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Puppy House Training – The Best Method

When you first bring your new puppy home, you’re going to be thrilled. But the moment your puppy makes the first mess on the floor, you’re going to realize puppy house training is a serious need.

So, puppy house training is one of the first things you need to do. You’ll see instructions about this everywhere, but I’ve used the house training methods below on dogs of many different breeds, and it always works. Just remember a few important things:

Watch your puppy at all times, always show them you’re very pleased when they get it right, and never blame the puppy – just keep working your puppy house training program until it sticks!


Rules for the Trainer: Puppy House Training

Puppy House Training Guide

  • Puppy house training is a family activity. Everyone in the house needs to know this stuff.
  • Remember you’re building new habits for your dog. Expect that to take some time.
  • It must be done in a positive way. Avoid yelling or scolding which only makes things worse.
  • The puppy instinct doesn’t include, “I need to learn where the right place to poop and pee is.” You can’t judge your puppy for not knowing this before you teach him.
  • Simply letting your puppy outside is not an effective way to house train your puppy. It doesn’t teach them anything.
  • You will be cleaning up some mistakes at first, so plan ahead for this. Have the proper cleaning and deodorizing products available to clean up the mistakes when they do happen.
  • Young puppies have poor bladder and bowel control. If left inside alone, they’re going to use the restroom indoors. They won’t have a choice. Don’t blame them.
  • A puppy can hold their business for about one hour per month of age, plus another hour.
  • Your puppy has a natural cycle: Food goes in, water goes in, poop comes out, water comes out. Consider removing their food and water bowl at night, to prevent accidents while you’re asleep.

Training Method: Puppy House Training

Let’s go over an actual plan for how you can quickly house train your puppy. I suggest you mix house training with puppy crate training, and get a good quality crate to use in these steps. The crate is not a place for your puppy to use the restroom – as you’ll see below. For a more detail look at puppy house training methods check out this awesome resource: Puppy House Training

  1. Go outside and figure out where you want the puppy to go to the bathroom. Choose this in advance.
  2. Restrain your puppy any time he’s unattended, via the crate or a penned-in room. This helps you with your basic obedience training, as I’ve discussed in other articles.
  3. Take the puppy outside about once per hour, either by carrying him or walking with a leash. Go pace around in the area where you want them to use the restroom (step carefully!) ;)
  4. As your puppy starts to realize that he or she needs to go to the bathroom, and starts to do so, start establishing a verbal command, for example, “go potty.” While your puppy is in the act of going to the bathroom, repeat the command over and over. Only associate that phrase with actually relieving himself. Congrats, you are mixing basic obedience training into the task!
  5. Once they finish doing their business, heap praise and love on the puppy and perhaps reward them with a cookie. It’s good to spend a little time playing with your pup right after a success, to reinforce a job well done. Then, take them back to the confined area, such as their crate.
  6. Continue doing this each hour. (Obviously, they may not need to eliminate during every trip outside, so only use the command phrase when they do.) Also, don’t assume that this scheduled trip outside will satisfy their needs – keep a close eye on the puppy so that you can react when they decide it’s time to relieve themselves. Nature calls on its own schedule.
  7. Plan to wake up during the night and repeat this puppy house training program, once or twice each night. You sleep six-to-eight hours per night, and your puppy cannot hold their business that long. So, overnight, it’s important to give them the chance to be a good dog – by taking them outside and repeating the above steps. Set your alarm once or twice each night for this.

Step By Step Puppy House Training

Don’t forget: puppies have to use the bathroom soon after each meal or drink. After each meal, take them outside and use the steps above, with a reward for a job well done. This needs to happen about 10-20 minutes after having food and drink.

Obviously you can’t be there every single second of the day. Most people use a layer of newspapers or cardboard to provide an indoor bathroom for their puppy. I use the Wizdog Indoor Dog Toilet for that. Important: this area should be at least a few meters away from their bedding and food. If it’s too close to their bedding and food, they won’t want to use it. When you return home, resume the puppy house training steps above.

After a week or two, of the above you will see good results – if you’ve been consistent, using command words to encourage the act, and rewarding success. Soon, your puppy will start asking to go outside whenever they need to go to the restroom, freeing you from this schedule. Then, you can switch to asking your dog – “Go potty?” – and they will go to the door if they need to.

Super Puppy House Training:
Give Your Dog a “Doorbell” for Potty Time!

However, if you’re looking for something that lets them communicate with you on their own, other than having them scratch at the door or cry, you can set up an indoor Poochie-Bell that your puppy can ring when he wants to get your attention to go outside.

  1. Simply hang the bell from the doorknob at the level where they can both see, and reach it easily.
  2. Each time you repeat the puppy house training steps above, add this step before you go outside. Stop at the door, and issue the command phrase you’ve established, for example, “go potty.” At the same time, ring the bell for them.
  3. About a week later, stop ringing the bell for them at first. Stop at the door and say “go potty.” Wait several seconds for them to ring the bell themselves. Say “go potty” over and over, and see if they ring the bell.
  4. If he hasn’t “gotten it” yet, ring the bell while saying “go potty,” then continue outside and let them do their business. Ccontinue praising them whenever they finish their bathroom duties outside, and also praise them heavily once they start to ring the bell on their own.

Finally, when your dog learns to go to the door and ring the bell, praise the puppy heavily for this. Continue doing this puppy house training program long enough that he remembers through repetition.

Karen Pryor, the animal behaviorist who brought “clicker training” to the dog world, has also created a video demonstrating the bell method that I’ve just described. Karen Pryor Clicker Training has the Poochie-Bell and other resources to help you with puppy house training.

Last but definitely not least! Everything you’d ever want to know on how to house training your puppy is in this e-book. The e-book covers more than the basics, without assuming everything will go perfectly. It has information for all the issues that can happen, depending on your puppy’s personality and traits. Click here for a copy of that e-book.

Return to the beginning of my dog training guide or go back to puppy training steps.

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