House training consists of essentially 2 things: prevention and teaching the dog where to go.
Starting today there must be ZERO mistakes, as every time there is a mistake the dog is learning that the best toilet area is actually indoors. It’s easy to understand, if a person had an outhouse in the garden and a bathroom indoors, the person would pick the indoors toilet (it’s more reinforcing).
Depending on how the puppy was raised, some will prove harder to house train than others. Puppies that had a separate toilet to their whelping box will find the concept easier than puppies whose toilet area was in the same room (very often the case with toy dog breeder setups). Small dogs are notorious for being hard to house train! There are many people in the same boat.
The key is management! If you are not there to see the mistake, then the dog is reinforced for peeing in the house because relieving the bladder feels good so it’s as though they received a treat for going indoors. It’s a big pain, but if you can’t watch them 100% of the time, put them in a safe area.
If your dog is peeing in the house, they are not trying to teach you a lesson, get back at you for leaving them all day or drive you up the wall; they just are not 100% house trained. A dog that pees in the house cannot be left alone for 1 second because a mistake can be an enormous setback. So instead have the dog tied to you on leash, leave them in a pen, leave them in a crate, hold them on your lap, or have your eyes GLUED to them the whole time. Just because they went to the bathroom 1 minute ago does not mean they won’t go again at any second.
Leave no evidence- Clean the spots that have been soiled with an enzymatic cleaner like Natures Miracle or XO, other cleaners will still leave the smell of urine which is an invitation to pee on again.
Hang out in areas that were peed on, train and play with them on that spot, put a bed over it, or a food or water bowl telling them this is not a toilet! It’s the den!
Home Alone- One option is leaving a puppy in a exercise pen with a bed, toys and water, as well as a toilet area- a square of grass in a shallow tub. The problem with newspaper or pee pads is that they teach the dog to pee on substrates that are similar (like the bed! Or white t-shirts etc). Another option is to have the puppy in a crate, with a dog walker to come by to let the puppy out to exercise and use the bathroom. I prefer the exercise pen or safe area, over a crate, because the puppy has choices throughout the day of what to do and will essentially be less energetic when the owner returns from work.
2- TEACH THE DOG WHERE TO GO
REINFORCE THE RIGHT LOCATION
Bring the puppy to the location you wish to be the bathroom, let them sniff around, if they don’t go to the bathroom, put them back in their puppy safe area, have them attached to you by leash, or watch them like a hawk. If they DO go, click and treat with tons of praise.
Keep in mind that many dogs prefer to pee and poop in different locations.
Putting the behavior on cue- This is very helpful if you travel, or if you are late for work and need your dog to go immediately!
Go to the location you prefer with the puppy on leash. BEFORE the dog starts to pee as they are just about to squat, say your cue whatever it may be “Hurry up!” if you wish. When the dog is peeing you can praise your dog and click then feed the dog an amazing treat afterwards. You are essentially conditioning the dogs neurons to tell it “THIS IS THE BEST PLACE TO PEE!”
THE PROBLEM WITH PUNISHMENT- Punishing the dog for going to the toilet in the house can be confusing if there is at least one time when the dog goes in the house when you are not there- they learn it is bad to pee in the house if a person is around, but when a person is not around it is perfectly ok. Secondly there is the issue of the dog learning never to pee in front of human beings ever. It is very hard to house train a dog that won’t pee in front of you.
What to do if the dog does pee- If you see your dog starting to pee, say “outside!” or any cue you want, and rush them outside by their collar or carrying them, this is punishment enough. Better to catch them when they start to sniff rush them outside and reward them profusely.
A trick that I love is- When the puppy has a FULL bladder, have them on leash in the area that they are prone to go in the house say “outside” and quickly escort them on the route to the RIGHT location. Some dogs just don’t seem to get that when they are upstairs they should go all the way down the stairs and out the door. By showing them the way, they will be more likely to think of it on their own.
Two timers- Some dogs need to pee twice in a row. So if you are blessed with a puppy like this, you must praise and reward the dog for peeing and then wait another minute. Some people find that bringing the dog in and then going directly out again can speed up the process.
Teach the dog to ring a bell- If your dog doesn’t figure out a way of letting you know they need to go out, you can teach them to ring a bell on the door.