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dvm (11)Teaching your puppy (or any dog for that matter) where you expect him to go to the bathroom is probably the most critical and sometimes the most frustrating part of training. A dog that is not properly housebroken often ends up relegated to the backyard or the animal shelter. With a proper and consistent training program, most puppies can be house trained in a short period of time. Take note that I don't consider any dog completely house trained until it is at least 6 months of age and hasn't had an accident (aka 'wreck') inside the house for at least 3 months.

Don't listen to those that will tell you to rub the dog's nose in his accidents or spank him with a rolled newspaper, which in reality only teaches the dog to be wary of the owner because it cannot associate the punishment with the soiling. With proper training, your dog can be taught to not only relieve itself outside, but in a specific area and on command.

The key to potty training is taking your pup out frequently and never giving them the opportunity to have a wreck in the house. This means at least 8 trips outside a day; rain, shine, sleet, hail and cold. To avoid potty wrecks inside, when your pup is in the house it should always either be : 1) in it's crate 2) in a puppy safe/ potty safe playpen with a potty area that contains a preferred surface such as paper 3) attached to you by a leash (umbilical cord) so it cannot wander off and potty in the house or 4) under your direct supervision in an enclosed are (I use lots of child's gates). Direct supervision means you are watching at all times (no distractions). You leave the room for two minutes, and your pup will have a wreck and you were not there to correct or shape her behavior. Your fault.

There are several methods that can be utilized depending on the age of the dog and your personal schedule and environment. I would advise that regardless of method you use, you include crating/kenneling your dog/pup in your house training plan. Dogs are den animals and generally will not urinate or defecate in the same place they eat and sleep. Refer to the crate training section if you need help in teaching your dog to accept the crate. The crate provides a secure place to prevent the dog from having accidents in the house when you are away or unable to keep an eye on him. If your pup/dog is soiling its crate, you should consider these potential causes:

  • The kennel is too large. The kennel should be only large enough to allow your dog to enter, turn around and lay down in. If you have purchased a larger crate to allow for growth of the pup (wise idea), then you will need to put something like a box in the back part of the kennel, thus blocking off part of the crate.

  • The pup is being left too long in the crate. Puppies cannot be left in crates for 8-10 hours a day. Young (8 week old) pups need to eliminate at least every hour (more if they're eating, playing or just waking up). If the pup is habitually urinating or defecating in the crate, this will defeat one of the purposes of crate training and make the crate a miserable place to be for the puppy. If you must be gone for longer than 4 hours, a dog sitter or doggie daycare may be a better alternative during long absences.

  • The puppy may be too anxious about being in the crate, and you should review the crate training page and start slower at acclimating your pup to it's crate.

  • With all methods of house training it is important to remember that puppies need structure and a set schedule to be victorious in house training. As with all training, it is our job to set our puppy/dog up for success and keeping to a set structure and schedule will help your puppy learn what is expected of him. Puppies should be fed and watered at the same time every day. Puppies should also be put to bed and awakened at the same time each day. They will also typically need to potty within certain times throughout the day: 1) after they wake first thing in the morning 2) 10-15 minutes after a meal or drinking water 3) every 1-3 hours during the day until they are at least 12 weeks of age and 4) every 4-5 hours at night until the are 12 weeks of age.

    The final general instruction is that you must ALWAYS accompany your puppy outside for his bathroom breaks. If you are not there to encourage him or praise him, he is NOT GOING TO KNOW WHAT YOU EXPECT OR THAT HE DID A GOOD JOB! Additionally, if you do not go with him, then how do you know if he went out and did his business instead of chasing the cat or butterflies, forgetting to go to the bathroom until he returns back inside. It also allows you to witness the character of your pup's stools, sick puppies can have abnormal stools that may give you an indication that you need to visit your veterinarian. I know it's cold, raining, you are tired, but cowboy up! It is your responsibility to teach your dog the rules of proper toilet habits.

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