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Monday, December 1, 2008

House Training a Puppy

House Training

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.


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.


Enterprising Entrepreneur said...

doh. sorry i just asked you this question on your recent post. my bad. thanks for posting!!! Instead of sod can i use a litter box?

Bondo517 said...

Im having trouble with housebreaking. I manage to catch my puppy before the act, and bring him outside. Problem is I go there with him for 30 minutes and he doesnt go until we are back in the house. I reward him when he does go outside, but they are rare occurances.

SkoVærkstedet said...

Hi, I would were much like to learn my 4 months old puppy to use a bell when to go. But how...?

Enterprising Entrepreneur said...

for house training, i've found the most effective way is to take the puppy out every 1-2 hours and put them on the grass and say the same words (go potty), eventually you teach the dog that they pee outside, and "go potty" means go pee. i use "go deuce" for poo.

to learn how to use the bell, you set up a bell at the front door and ring it everytime you go out, eventually they will ring it when they want to use the bathroom.

SkoVærkstedet said...

Thanks for answering so quick!! Yesterday I hang the leach in height so Milo (my puppy)can reach it. This morning when I woke up Milo was coming towards me with the leach! Hurra:-)


Since I got Milo I have walked with him every 2. hour. Very quickly he understood peeing is outside. Of cause we have had a few accidents when the timeplanning has been moved around. But he is a very quick learner:-)

SkoVærkstedet said...

Another quistion:-)

I have been reading and reading about puppy training - how to learn your puppy sit, stay, down, ect).. But I think it´s very difficult to find out where to start and how many tricks Milo can understand per day.

What is the best method?

I have learned him the command sit, and so far I am very focused on the "sit" command in different enviroments.. For an example; before we are crossing a road, he has to sit and wait for the command "come" with me standing on his side - before serving his dinner he has to sit and wait for the command "værsgo" (in english "you are allowed to eat your food now", whenever he´s having a treat, he has to sit and so on.. Milo almost does all the commands perfect. Should I keep repeating these specific commands before going any further with other tricks/commands? - And give him freetime rest of the day? Or can I educate him all day long? Like going with a loose leach..(very difficult!), not to mouth and so on??

Enterprising Entrepreneur said...


go to youtube, look up kikopup. that is this blogger's youtube channel. She has great instructional videos on it, very good stuff.

you want to train your dog in 3-5 minute segments, they will get bored and then your words to start to lose meaning.

Training in different areas is very important, distractions are the hardest thing to get commands through, so you're doing a good job!

feel free to teach other tricks, they learn fast, and the will usually remember.


SkoVærkstedet said...

Thank you!!:-)

I have searched at youtube (Emily is brilliant!) and learned so much more about Milo and the way to communicate! The benefits are amazing!:-)

Enterprising Entrepreneur said...

yea she is amazing :)

Sprout Hill Farm said...

Thank you! I have house trained dogs before without a hitch- but I find myself struggling with my chihuahua girl- I have been wading through a sea of bad info online hoping for some help, I am THRILLED to read some new tips that I had not heard or tried before. It is brilliant to offer food or bed in her soiled area to help her see it is her home and den- wow! Thank you! Brilliant! I can not wait to read more!

Unknown said...

I got a golden two months ago.... She was doing great. No accidents in the house, standing at the door when she needed to go, but for the past 5 days she has peed in the house in straight visibility of us. We used positive reinforcement to get her to go outside but I'm not sure she understands that it's bad to go inside. I want to remain using positive reinforcement but I want her to know its not acceptable to go in the house. Please help,

Unknown said...

I got a golden two months ago.... She was doing great. No accidents in the house, standing at the door when she needed to go, but for the past 5 days she has peed in the house in straight visibility of us. We used positive reinforcement to get her to go outside but I'm not sure she understands that it's bad to go inside. I want to remain using positive reinforcement but I want her to know its not acceptable to go in the house. Please help,

Anonymous said...

This is an informative blog by which I have got that info which I really wanted to get. leash training your puppy

Unknown said...

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this. I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me. Thanks!

Kind Regards,

Elayne Taylor
you could try these out

Zeslaus said...

Small dogs are notorious for being hard to house train! ...

Unknown said...

When a young puppy is being house trained, it is also important that one of the foundations of effective house training is also implemented - potty training. This can be a very challenging activity for the pet parent, but with enough patience, I’m sure any determined pet parent will succeed. You can read more about potty training here:

Charles C Hagaman said...

Toilet training your dog is not that hard of a task but it requires loads of commitment and consistency Toilet training your dog

AskAnyDifference said...

Everybody here must have seen that the puppy goes to the same spot for his potty which is quite funny. Good tips on this page. I liked it.
More tips on puppy potty training

Aaron Smith said...

Here is a great resource for finding local puppy trainers in your area: