8 Easy Steps To House Train Your New Puppy

Bringing a new puppy home is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences you may have. However, house training is another story. It takes patience, consistency and positive reinforcement to instill good habits that will actually build a strong bond with your pet.  

It typically takes 4-6 months for a puppy to be fully house trained, but some puppies may take up to a full year so it is important to bring your patience to the table.  The size of your breed can be a factor because smaller breeds such as a Papillon or Chihuahua have smaller bladders and higher metabolisms and usually require more frequent trips outside. Smart dogs such as Poodles, on the other hand, will pick up the lessons pretty quickly. 

Sometimes the puppy’s previous living situation can be another predictor so you may have to help your puppy break old habits in order to establish more desirable ones that work within your home.  Don’t get discouraged if there are setbacks.  Continue to take your puppy out at the first sign he/she needs to go or if your puppy is kept in a large kennel, get in the habit of taking the puppy outside the minute you open the kennel door.  Offer a reward as soon as your puppy comes back inside.  It will help reinforce positive behavior.  

Step 1:  Begin at 12-16 weeks of age

Begin house training your puppy when he is between 12 and 16 weeks old. At that point, he has enough control of his bladder and bowel movements to learn to hold it.

If your puppy is older than 12 weeks when you bring him or her home and he or she has been eliminating in a cage or kennel (and possibly eating the waste), house training may take a little longer. You will have to reprogram your puppy with encouragement and reward.

Step 2:  Define Their Space

It is important to confine your puppy to a specific space whether that is in a room, portable kennel or crate or on a leash.  As your puppy learns to go outside to eliminate, you can gradually give him or her more freedom to roam around your home. Most puppies for sale through a dog breeder do not have these skills already although some breeders do provide some potty training.

Step 3:  Regular Feeding Schedule

When it comes to feeding your puppy, keep him or her on a regular feeding schedule and take the food away between meals.  You do not want to leave food out all day. 

Step 4:  Elimination Routine

Take your puppy out to eliminate first thing in the morning and then once every 30-60 minutes depending on the size of your puppy.  Go to the same spot each time so the scent will prompt your puppy to go and stay outside with them until your puppy is house trained.  When your puppy does eliminate, offer praise, a treat and perhaps go for a walk around your neighborhood for a nice reward.   

Step 5: Using a Crate to House Train Puppy

A crate is really a good idea for house training your puppy, at least at the beginning.  It allows you to keep an eye out for signs that your puppy needs to go and gives you time to open the crate and let your puppy outside.

Make sure it is large enough for the puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down but not big enough for him to use a corner as a bathroom. Make sure the puppy has fresh water.  Some crates come with water dispensers that work well so they don’t step in their water bowl and spill it. 

If you can’t be home during the day for house training, make arrangements for someone else to come and give your puppy a break during the day, at least for the first 8 months of puppy training

Don’t use a crate if puppy is eliminating in it. Eliminating in the crate could have several meanings: he may have brought bad habits from the shelter or pet store where he lived before; he may not be getting outside enough; the crate may be too big; or he may be too young to hold it in.

Step 6:  Know the Signs

Knowing the signs that your puppy needs to eliminate include:

  • Whining
  • Circling
  • Sniffing
  • Barking
When your puppy is unconfined, barking or scratching at the door are signs he needs to go. Take him outside right away.

Step 7: Manage The Setbacks

When it comes to puppies, accidents are common for up to a year old. The reasons for accidents vary from incomplete house training to a change in the puppy’s environment.

When your puppy does have an accident, keep up the training. If it still doesn’t seem to be working, consult a veterinarian to rule out a medical issue. Some dog breeds are harder to train than others.

Step 8: Know The Dos and Don’ts in Potty Training Your Puppy

  • Punishing your puppy for having an accident is a definite no-no. It teaches your puppy to fear you – this is not good. 
  • If you catch your puppy in the act, clap loudly so he knows he’s done something unacceptable. Then take him outside by calling him or taking him gently by the collar. When he’s finished, praise him or give him a small treat.
  • If you found the evidence but didn’t see the act, don’t react angrily by yelling or rubbing his nose in it. Puppies aren’t intellectually capable of connecting your anger with their accident. 
  • Staying outside longer with your puppy may help to curb accidents in the house. Your puppy simply may need the extra time to explore his or her surroundings. 
  • Clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleanser rather than an ammonia-based cleaner to minimize odors that might attract the puppy back to the same spot.

Bringing a new puppy home is a very exciting, fun-filled time.  The joy can continue if a few house-training steps are put in place so the whole family can enjoy their new friend.  Happy House Training!

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