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How to House Train a Dog – Everything You Need To Know

House-training your dog or puppy needs lots of patience, commitment, positive reinforcement and consistency. Ideally, this will allow you to teach your pet good habits and build a loving bond with them as well!

How Long Will It Take to House-Train a Dog?

To fully house-train a puppy typically takes 4-6 months, but for some puppies may take up to a year. There are a few factors that will impact how long your dog will take to be house trained:

  • Dog’s size: Smaller breeds have smaller bladders and higher metabolisms, requiring more frequent walks outside.
  • Previous living conditions: Your dog may have developed bad habits from their previous living condition and you would need to help your puppy break these old habits prior to establishing more desirable ones.

During the training, you should expect some hiccups. Reward your dog with treats until they understand the dos and don’ts in your house.

When to Start House Training a Dog?

It is ideal to start house training your puppy at around 12 to 16 weeks of age because, at this age, they will have control over their bladder. If your puppy or dog is older than 16 weeks, you can start house training immediately.

Steps to House Train Your Dog: 

Accidents are part of the process, but if you follow these basic house-training rules, you can get your newest family member on the right track in a few weeks.

Make Schedules

Like babies, puppies do well with a consistent schedule. Create a schedule that includes eating time, playing time, and walking time (for them to do their business). The schedule prepares their body both mentally and physically for the activity.

Depending on your dog’s age, you may need to feed them three or four times a day. Feeding your pet at the exact times each day will make it more likely that they discharge at consistent times as well, making housetraining easier for both of you. Similarly, you should take your canine out at the same time every day. For instance, as soon as he wakes up in the morning, when you are back home from school/work, before bedtime, etc.

PRO TIP: Usually, a puppy can control its bladder for one hour for every month of age, which means if your pup is two months old, they can hold it in for about two hours. If you go longer than this between bathroom breaks, you can expect an accident at home.

Pick a Bathroom Spot Outside

Fix a place and always take your puppy using a leash to that spot. Generally your dog won’t feel comfortable with the location at the beginning. However, it’s important to be persistent and to help your dog get settled in the location. While your dog is relieving themselves, use a specific command or phrase that you can eventually use before they eliminate to remind them what to do. Take them out for a longer walk or some playtime only after discharge.

Reward your Puppy

Praise or reward your dog with treats, but remember to do so promptly after they’ve finished, not after they come back inside your house. This is an essential step because positive reinforcement of their behavior will mean they are more likely to do that in the future. Before rewarding, be sure they’re finished. Puppies get easily distracted if you praise too soon; they may forget to finish until they’re back in the house.

Limit your Dog’s Water Consumption At Night

Soaked Wet Long-coated Dog Opens Mouth at Water Streams on Green Grass

Remove your dog’s water dish about two and a half hours before its bedtime to reduce the possibility of relieving themselves during the night. Most puppies can sleep for about seven hours without needing a bathroom break. If your puppy does wake you up in the night, don’t make a big deal of it as they might think it is time to play and not go back to sleep.

Use Crate Training to Support Potty Training

Long-coated Brown Puppy Inside Cage

When you’re not watching your puppy at all times, restrict them to an area small enough that they won’t want to discharge there. An example of a small area would be a crate. In order to do this successfully follow the following strategies:

  • The space should be large enough for your dog to be comfortable but small enough to ensure they do not discharge there. Dogs do not like to eliminate where they sleep or eat. Ensure the space is just big enough for them to stand, lie down and turn around comfortably. But ensure it’s not too big that your dog will discharge in a corner and be comfortable.
  • If your puppy is confined in the small area for more than two hours, ensure they have fresh water (e.g., a dispenser attached to the crate)
  • If your puppy has spent several hours in the crate, make sure to take them directly to their discharge spot as soon as you return; if you can’t be home, ensure someone else takes them out (this is particularly important for the first 8 months)
  • Reconsider the use of a crate or type of crate if your dog eliminates in it. There are several possible reasons for such behavior – it could be an existing bad habit; the crate may be bigger than needed; the dog may not be getting sufficient outside time (or the frequency of outside time is too low); or the puppy may just be too young and cannot hold it in.

Listen to your dog

Your dog is likely to communicate with you that it needs to go. This can come in the form of barking, whining, sniffing, or circling. If your dog is not confined, signs could include scratching the door or barking. When you see such behavior, take them out to their spot immediately.

Understand the Reasons for your Dog’s Accidental Discharge

  • Medical Problems: Various medical problems could cause your dog to have accidents in the house (and is more common as your dog ages). If you adopted an adult dog that was previously house trained but has started relieving themselves inside, they may benefit from a visit to the vet. If your dog is discharging stool in the home, they may have elimination problems. Please pay attention to your dog’s stool consistency and the frequency or infrequency of their excreting in these cases. If your dog abruptly starts having accidents in the house, this may be a sign of a more significant medical problem. Consult the vet immediately if these problems persist. Diagnosing conditions early can save your pet’s life.
  • Territorial Urine Marking: Dogs sometimes discharge, usually in small volumes, to scent-mark their territory. Both the male and female dogs perform this act, and it most often happens when they understand their territory has been invaded.
  • Separation Anxiety: Dogs who become anxious when they’re left alone for too long may house soil as a result. Usually, there are other indications, such as destructive behavior or whining.
  • Fears or Phobias: When animals are scared, they may lose control of their bladder and/or bowels. Your dog may also house soil when he is exposed to frightening loud noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks. Try closing windows, increase music in your TVs or speakers, or put them in a quiet room to eliminate such fears.

Dos and Don’ts in House-Training Your Puppy

Housetraining can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating process. Keep the following in mind when housetraining your dog:

  • Do not punish your puppy if they have an accident. That will make them fear you.
  • Do not punish your dog or react angrily if you find evidence of the act but do not see it in action. At this point, it is too late to administer a change. Unfortunately puppies are unable to connect your anger/punishment with their negative behavior that is not currently ongoing. Scolding them or punishing them in any other manner would simply make your puppy scared to eliminate in front of you. Instead, clean the place calmly.
  • Do clap loudly or interrupt your pup in another way if you see your puppy in the middle of the process indoors so that they are aware of their incorrect behavior. Instantly take him to his bathroom spot; praise him, and reward a treat if he finishes eliminating there to positively reinforce the desired behavior.
  • Do stay outside longer if your pup is having accidents when they are indoors. This extra time may be needed for them to completely finish their business.
  • Do clean up soiled areas with an enzymatic cleanser as opposed to an ammonia-based cleaner. Enzymatic cleansers reduce the odors that might attract the puppy to conduct its business again in that exact spot. Dogs are motivated to discharge in areas that smell like urine or feces.

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