Housetrain Your Puppy Without (Too Many) Tears
puppy making a pee on the lawn

How To Housetrain Your Puppy Without (Too Many) Tears


Some say it's easy to house train a dog, as long as you're patient and praise them for good behaviour you're on the right track.


Your new puppy is going to arrive at their new home with no idea of the rules of your house. Your pup just doesn't know the lie of the land yet and might be feeling a little anxious. In fact, don’t be shocked if one of the first things they do when they arrive is wee on your freshly cleaned kitchen floor or worse, your carpets.


cute new arrival


They need plenty of guided opportunities for the behaviour you want to see - and you need to interrupt and redirect any unwanted behaviour. The best dog advice is to muster unlimited kindness and patience for your pup.


Dogs develop routines just like people do, and they quickly learn to repeat behaviours that have rewarded them in the past. Give them rewards for going where you want them to go, but no rewards when doing it somewhere else, and they’ll start doing their toilet in the correct places when they know there’s a reward to be had. Rewards-based training is the only way to go.


If you forget yourself and shout at your dog for doing their business in the wrong place, all that will happen is confusion and stress, and the training will take even longer.



9 Tips for House Training Your Dog 

1. Containment

Dogs instinctively avoid soiling what they regard as their den, so make your whole house is her den. Start by keeping her contained indoors - or in your direct line of sight – all the time. Limit her free movement around the house at first, but as she gets older you can gradually extend this until the whole house becomes her den. The more at home your pup feels in her space, the more reluctant she'll be to soil it.


puppy asleep in a box



2. Toilet area

You're really teaching your pup two things: where to do her business, and where not to. Depending on what’s available to you in your home set-up, it’s probably preferable to teach your pup to do her business outside. But if you need to teach her to use a wee mat, then always keep the mat in the same place and take her there for each toilet break.


If you're teaching her to go outside, take her to the same spot every time. She'll soon learn that this is her toilet spot, and therefore it's time to do her business whenever you lead her there.

BTW, If your pup is having trouble pooping, our expert friends from Burns Pet Nutrition have some helpful advice.


And while you are outside you may want to train them to listen to commands too. Watch our Dog Masterclass video series to teach you dog to stay, come when called and more.


puppy pees in his spot



3. Reward

A reward is always going to register with your pup! So start your housetraining with praise and a treat every time they get it right. As they get older and more used to eliminating in the right place, you can start slowing down the treats. But always remember to congratulate them every time!


Training is a process, it certainly isn’t linear, and there’ll be speed bumps and wrong turns along the way. There will be frustrations, but it’s all part of the learning experience, for both of you.



4. Cue Words

A cue word really works well. Keep it simple, and try to find a word or phrase they won’t hear in normal conversation. Your dog will learn that the cue word means it's time to go; and, eventually, you'll be able to ask them to go on command.


Begin the process by saying the phrase just as they are starting to eliminate. Say it gently, so that they don't get alarmed and stop!


Reinforcement is key, so use the cue word/phrase every time they eliminate in the right spot. Use the same word whenever you see that they're about to do a wee or poop. They'll soon make the association between the cue and the action, to the point that you can train them to go even when they haven't thought of it themselves.



5. Positive Reinforcement

Dogs quickly learn to repeat any behaviour that results in a reward. It really is that simple. And that’s why it’s important to make clear, simple, strict rules about where to do their toilet and where not to.


pug gets a reward


Consistency and timing are vital. Reward them when you see the desired behaviour, and do it right there, right then. Here, too, a cue word of praise is a really good idea.



6. Training schedule

For the first few weeks, expect to take your puppy to do their toilet upwards of 10 to 15 times a day.


Take them to do his business:


  • First thing in the morning
  • Immediately after each meal
  • Straight after a nap
  • Regularly throughout the day and evening (every hour to every few hours)
  • Right before bed


Begin by taking them to the same designated toilet area once every hour. Keep the location consistent to help condition them to going in a specific place. 



7. Patience

There will be a lot of waiting around time for both you and your pup during the first few weeks of toilet training and you'll just have to be patient with them. There will be times when nothing happens - and you feel like giving up and going inside - and then when you come in they pee on the floor!

So patience is the key to success. Eventually, your puppy will learn that eliminating in the right place brings a quicker reward.


owner waits for dog to do a pee


When they get a little older, you will be able to lengthen the time between toilet breaks. (Rule of thumb: add an hour for every month, up to an 8 hour schedule. Smaller breeds are generally less able to hold it in as long as medium breeds  and large dogs.)


Little pups simply can't go the whole night without having to do their toilet. Yes, it's not a lot of fun having to get up in the middle of the night, but - for the sake of your pup - you must. (And for the sake of your house, always respond promptly to their signals to go outside.)



8. Accidents

They’ll happen. It’s not a reflection on your training skills, or on your dog’s ability to learn. Accidents are just that: accidents.


If you find they're going in places they shouldn't, you need to interrupt them as quickly as you can. It’s not about punishing or frightening him; it’s simply to stop them from doing it there. You then need to take them to the spot you’ve chosen to finish and give them praise and a treat when the deed is done.


If you find evidence of an accident after the fact and don't catch your pup in the act, simply clean up the mess as soon as possible and move on.


Never punish him retroactively. Dogs only understand a correction if you catch them in the act of doing something wrong and you interrupt them.


Please don't yell at your puppy, try to make her feel "guilty," or bring her over to the accident area to "confront" the mess; these actions won't have any positive effect on her housetraining, and will only upset and confuse her.



9. How Long Is Too Long?

You and your doggo are in it for the long haul, so accept that fact. It’s a process that can take more than a year, depending on your own domestic circumstances; though bigger dogs do tend to get the hang of it sooner than the little guys. Behaviourist, Rosie Bescoby offers some expert tips on how to prepare your pooch for time alone.


Regression is common, and a fact of life. It’s not a race; if anything, it’s a marathon.

Good luck!


dog takes a leak in the snow



Want your puppy to be 100% safe?  Read up on what  Vaccinations are needed when and how often; and watch Behaviourist Adem Fehmi's short video tutorial for expert tips to help your puppy prepare for their first visit to the vet. 


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