How to house-train your dog

House-training your dog can be a true test of patience, but if you keep this process in mind, it becomes easier over time.

Set a schedule

Set a schedule so she learns there are definite times she will be taken out. This schedule will be maintained for the rest of her life. After the age of 7 months of so, she should only need to eliminate four times a day. These times would be: first thing in the morning, after breakfast, after dinner, and just before bed.

Be consistent

Most puppies up to the age of 3 months need to be taken out 8 to10 times per day, especially after eating, playing and sleeping. A puppy’s ability to “hold it” during the day relates to his age and activity. Some puppies can make it seven hours through the night. For many dogs, seven months of age is the reliability age which means they can “hold it” until their regularly scheduled elimination time. For newly adopted puppies that are 7 to10 weeks old, set your alarm to wake up in four hours the first night and take her outside to urinate. Add 15 minutes every two days to gradually increase muscle control. Some puppies at that age can “hold it” for seven or eight hours already, in which case this night-time routine can be omitted. It’s important to provide opportunities for the puppy to eliminate and avoid the chance he or she might eliminate in the kennel!

Designate an area for them

Dogs hate to soil their own area. This includes the area the puppy sleeps in as well as any other area in which she is left alone. If you leave your dog in a kennel, it should be large enough for her to comfortably stand and move around but not too large. If the area is too big, the puppy will go to the furthest area from the sleeping and eating area in the crate and eliminate.

No food or water after their final elimination

If you are housebreaking an older dog, do not put him in a kennel if he has not been acclimated to it. (Read The Dog Whisperer to learn how to acclimate your dog). Use baby gates and install them in your bedroom or kitchen area instead. Over time, you can get almost any dog use to a kennel.

Housetraining Rules:

  • Be consistent
  • Feed twice a day (three times a day for puppies up to six months of age)
  • No food after 7 p.m.
  • Set a schedule for elimination
  • No water after the final elimination just before bed. Do not give her access to a bowl of water during the night. If necessary, you can give her a couple of ice cubes in a bowl in her sleeping area at night. They will slowly melt and provide a little thirst quenching.

Housetraining Procedure:

  • Designate one area outside for elimination.
  • “Call” or “label” the elimination behavior something such as “Hurry-up,” “Go potty,” “Go outside,” etc. But do not add the verbal cue until the dog is circling, sniffing and looking like she’s about to go.
  • Housetraining
  • As she eliminates, gently reinforce her with a phrase such as “Good girl” or “Yay, you!” or some other words.
  • When she finishes,reward the behavior with a great treat and lots of praise. Great treats include chicken, turkey, cheese, liver, etc.

If your puppy doesn’t eliminate within 5 minutes, bring her back in the house and supervise. You can tie her to you or put her back in her sleeping area. Try again 10 minutes later and take her to the spot outside.

It’s important to remember that dogs have only a second or so window in which they make associations. In other words, you must catch them in the act. Interrupt the behavior as it is happening indoors with an “Uh oh!” or “Oh no!” and quickly escort her out. Once outside, immediately begin to gently encourage her to eliminate.

A dog cannot associate your praise or corrections even seconds after she has done something. Many people think that their dog “knows” she has done something wrong because “she acts guilty,” and they put their dog’s nose in the elimination and say “bad dog.” In reality, the dog has indeed made an association, but the association has to do with pee or poop being linked to something bad happening to her. But she has no idea who the pee or poop belongs to! So either catch your dog “in the act” or forget about it. Some trainers also suggest you clean up the pee or poop out of sight of the dog.

Never hit, kick, jerk, shake, shock, hang, swat with a newspaper, roll over or pin to the ground or pinch your puppy. A puppy is a baby and should be treated with love, compassion, and understanding.

Never call your dog to you and then do anything negative. For example, if your dog does not like being put in her sleeping area, do not call her into the house and then put her immediately in her sleeping area. (In her mind this would be punishment for coming when called.) Instead, play with her a short time and then put her in the sleeping area.

If your dog doesn’t like going on wet grass or if you are having problems, call a professional dog trainer who uses only positive training methods. Call a vet as well to determine if there are any physiological issues contributing to the problem.