9 Suggestions for How to Housetrain Your Puppy

No, that is not some spilled water on your carpet.

When you wake up in the morning and start stumbling around your house, one of the last things you want is to step something damp. The process of housetraining a puppy can be frustrating and can potentially ruin your carpets, but implementing these suggestions can make the process much easier.

Choose a Phrase

What word or phrase do you want to use to tell your puppy to try and relieve herself? Some people say, “Go potty,” but will your teenage son use that phrase when he walks the puppy in public? A friend of mine says, “Get busy,” and I really like that one. Talk to your family and decide on a word or phrase that will work for everyone.

Take your Puppy Outside

When your puppy needs to go outside, go out with him and walk to the place where you want him to relieve himself. Be quiet and patient. As he relieves himself, calmly (so as not to interrupt him) say, “Get busy.” When he’s done, enthusiastically praise him.

Don’t Send Him Outside Alone

If your puppy needs to relieve himself and you put him outside alone, you’ll have no idea if he’s actually done anything or not. He may ask to come back inside only to go on the carpet. Plus, if he’s outside alone, you’ve lost that opportunity to teach him the magic phrase.

Learn His Signals

Some puppies communicate clearly when they need to relieve themselves. These puppies sniff the floor, whine anxiously, circle two or three times, and then squat. If your puppy is like this, use your voice to interrupt the process, “Let’s go outside!” and get him outside fast. However, if your puppy is more subtle, watch him closely and see if you can pick up on his cues.

Scheduling Meals

Puppies need to relieve themselves shortly after eating, so by feeding scheduled meals you can create a housetrainng schedule at the same time. As a general rule, young puppies under six months of age should eat three meals a day while puppies over six months usually do just fine with two.

Exercise Gets Things Moving

One of the joys of having a puppy is playtime. However, a puppy who has been playing for a few minutes is going to have to go. Be aware, though, that if he’s having fun playing he may not want to leave. He may just continue to play until his leg raises and he relieves himself on your carpet. Be proactive. Let him play for a few minutes, take him outside to go, and then resume the play.

Use a Crate

Using a crate to help your puppy learn housetraining skills accomplishes several things. First, by utilizing his instincts to keep his bed clean, a crate helps your puppy gradually develop bowel and bladder control. In addition, by limiting your puppy’s freedom in the house you’ll also prevent some housetraining accidents. The crate will also provide your puppy with a safe refuge when he’s tired or worried.

Crate Guidelines

Introduce the crate by feeding your puppy his meals in the crate or by tossing treats inside. Have him spend nights in the crate but during the day don’t put him in there for more than a couple hours at a time. He needs to spend time with you, run around, and play to learn the house rules.

Limit Freedom in the House

Your puppy should spend limited time in the crate during the day, but that doesn’t mean your puppy should have free run of the house. That kind of freedom is earned with housetraining skills, obedience training, mental maturity, and time. Some puppies shouldn’t have freedom of the house until they’re 18 to 24 months of age. In the meantime, keep the puppy in the same room with you, close bedroom doors, or use baby gates to section off the house.

If you’ve been working on your puppy’s housetraining skills for a while and you’re not making any progress, call a local dog trainer for help. However, if your puppy has been doing well, making progress, and then relapses, you may want to call your puppy’s veterinarian.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

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