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Chances are if you’ve owned a dog before, you’ve also been greeted by accidents in the house. We’ve all been there, but if it’s a constant problem, let’s fix it. If you would like to learn how to house train your dog or puppy reliably – once and for all – keep reading.
There are a few useful points to keep in mind when house training your dog.
- The smaller the dog, the smaller the bladder. Young puppies especially struggle to hold their water.
- Dogs and puppies often need to relieve themselves immediately after waking
- Around 20-30 minutes after eating or drinking, you can bet they’ll need to go again.
- It’s a good idea to give them the opportunity to go outside right before bedtime
- Putting your dog on a consistent schedule will help set them up for success.
- Try to observe your dog and learn their signs of needing a toilet break. Common behaviours include sniffing the ground and walking in circles.
- Exercise promotes bowel movements, so expect them to need to go soon after a play session.
- Adding a cue will be useful down the line. Every time your dog eliminates, use your phrase of choice (I like “be quick”) as he relieves himself, and then praise or reward when he’s done. The connection won’t happen immediately, but over time they will start to associate the phrase with toileting.
- Remember that rewarding your pup for doing the right thing helps them learn faster, so don’t be shy to use treats and throw a little party every time he relieves himself in the right spot.
Method 1: How to house train your dog with a crate
Hopefully already know the beauty of crate training your dog and are convinced of their endless benefits. Crate training really does make house training your dog a breeze, because by using your dog’s inherent desire to not soil the area that they sleep, crates help you teach your pup great toilet manners. So how do you do it?
First of all, ensure your dog’s crate is the right size for toilet training. This means that he should be able to hop in, spin around and lie down without issue. No more and no less – this is essential because if the crate is too large, he’ll be able to eliminate in one area and sleep in another.
Secondly, follow the next rule to a T: if you can’t keep your eyes on your pup, he goes in the crate. Being able to watch your dog closely is paramount for successful house training because it prevents them from relieving themselves without you knowing about it, and building poor habits.
How to house train your dog using a crate
- Take your dog outside every hour, on the hour, unless he’s asleep (the time on the clock obviously doesn’t make a difference, but it will cue you to take your dog outside). This is important, because it helps build a routine for both of you, and it increases the number of opportunities of eliminating outside. If you have a very young or small puppy, it wouldn’t hurt to take them outside even more frequently. Perhaps every 30 minutes if needed!
- When outside, try not to excite them too much. You want to be neutral and rather boring so that they focus on their bodily needs. Once they’ve done their business, praise praise praise! Jump around, give them treats – whatever it is that they love so that they know they’ve just done something good. Doing this enough times will help build the habit, as they learn that peeing outside = play time! If they don’t need to relieve themselves, head back inside and try again in a few minutes.
- Take your dog back inside when you’re done and continue with what you were doing before. Remember to put them back in their crate with a toy or stuffed kong if you can’t keep an eye on them, and let them out again at least 1 hour later.
- You may need to set an alarm to let them out once or twice in the middle of the night if your pup is very young. While bodily needs do slow down at night, puppies still have tiny bladders that fill fast and need emptying often. Let them out when you wake up, act neutral as normal, praise when they do their business and then immediately pop them back in their crate. You don’t want to make a habit of 3am play sessions, so keep it very short and to the point. Adult dogs and older pups should be fine right through the night.
- Rinse, repeat! It’s that simple.
If you’re house training a puppy, you’re probably feeding your new addition at least 3 times per day. Feed them in their crate, to help build a positive association, and then take them outside 20 minutes after each meal. You’ll notice that your dog or puppy will often need to eliminate soon after eating or drinking.
Using a crate safely
Use the following rule of thumb when keeping your dog crated, to prevent them being contained too long.
|Age||Can be safely crated for|
|8-10 weeks||30-60 minutes
|11-14 weeks||1-3 hours|
|15-16 weeks||3-4 hours|
|17+ weeks||4-5 hours|
You may need to enlist the help of a dog walker or friendly neighbour to let your pup out for a toilet break and leg stretch while you’re away at work. At night, body elimination slows down, so puppies and adult dogs can both handle longer crate times (assuming they’re not unwell).
Method 2: How to house train your dog without a crate
Crates are by no means the only way to house train your dog, and if you’d prefer to go without one, then the next method is for you because all you need is a regular dog leash. Ultimately, the strategy is identical to method 1 and leads to the same outcome. It may take a little more time, however, because there are more opportunities for accidents.
How to house train your dog without a crate
- Keep your dog leashed and with you at all times. Whether you’re doing laundry, tidying up or reading to your kids, it doesn’t matter – your dog needs to be supervised because keeping your dog tethered to you prevents him from wandering off and eliminating without your knowledge.
- Take him outside every hour, on the hour. You’re using the same routine as a crate user because you want to build the same habits. Head outside often to give them plenty of opportunities to eliminate in the appropriate place. Praise, play and/or treat when they’ve done their thing and head back inside. If they don’t need to ‘go’ even after a few minutes of standing around, go back inside and try again later.
- Once inside, it’s business as usual – your dog is tethered to you and under supervision. Head back outside in an hour to repeat the exercise.
- In the middle of the night, you can set an alarm to let them out, praising calmly when they’ve done their business and heading straight back to bed.
- Rinse and repeat!
Just because he’s tethered doesn’t mean he won’t pee inside. The point of the leash is to keep your dog with you at all times so that you can watch for signs of needing to void and acting immediately. Letting him drag the leash around the house isn’t enough either, because he could slip away for just a second and eliminate somewhere out of view. The more times he’s allowed to do this, the harder it is to break the habit.
Whether it’s your first time, or you’re a puppy raising veteran, mistakes can certainly happen.
First of all, kick out any inclination to punish or yell at your dog, as this halts your progress two-fold:
- It doesn’t teach them not to pee inside, because you’re not showing them what they should do instead.
- It teaches them that if they need to relieve themselves, they should do it when you’re not looking. You’ll train your dog to become more stealthy and pick even more obscure places to eliminate in an attempt to avoid making you mad.
If the deed is done, just clean up and move on. If you catch them in the act, pick them up or call them while you run out the door to where you’d rather have them go. Praise and play when they’ve finished the job outside. This turns it into a game and rewards them for what they should be doing. Make toileting outside as positive and enjoyable as possible to boost their desire to do it on their own.
It’s a good idea to pick up an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle to eliminate stains and odours. Dogs tend to eliminate in the same general spot over and over, and if they can smell their urine in the house, they’ll go to the same are the next time. For many owners, this can actually be the root of the issue.
If you’d like to learn even more about perfecting your dog’s toilet habits, check out How To Housebreak Your Dog In 7 Days for extra tips and ideas.
The key to a house trained dog is being watchful, giving your pup plenty of opportunities to get it right and letting them know what a great job they’ve done when they do. If you follow the advice above, you’ll soon learn how to house train your dog – regardless of your experience, budget or the age of your pet.
Let’s hear from you – have you struggled with housebreaking? What’s worked for you in the past? And what still needs help? Comment below or contact us, we’d love to hear your thoughts.