In light of National Puppy Day, here are some helpful hints on puppy housetraining!
Puppy housetraining guide
Choose the desired location and teach the puppy where to go
1. Ensure that the outdoor location is practical and easy to access.
2. Go out with your puppy every time and immediately praise and give intermittent food rewards for
elimination in the desired area.
3. During initial training, take the puppy out to eliminate each hour during the daytime when home
to supervise. If it does not eliminate within 5 minutes, return indoors, supervise closely for
15–30 minutes and try again.
4. Take the pet out when it is most likely to need to eliminate:
• Following play, exercise, naps, and being released from conﬁnement.
• After eating and drinking. Supervise closely after feeding and take the puppy out to eliminate
within 15–30 minutes.
• Prior to conﬁnement or bedtime.
5. Consider teaching your puppy to “go” on command by saying a command word, such as “hurry up,”
in a positive tone as it squats to eliminate.
Maintain a consistent schedule
1. Offer food two to three times each day at the same time to help establish an elimination
2. Only leave the food down for 20 minutes or until your puppy walks away. Be sure to discuss with
your veterinarian how to assess your puppy’s body condition score so that food quantity can be
adjusted according to your pet’s needs.
3. Consider taking up the water bowl 1–2 hours prior to bedtime.
1. Until the puppy has completed 4 consecutive weeks without soiling in the home, it should be
within eyesight of a family member or conﬁned to a safe puppy-proofed area.
2. Use a crate, pen, or room for conﬁnement whenever it cannot be directly supervised. The
conﬁnement area is intended to serve as a safe, comfortable bed, playpen, or den for the puppy. The
puppy should not be conﬁned until after it has eliminated and had sufﬁcient exercise and social
interaction (i.e., when it is due for a sleep, nap, or rest) and should not be conﬁned for any
longer than it can control elimination, unless paper, potty pad, or litterbox-training techniques
are being used.
3. Most puppies can control elimination through the night by 3–4 months of age. Owners must be
aware of their puppy’s limits. During the daytime, puppies up to 4 months usually have a few hours
of control, while puppies 5 months and over may be able to last longer.
4. If the puppy eliminates in its cage, it may have been left there longer than it can be conﬁned
or the crate may be large enough that it sleeps in one end and has room to eliminate in the other;
in this case a divider might be used temporarily. Also, if the puppy is anxious about being conﬁned
or left alone, it is unlikely to keep the crate clean.
5. Leave a leash attached during supervision to interrupt any attempts to eliminate indoors, and
direct the puppy outdoors. By observing the puppy closely for pre-elimination signs, the puppy can
be trained to eliminate outdoors without the need for punishment and may soon learn to signal when
it has to eliminate.
1. Punishment should not be used. The goal is to interrupt your puppy if it is caught in the act
of eliminating indoors, and direct it to the appropriate location so that it can be rewarded when
it eliminates there.
2. If you catch your puppy in the act of eliminating indoors, call the puppy to come and if it
does not immediately cease say “no,” clap your hands, or pull on the leash to interrupt the
behavior. Then take the pet outside and immediately reward upon completion.
3. If urine or stool is found on the ﬂoor after the puppy has eliminated, do not consider any form
of correction since the puppy will not associate the correction with the elimination. You can
prevent soiling in the home by closing doors or moving furniture to prevent access to the location,
booby trapping the location with a repellent or motion detector, constant supervision of your
puppy, and by consistently rewarding elimination outdoors.
Clean up any odors from indoor elimination. Be certain to use enough product to get to the source
of the odor. Use one of the products that have been speciﬁcally designed to eliminate pet urine
odors (chemical modiﬁcation, enzymes, bacterial odor removal).
Paper or potty pad training
1. While it is best to avoid indoor training techniques if the goal is to teach the pet to
eliminate outdoors, this approach is sometimes necessary for apartment dwellers or when it is not
practical to take the puppy outside frequently enough. For paper or potty training, the puppy can
be conﬁned to a room or pen with paper covering the ﬂoor opposite to its bedding, water bowl, and
toys when it cannot be supervised.
2. Paper training can be combined with outdoor training so that the puppy learns that there are
two appropriate places to eliminate. The puppy can be placed in its crate (which can be placed
inside the pen) for short-term conﬁnement and placed in the full pen or room with paper for longer
3. Another option is to train the pup to eliminate indoors using a litterbox. Use the same
techniques as for outdoor housetraining except that, instead of taking the puppy outdoors, it
should be taken by leash to its litterbox and reinforced with praise and treats for litter use. If
the litter is not used within 5 minutes, supervise the dog closely with a leash and take it back to
the litter every 15 minutes until it is used.
Allowing time outdoors (in environments where appropriate)
Another option for some households is to allow the dog to spend time outdoors in a pen or run where
it can eliminate. When indoors, close supervision is still required to prevent indoor elimination.
Accompanying the dog outdoors and reinforcing outdoor elimination should also be incorporated into
the training regimen.
Landsberg G, Hunthausen W, Ackerman L. 2013 Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat. Saunders, Edinburgh © 2013, Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.