Here are the basic rules:

Your pup should be in one of three situations at all times during the learning phase of housetraining:

  • Outside while you watch for and reward urination or defecation with a food treat
  • Inside under your constant supervision (on a leash or a long line)
  • Crated or gated off in a small puppy-proofed room

If your puppy only eliminates outside and you don’t give them the freedom to have “accidents” in the house, then you’ve got a housetrained dog!

Please remember that little dogs have smaller bladders and can’t wait as long to eliminate.

Outside (And yes, you have to go out with them each and every time with treats!)

Take your puppy to your designated bathroom area, on leash.  If you always take your puppy to the same place he will seek it out in the future.  Stand still and quiet, and wait.  As your puppy begins to eliminate say the cue word you have chosen (“Go Potty”, “Outside”).  As soon as your puppy is done, say “YES” and give a fabulous food treat.  The treat delivered immediately at the right time and place is the key to fast and efficient housetraining.  If your puppy doesn’t eliminate within 3 to 5 minutes when outside, watch very carefully or put him in his crate, and take him out again in 10 to 15 minutes.

Inside (Constant Supervision)

Your puppy should have a leash or house line on at all times except sleeping.  You can tie the leash around your waist or have your puppy drag a line.  Make sure that the puppy cannot get away from you, to go and urinate or defecate in another area of the house.  Watch for subtle signs (sniffing, circling), and take your puppy outside frequently (three times an hour when they are a puppy, once an hour if adult):

  • After they eat or drink
  • After they wake up
  • After being released from crate or puppy pen
  • After playing

If you find an accident, YOU made a mistake, not the puppy.  Tighten up supervision.  Increase the frequency of trips outside.   Increase or improve your reward for going outside in the appropriate location.  If you see your puppy begin to eliminate in the house, make a loud, abrupt noise to startle and interrupt him.  Rush your puppy outside and reward for eliminating outside.


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Crated or Gated Off

Puppies are less inclined to soil areas where they sleep or eat.  That is why crate training works.  Your job will be to teach your dog to be comfortable in a crate or small gated-off area.  Your dog must equate the crate (or small gated off puppy-proofed area) with feeling good.  Play the “crate game” by having your dog go in and out three to five times (toss in a toy or a treat), then repeat the game for a few sessions over the next day or two.  Don’t shut the door.  When the puppy is happily running into the crate you can shut the door for a second or two.  Lure the puppy into the crate by offering food treat through the back of the crate.  Surprise by dropping food from back so puppy learns good stuff happens when I enter on my own.  It’s the “pennies from Heaven” game.  Then, toss a treat in the crate, shut the door, leave it shut and feed the puppy through the bars or gate.  After a week or so of several sessions a day, start leaving the dog in the crate with a stuffed Kong or Sterile Beef Bone that will keep him busy.  (If a toy has food inside that the puppy has to work to get out, you’re not just keeping your puppy out of trouble, you’re teaching your puppy to chew appropriately.)  Be sure that you have loaded the Kong or bone with an amazingly tasty treat.  Walk away for thirty seconds.  Come back before he is done with the toy, open the door, quietly take the toy away and walk away from the crate.  Don’t give the amazing chew toy to your dog until your next session of the “crate game”.  The dog is learning to like going into the crate and staying in the crate.  All you need to do now is gradually increase the amount of time that your dog is left alone in the crate.

Dogs, like humans, can wait much longer periods without needing to eliminate when they are sleeping.  Don’t assume that because your puppy can hold it over night that he can wait that long during waking periods.  The rule of thumb is, for every month your puppy is old, they can be in the crate for 1 hour (2 months old, maximum 2 hours, etc.).

How do you decide when to start leaving your dog out of the crate?  Consider the age of the dog, the breed of the dog, and the activity level of your dog.  Leaving an adolescent dog home alone in a big house is a recipe for disaster.  Protect your house from a bored dog that’s on the prowl for something to do!!!! Depending on breed, age, personality and energy level of the puppy, you may wish to start letting your dog have a little bit of freedom in part of the house for a minute or two.  Give the stuffed toy, leave for a brief moment, and return.  Assuming that you return to an intact house and a polite dog, you can gradually extend the period of absence, insuring that your dog has been well exercised, has had many chances to eliminate, is comfortable being alone, and knows what to chew on before you leave.