Viking Dog Training

5 simple steps to housetraining your puppy (or adult dog)

Posted in 'behavioural issues, puppy training' on September 9, 2015, 9:00 am
Challenges with housetraining are incredibly common. It's not fair to keep your dog outside or in a pen or crate most of his or her life because of housetraining issues, so housetraining is something that you must devote some time to when you get a puppy.

But first, some things you should know about housetraining:

Puppies don't have full control of their bladder until they're about 6 months old. Until this time, they can't be expected to hold it until they get outside with any reliability. It's up to you to get them outside to pee.

Young dogs around 8-10 months old tend to have relapses in housetraining, so I recommend you devote the first 12 months to properly housetraining your puppy.

Pee pads, or "training pads", are a waste of money. They only teach your puppy to pee inside the house, on any square on the floor (such as door mats and bath mats). The first question I ask when I see a client with an adult dog with housetraining issues, is if the dog was trained with pee pads. Nearly always, the answer is yes.

Puppies who live in apartments or don't have easy access to a yard can be trained to use a litter tray. I recommend using a tray with either cat litter or turf. These are distinctly different from anything else inside, so your puppy won't get confused. You can still use the steps below if you are litter training your puppy.

Now that we know this, here are the 5 steps to housetraining your puppy:

  1. Take your puppy outside often - after naps, after eating, after playtime, and otherwise every hour when awake. Note that this is a general guideline. When my dog Obi was a puppy, he needed to be taken out every 20 minutes until he was 6 months old.

    Also note that I said "take your puppy outside", not "let your puppy out". It's important that you go outside with your puppy, or you won't know if he has peed or not, and you won't be there to reward him when he does pee. Which brings me to the next point.

  2. Reward your puppy for peeing outside, every time. Your puppy doesn't care if he pees inside or outside. Peeing is self-rewarding (it feels good) because it relieves the need to go. We need to make it more rewarding to pee outside than inside, and also provide an incentive for your puppy to hold it until he gets outside. Even if he starts peeing inside, and you interrupt him and take him outside, you should still reward him for finishing outside.

  3. Never punish your puppy for peeing inside. Your puppy won't know that it was for peeing inside, only that it was for peeing. As a result, he will be reluctant to pee in front of you and instead sneak into the corner of the bedroom to pee out of sight. Needless to say, a puppy who won't pee in front of you is very difficult to housetrain. It's ok to interrupt your puppy peeing inside by picking him up and taking him outside, just make sure you never tell him off, shout at him, or otherwise punish him.

  4. Restrict your puppy's freedom in the house. This is important for several reasons, such as building your relationship and teaching your puppy that you are fun and interesting, rather than your puppy learning that outside is fun and you are boring. To build good habits in general and preventing bad habits from forming, and also to prevent housetraining accidents.

    When not supervised, your puppy should be in a play pen or crate, or leashed to you. In the play pen, your puppy can have a litter tray or similar. Puppies won't usually pee in their bed, so they will hold it in the crate and whine when they need to go out. Leashed to you, you can keep an eye on him even when you are doing other stuff and take him out if he looks like he needs to go.

    Restricting your puppy's freedom sets him up for success, which means he can be rewarded more often and have fewer accidents, and will be housetrained quicker.

  5. Teach your puppy to pee on command. This is very handy when you want your puppy to pee before you go to work, to a friend's place, into a pet store, or into the vet's office, to make sure your puppy's bladder is empty.

    I use the command "empty". Others use "quick", "go wee-wee", or similar. It doesn't matter what you use, as long as you use the same word every time.

    To teach this, say your chosen command just as your puppy starts peeing, then reward as usual. Your puppy should pick this up in a week or two.

There you have it. Please devote the necessary time to properly housetrain your puppy (or re-train your adult dog). Living with a dog who can be trusted in the house means you will enjoy your dog more, your dog can have more freedom and spend more time with you, and your house won't be ruined or smell funny.


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