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A dog owner scolding a dog for peeing on the rug

Dog Training 101: House Training

Puppy house training or housebreaking is an essential process that every dog owner must facilitate in order to have a harmonious relationship with their canine companions. The goal of house training a puppy is to condition them to poop or pee either outdoors or in an indoor designated area. 

It can be challenging to get through the dog’s instinctive behaviour to relieve themselves where it’s convenient. However, the effort of house training is well worth it. Here’s everything you need to know about house training a puppy. 

Let’s get started!

At What Age Can Puppy House Training Begin? 

According to Fetch by WebMD, the recommended age for beginning traditional house training for a puppy is between 12 and 16 weeks. This is the stage in a puppy’s life when they have enough control over their bladder and bowel movements. 

What Makes Puppy House Training Unique From Other Tricks 

Nearly all tricks follow the same framework:

  1. You wait or encourage the desired action or behaviour
  2. You use the assigned cue while the action is ongoing
  3. You capture the completion of the action using the word “yes” or a clicker sound
  4. Then, you reward your pup!
  5. Repeat.

The reason why house training is more unique and challenging is because waiting or encouraging a puppy to pee or poop (in a specific place, at that) is not as straightforward as encouraging them to sit or stay on cue. This is why the first step for house training, unlike other dog training steps, is establishing a schedule.    

A golden retriever puppy lying next to an alarm clock

Steps to House Training a Puppy

1. Establish a Schedule for Feeding 

Depending on your puppy’s age, feeding is usually done three or four times a day. To make puppy house training more manageable, it is best to feed your puppy on a regular schedule. This would also mean that your puppy would eliminate waste within the schedule as well. Over time, you may even find a pattern of how long after feeding elimination takes place.  

However, when planning a schedule for taking your puppy outside, you would also need to consider how long the puppy can control their bladder. You can estimate this using the puppy’s age; one month = one hour. So a puppy that is 3 months old will be able to hold in pee for no more than 3 hours. If you exceed 3 hours for a puppy this old, there are bound to be accidents. 

You can refine your schedule over time but here are a few points to start with:

  • Puppies that need to be fed four times a day should be fed at intervals every 4 hours
  • Take your puppy outside every 2 hours
  • Take your puppy outside right after they wake up

2. Stay Alert 

Even if it’s not the scheduled time to take your puppy outside, watch out for signs that your puppy is about to go:

  • Crouching
  • Circling an area
  • Sniffing a corner
  • Whining 

During the first few days or weeks of training, it is important to stay alert for the above signs and bring your puppy outside promptly. To keep your puppy within visual range so you can observe them, you can put them on a leash close to you. 

3. Setting the Cue & Rewarding Your Puppy 

Whether it’s within a schedule or because you saw signs that your puppy is about to go, take your puppy to a designated spot outside. It would be helpful if it is a manageable distance from your front door. 

Every time your puppy uses this designated spot to eliminate waste, use a cue word or phrase like “potty” or “go potty.” This is so that you have a cue that you can use to remind them later on. 

4. Reward Your Puppy Properly 

After your puppy has relieved themselves, give praises and treats to reinforce the behaviour. Do this right after your puppy has finished, not when you are back in the house. This is to be clear that you are rewarding them for using the designated spot outside to do their business. 

A golden retriever puppy lying next to an alarm clock

5. Make Sure to Pick Up the Water Dish at Night

Most puppies can sleep for 7 hours without needing a bathroom break, that is, unless they drink frequently. Therefore, by picking up your puppy’s water bowl around 2 hours before their bedtime, you reduce the likelihood of them needing to pee during the night. 

6. If Your Puppy Wakes You Up At Night 

Over time, your puppy will learn that going to the bathroom needs to be outside. And so, if they need to do their business in the middle of the night, they may wake you up. When this happens, do not engage them too much. Otherwise, they may get into the habit of waking you up at night to play. However, continue to reward or praise them for using the designated area outside. 

Alternative Method: Using Puppy Pads and Crate Training

What we talked about in this blog is the traditional way of house training a puppy. However, an alternative method involving the use of puppy pads and crate training can be more convenient for some dog owners.

Using puppy pads allows you to begin earlier with house training a puppy, with the added convenience of being able to do so indoors. These pads come in really handy because young pups tend to need to go to the bathroom more frequently. Teaching your dog to use puppy pads can also be a useful skill later on in their life.   

Final Notes

If you are house training a puppy for the first time, remember to be patient with yourself and with your pup. Puppies, like kids, have their own needed time to fully learn something new. Furthermore, you can always contact an expert trainer if you need additional help.  

While your puppy is at their critical developmental stage, it’s the best time to teach other useful skills. 

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