? Initially, you can start with just a few minutes with the door closed when you are nearby. When crating overnight, the general rule is that a puppy can hold its bladder an hour longer than the number of months old it is. Example, a 2 month old puppy should be able to hold its bladder for 3 hours.
Take your puppy outside to potty after each of these things:
- Waking up
- Suddenly stops playing and starts sniffing
- If your puppy starts circling and/or sniffing
- Goes to the location he/she has peed in before
Take your puppy to the same location each time and do not talk other than to tell your puppy to potty or do their business... or whatever phrase you have chosen. Stand in one spot and do not walk your puppy around the yard, so make like a tree and be still. After your puppy does their business, they can be rewarded with your love and affection and then return to the house to play (many 8 week old puppies are ready for a nap after 20-30 minutes of play). You can also reward your puppy with a walk AFTER going potty not before. After playing return outside to potty and then put your puppy in their crate for another nap. Now you can do whatever it is you could not do while supervising your puppy.
Repeat all day long with whatever schedule you have made for you puppy. As your puppy grows you will be adjusting his feeding and water schedule accordingly. Also, as he/she ages, play sessions will get longer, your puppy will nap less and won't need so many potty breaks.
If your puppy has an accident in the house, don’t scold him/her because YOU were not paying attention to their signals. If you are struggling with house training and a vet has confirmed that there are no health issues, like an infection, small bladder, atypical anatomy, or parasites write down when your puppy pees and poops to see if you can figure out his or her needs and meet them. You may see a pattern that your puppy pees everyday at 10 am and with that information, you can take your puppy out at 9:55 am and avoid an accident. You may notice that your puppy needs to pee 10 minutes after having a drink of water and now you can plan needed potty breaks accordingly.
Use an enzymatic cleaner when your puppy has an accident to clean the area. It is best for neutralizing the odor that regular cleaners leave behind that you cannot smell, but your puppy can.
What Not To Do For House Training
DO NOT reward with treats. This is a topic that not all dog trainers agree on, but what goes in must come out and now you have fed your puppy something off schedule. Maintaining a schedule will make house training easier for everyone involved.
Here are some problems that I have observed with giving a treat for going potty:
- Puppies will stop eating food waiting for the next treat
- Puppies will ask to go out to potty and fake going pee just for a treat. Yes, your puppy is smart enough to do that!
- Dog becomes overweight
DO NOT walk your puppy then terminate the walk after he or she goes potty as your puppy may like to walk and may learn that walks stop if he potties. The result of that common mistake is your puppy will not potty on a walk but will potty in your house when you return home. If that should happen, google reverse house training or consult a professional if it does become an issue.
DO NOT ignore diet. Diet can also affect your puppies ability to house train, be sure they are on a good quality food.
DO NOT forget to have your puppy take all naps in their crate. It will make house training easier and it will speed up the process for you. Do not be surprised if your puppy doesn't like being in a crate, even if the breeder did crate time with the puppies and had them napping in crates. Your home is not the breeder's home, his siblings are not in the crate next to him, your home smells different, you smell different, you sound different, the soil in your yard smells different, your water tastes different etc...so your puppy is de-stressing in his crate. Give your pup a minute or two to settle down. Cover the crate with a blanket or move it to a quieter location, some dogs can’t settle down if they see activity going on around them. At night place the crate near your bed or next to it. Only open the door when your puppy is quiet. It may be a long first few nights. Going to a new home was a complete surprise to your puppy and their world is upside down right now. He or she will adjust and this phase will pass with time. A balanced trainer can help you navigate this stage.
House Training Myths
MYTH: It's more difficult to train a puppy in the winter months.
FACT: It has actually been found to be easier. Puppies do not want to be outside in the cold any longer than you do. Once they figure out that if they pee they can go back inside, they will pee quickly. If you are concerned about the snow and cold, you can stack a couple of bales of straw to create a windbreak. Then throw down some straw on the ground to create a potty area that is off the snow, puppies and dogs enjoy peeing on straw and will usually go quickly on it.
MYTH: Farm dogs are harder to house train because they've never been inside.
FACT: Dogs naturally will go potty outside and away from their sleeping area, provided they are given the option and have the space to do so. Typically farm puppies are already in the habit of going potty outside. Another bonus of getting a puppy from a farm is that many puppies on farms are surrounded by a multitude of sounds and sights at all hours of the day and night. Some of my best dogs over the years came from a farm and were never in the house before I got them. There is an advantage to having a clean slate to work with.
Did You Know...
If your puppy is going potty outside and then going potty in the house, it could be that your puppy was not really done. Your pup squatted and peed, but did not completely empty their bladder. Try offering your puppy more time outside before returning inside. Here is what I have observed over the years.
- Some pups or dogs will empty their bladder in one spot.
- Some will pee in two different spots.
- Some will pee in three different spots.
If your puppy has been playing in their water bowl or the pool, they will need extra potty breaks. Puppies can consume a lot of water while playing in the water. Plan to take your puppy out every 10- 30 minutes after playing in the pool.