Whether you are bringing home a new puppy or an adult shelter dog, odds are you have some housetraining to do. Even if the animal rescue, dog shelter, or breeder tells you that your new dog is house trained, you are generally better off treating your dog as though they are not.
Even when you move to a new house, it is a good idea to spend a couple of days treating your dog as though they are not housetrained.
House training your dog can be one of the more frustrating things to work through, but the good news is we are here with some tips and tricks to help you out along the way.
1. Timing is everything.
When you are house training your dog, timing is your best friend. With puppies, the rule of thumb is that your puppy can hold their bladder for the same number of hours as they are months old, plus one hour. So, if your puppy is 3 months old, they should be able to hold their bladder for 4 hours. This does not mean that they absolutely will. What it means is, if you will be gone for more than 4 hours, you should provide them an approved place to go potty like a potty pad or an indoor grass patch .
When you are home, it is a good idea to start off taking your puppy out every hour. If they go to the bathroom, great! They get to relieve themselves and get to run around and play. If they don’t, that’s okay, you can try again later. To your puppy, they are getting to spend more time outdoors and bonding with you. As you get to know your puppy better, you can start extending the time in between potty breaks.
Your puppy should always get an opportunity to potty before you leave, no matter how recently they’ve gone, and as soon as you get home. Your puppy should also always be given an opportunity to potty about 30 minutes after a meal. Those will be prime poop times!
2. Management is key.
The easiest way to potty train a puppy is to manage them. This goes for adult dogs who are new to your home as well. If your dog is not house trained, meaning you don’t completely and explicitly trust them in your home, then they should not have the opportunity to roam free without supervision.
Crates are an amazing tool for managing your dog. Ideally, you want your dog’s crate to be big enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Any bigger than that and they will be able to potty in one corner and move away from it. Any smaller, and they will be uncomfortable. Along with the great timing of your potty breaks, the crate will be a useful tool. Anytime you cannot watch your puppy closely, like when you take a shower, your dog should be in their crate.
A tether can also be a great management tool while house training your puppy. It can be a really good way of ensuring that you always have eyes on your dog. You know where they are, they’re with you! A tether typically consists of a leash that is attached to your dog, and a carabiner that is on the handle so that you can hook that carabiner either to a fence, to the leash they are on looped around a stationary object, or onto your own belt.
3. Reward your dog
Most people know the routine of giving their pup a treat when they go potty outside. There are a lot of other rewards we can give our dogs for pottying outside though. Let them run around and play in the backyard, or continue your walk a little longer after throwing them their “potty party”.
When you make your dog go inside immediately after using the restroom, a lot of dogs will learn this routine and end up doing their best to hold it and enjoy their outside time, then end up pottying inside. Life rewards can be just as valuable as food rewards, if not more so in certain situations. Another life reward can be some freedom in the house. You take your dog out and they go potty, you play in the yard for a few minutes and then they get to come inside and hang out loose with you for a little while. What fun!
4. When to manage your dog
It can be difficult to know when to use your management tools and when not to. I tend to follow the rules of management as follows:
- If you just took your dog out and they pottied, great!
- Now they get some play time or a little bit longer of a walk, and to come inside and hang out loose.
- Take the time you usually wait between potty breaks and cut that in half. That is how long they get to enjoy their freedom.
- After that time has passed they should be on their tether with you, in a contained area where you can watch them closely, or crated if you are occupied.
- If you cannot be around to watch them, they do not get to hang loose in the house.
- If you just took your dog out but they didn’t potty, it’s okay.
- When you come back inside, just go back to the management tools you were using before.
- They are tethered with you, in a contained area where you can watch them closely.
- Crate your dog if you are unable to watch them.
- Try again soon.
5. “What do I do with my dog at night?”
At night our dogs can usually last a little longer without using the restroom. For an adult dog, give them a potty break right before bed and then put them in their crate, or secure sleeping area. They should be able to make it through the night. However, if they start whining or making noise in the night, take them out and give them an opportunity to go potty.
To make sure it doesn’t turn into midnight play sessions, take them out on leash. Walk them around. If they potty, give them their normal “potty party” or a treat once going back inside. If not, they just go back in and go back to their crate. This will prevent your dog from developing unwanted nightly habits of waking you up for attention.
Puppies still need breaks a little more frequently. Just like babies will often need their diapers changed at night, puppies will still need to potty. The best thing to do is to set an alarm and take them out every few hours. If you hear any crying, take them out or you may be cleaning up a messy crate.
6. “But I have to go to work!”
If you are dealing with house training a young puppy and you have to go to work, it isn’t always feasible to come home every few hours and take them out. There are a few things you can do in this instance:
- You can hire a dog walker to come out and give your pup the needed potty breaks
- You can attend a puppy daycare program like DogBoy’s Pup Academy.
- You can also set them up with a little “apartment”. Create a safe area for your puppy using an ex-pen or a large crate. In this area they should have access to a bed, water, toys to chew on and play with, and an approved potty spot.
- You can use puppy pads, or a patch of grass in a box. To help them know to soil in that area you can put pee or poop on the spot to encourage them to use it. You will also want to be prepared for them to miss the potty spot, and put this area on tile or wood floors, and not carpet.
When you are house training an adult dog, but you aren’t sure they can make it the full 8-9 hours you will be gone, you can do similar things. You can hire a dog walker, or utilize a daycare program. Most adult dogs should be able to hold it at least half of the day, and shouldn’t need a special enclosure.
“Housetraining my dog is just not working!”
Sometimes housetraining can feel like a real struggle. It is important to remember that it takes time, especially with puppies. Babies use diapers for a long time! Puppies house train remarkably fast in comparison to human babies. Although it can still take longer than we would really like, you just have to be patient and consistent.
Remember, if you find an accident after the fact, there’s nothing to do but clean it up. If you catch your puppy in the act, just scoop them up and run outside. They will typically stop once they are picked up. Punishing them or trying to “show them” what they did will not help you or them.
If the house training issues seem especially persistent, the first step is to consult your vet. Incontinence can sometimes be explained by medical issues, such as a UTI. Most of time when someone feels like their dog is peeing in the house “because they are mad” a UTI is to blame. If you get the all clear from your vet, then give our trainers a call or contact a member of the DogBoy’s training staff. We can help you troubleshoot your house training regimen, and see if we can figure out what the problem is.
Labrador-Puppy by Tyler Allen
Bridget safe in her crate by Patrick Fitzgerald
sick by Joan Valencia