A Realistic Guide to Housetraining

Housetraining is teaching your puppy to relieve himself in a specific place (usually outside) on his own and on command. Housetraining is also teaching the puppy that relieving himself inside is not allowed. Housetraining requires patience of your part, as well as consistency in your training and an understanding that this process takes time. Housetraining a puppy can be challenging, frustrating and sometimes takes a few months to accomplish but all your efforts are paid off when you have a well housetrained dog who will not relieve himself in the house.

Inside or Outside?

Litter boxes for cats have been popular now for decades but litter boxes for dogs have just recently been introduced and become more popular. These boxes are usually slightly bigger than the standard cat litter box and can be filled with either cat litter or litter made specifically for dog litter boxes.

Many owners of toy breed dogs have found these boxes to be very convenient, as have dog owners who are away from home for many hours each day. If you decide to use a dog litter box, you can follow the instructions in this article except when instructed to take your dog outside, take her to her box instead. If you own a male dog who lifts his leg, you may wish to place a washable post in the middle of the box.

I am NOT a fan of the paper pads placed on the floor. Dogs taught to use these pads often become focused on paper on the floor and for the rest of their lives, will relieve themselves on a dropped newspaper, a dropped paper towel or any other paper on the floor. Use a litter box instead.

How Can a Crate Help With Housetraining?

A crate (often called a kennel or a kennel crate) is a travel carrier for dogs. Originally used for dogs being transported on airplanes, it is now used to help dogs learn housetraining skills. All dogs are born with the instinct to keep their bed clean. As soon as a puppy is strong enough he would toddle away from his mom and littermates to relieve himself. By using a crate as the puppy’s bed, the puppy learns to control both bladder and bowels so that the bed is not soiled.

It’s important that you, as the new puppy owner, understand that the crate is not a jail. Your puppy will learn that the crate is a refuge when tired, or a retreat when life is too stressful. It’s a place to sleep, to relax and to hide.

Choose a crate that will allow your puppy to stand up, turn around and stretch out. Don’t get a crate that will be big enough for a Saint Bernard if you have a Springer Spaniel puppy! Too much room is not better. If the crate is too big, the puppy can relieve himself in a back corner and still have room to get away from it. The purpose of using a crate to housetrain your puppy is to utilize the puppy’s instinct to keep his bed clean.

Introducing the Crate

Since you want your puppy to enjoy the crate, make sure the introduction is very positive. Open the door to the crate and toss a treat inside. Tell your puppy, “Sweetie, go to bed!” as you encourage the puppy towards the crate. Let the puppy go in, grab the treat and come back out. Repeat this a few times until the puppy seems comfortable with the crate.

Now start feeding the puppy in the crate, again with the door wide open. Set the food in the back of the crate. Feed the next couple of meals like this, with the door open. When the puppy is going all the way inside to eat with no signs of stress, then close the door. Stay close and let the puppy out when he has finished eating.

During the day, put the puppy in the crate for a few minutes here and there; whenever you are too busy to supervise. Since the puppy has to spend many hours in the crate at night, try to keep his time in it during the day to short time periods.

Housetraining Your Puppy

With all the conflicting advice and misinformation about housetraining that bombards new puppy owners, it’s amazing that so many dogs do eventually become well housetrained. However, housetraining doesn’t have to be mysterious or confusing. If you understand your puppy’s need to keep his bed clean, and if you limit your puppy’s freedom, teach him what you want, where you want it, and set a good schedule, your puppy will cooperate.

Take your puppy outside where you want him to relieve himself. Stand outside with the puppy but don’t interact with him. When the puppy starts to sniff and circle, just watch. After the puppy has started to relieve himself, say softly, “Go potty! Good boy to go potty!” (Using, of course, whatever vocabulary you wish to use.) When the puppy has completed his business, praise even more.

You will need to go out with him to this particular spot every time the puppy needs to go for several weeks. Yes, weeks! You cannot simply send the puppy outside. If you do, how do you know the puppy has relieved himself? You don’t know and the puppy may come inside and relieve himelf on the carpet. Also, if you don’t go out with the puppy, you cannot teach the puppy the command you want him to learn. And last but certainly just as important, if you don’t go out with your puppy, you cannot praise him when he does relieve himself.

When Accidents Happen

Accidents will happen. Perhaps you won’t be watching the puppy close enough and he will urinate on the floor. When an accident does happen you must handle it very carefully. Don’t yell and scream and never rub the puppy’s nose in the mess! After all, relieving himtself is not wrong – the puppy must relieve himself. If you yell and scream, the puppy may feel that relieving himself is wrong and then will become sneaky about it and you will find puddles in strange places behind the furniture.

If your puppy is having a few accidents in the house, you need to make sure you are going outside with the puppy so that you can praise him when it goes outside. Make sure the puppy knows when and where it is right to go. You will also need to pay more attention to the puppy’s schedule; are you getting him outside enough and at the right times? If you are going to be busy in the house, paying attention to something other than the puppy, put the puppy is a safe spot, like his crate.

Some puppy owners allow the puppy too much freedom too soon and this can lead to housetraining accidents. When the puppy is allowed to wander off to another room, it’s very easy for the puppy to have an accident in a corner or behind the sofa and then return to the room where the people are. However, a baby gate across the door way or hall can keep the puppy close and stop the wandering.

Successful housetraining is based on setting the puppy up for success by allowing few accidents to happen and then praising the puppy when he relieves himself outside.