House Training Your Dog: Tips and Tricks for Success

Posted by Jackie Ly on

dog and owner looking at the dog's mess on the carpet

House training your dog is one of the most basic and crucial tasks, one of the first things you think of when you bring them home. It takes time, dedication, and a lot of consistency to successfully housetrain a dog or puppy. 

Accidents may always happen during the house-training process, and you have to learn how to respond to them. You and your dog are also just starting to get to know each other, so establishing a positive relationship is as important as training and disciplining them. 

Houstraining is challenging, but very rewarding once you see them following the house rules!

Here are tips and tricks to successfully housetrain your dog.

Create and follow a schedule

Dogs do best on regular schedules. Schedules teach them that there are set times for eating, playing, and going to the bathroom. 

For potty training

Normally, a puppy can hold their bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is 2 months old, they can hold it for roughly 2 hours. They are more likely to have an accident if you make them hold longer than that.

Take your dog outside frequently 

Take your puppy outside every one to two hours, especially if they’re still under 12 weeks old. That's because they're still growing the muscles needed to contain their bowel movements at that stage.

Take them outside right after they wake up, during and after playtime, and after eating or drinking. Consider going outside for a potty break as part of your regular schedule with your dog, just like walking them everyday. And don’t forget to clean their mess outside; you want others to see them as a good dog too!

Pick a bathroom spot

Pick a certain area outside where you want them to soil, and lead their leash to that spot to take them there. 

Choose a specific word or phrase that you can eventually use before your puppy goes to the bathroom to remind them what to do while they are on a potty break. Only after they have gone potty should you take them for a longer stroll or some fun.

Feed them on a regular schedule

What your dog eats on a schedule comes out on schedule. Your puppy may need meals or snacks twice or three times a day, depending on their age. 

Your puppy will be more likely to go potty at regular intervals if you feed them at the same time every day, which makes house training simpler for both of you. As dogs naturally go potty soon after eating, maintaining a regular feeding schedule can prevent confusion and house accidents.

Take away food bowls and water dispensers before bed

To lessen the possibility that your puppy may need to go potty during the night, pick up their water and food bowls around two and a half hours before bedtime.

Most pups are able to sleep for around seven hours without getting up to go to the restroom. Don't make a big deal out of it if your puppy does wake you up in the middle of the night; otherwise, they'll believe it's time to play and won't want to go back to sleep.

Don't talk to or play with your puppy, turn off as many lights as you can, take them outside to go potty, and then put them back to bed.

For playing outside: When to take your dog out

In addition to your puppy's regular feeding schedule that aligns with their potty break, your puppy should get used to going outside right away after playing and napping. Regular walks come with being a puppy parent. Also, don't feed your puppy an hour before sleep and/or keep them in a crate. 

Always remember that you'll need to take your dog for a walk at the following times: 

  • First thing in the morning
  • Before going to bed
  • After eating and/or drinking
  • After naps
  • After playing with a dog treat, bone, or toy
  • After spending time in a crate

Use crate training

While your pup is still learning the house rules, using a crate to house train them for the meantime may be a good option. They won’t soil their house or bed, so to speak, so they learn to hold their bladder until you open the crate at set times and let them outdoors, and you can observe the signs when they need to go.

Here are some tips for crate training:

  • Make sure the crate is large enough but not too big. Your puppy should be able to stand, roll around, turn, and lie down, but the crate shouldn’t betoo big for them to use a corner as a bathroom.
  • Give them access to fresh water. Make sure your puppy has access to fresh water if you plan to keep them in the crate for longer than two hours at a time. It's better if their water is in a dispenser you can attach to the crate.
  • Stop using the crate if they’re soiling in there. If your puppy is going potty in the crate, stop using it. Soiling in the crate could mean different things: your dog might’ve  picked up negative habits from the shelter or pet shop they previously resided in. They  might not be spending enough time outside. They might not be old enough to hold it in, or the crate might be too big.

Use dog pee pads for certain situations

Dog pee pads are waterproof, moisture-absorbing pads used to potty train your puppy or dog. Just like regular diapers, pee pads absorb urine into sponge-like layers. They also wrap the liquid with a leak-proof top to control odour.

If your pup or dog still struggles with scheduled potty breaks or still do not know how to ask to be let out, pee pads are a great tool to help them avoid making messes in inconvenient areas. They’re also best to use during special circumstances.

  • When you live in an apartment - Living in an apartment cancels out the option of letting your dog “go” outside, as you don’t have a backyard. A pee pad can be your dog’s “spot” instead. It will teach them to go in that spot where the pad is. At first, you can put the pad where they usually go, and then incrementally move the pad to your preferred spot, somewhere out of the way but accessible and convenient to your dog. 
  • When you’re outside for long hours - As much as you want to spend the whole day with your dog, you have to attend to your professional and personal errands. You can use pee pads when you’ll be outside for long hours, but never use them as replacement to outside potty training and dog walks! Pee pads are just so they wouldn't have to wait for you if they can’t hold it in any longer.
  • During winter - Going outside to let your dog go potty when it’s freezing cold (and dark) may not be a good idea. Pee pads are a good potty alternative during this time of year when they have to stay indoors most of the time.

Practise positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is widely acknowledged as one of the most effective methods for teaching your dog appropriate behaviour. It focuses on promoting the growth of positive behaviours rather than punishing your dog for misbehaving.

When you give your dog what they want as soon as they follow your commands, they are much more likely to repeat the behaviour.

For potty training

Give them rewards when they take potty break outside

Every time your puppy goes potty outside, reward them with praise or treats! Do not wait till they return inside; do it right away after they finish. This step is essential since there is no other way to teach your dog what is expected of them other than by rewarding them for going outside.

Make sure they're done before rewarding them. They are easily distracted and might forget to finish until they go back inside the home if you reward them too quickly.

Don’t punish them for soiling accidents

When your dog has an accident, don’t punish them. Bring them to their potty spot and say, "No!” in a firm tone. Clean up the mess, place it outside and bring your dog outside. Pretend that they just soiled outside and give them a treat.

For better or worse, dogs are driven by food, and it's the key to success!

For behaviour training: Give them rewards after good behaviour

Positive reinforcement is scientifically proven to be effective in teaching your dog good behaviour. It also helps you build a positive relationship with your dog, enough for them to respect and follow your house rules. 

Positive reinforcement helps your dog avoid behavioural issues and makes them happy to learn, so long that they’ll start to look forward to training sessions! There are many benefits of positive reinforcement both to you and your dog, making life easier for the both of you.

House training your dog is indeed a big commitment, but the puppy cuddles and endless affection you'll receive from them makes it worth it, especially if you make the effort now to lead them in the right direction.

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