House training a puppy or adult dog can seem daunting, but with patience, consistency and positive reinforcement, your dog can learn proper potty habits. The keys are preventing accidents, rewarding outdoor potties, following a schedule and supervising your dog. With time and repetition, your dog will get the idea that potty time belongs outside.
Some basic facts about house training:
- Puppies can start learning around 8-12 weeks old. Adult dogs can be trained too, though it may take a bit longer.
- Take your dog out frequently at first – every 30 minutes for puppies, 1-2 hours for adult dogs. Slowly extend time between trips.
- Use a crate when you can't actively supervise. Dogs naturally avoid soiling their sleeping area.
- Reward outdoor potties with treats and praise. Use a cue like "Go potty".
- Thoroughly clean any indoor accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to remove odors.
- Be patient and consistent. Most dogs can be fully house trained within a few months.
Follow the tips in this article, be consistent and proactive, and you and your dog will be on your way to worry-free house training.
Setting Up for Success
Before starting house training, set your dog up for success by establishing a schedule and routine. Follow these tips:
Establish a Feeding Schedule: Feed your dog at the same times each day, usually 3-4 times daily for puppies and 1-2 times for adults. This will make their potty times more regular.
Take Them Out Frequently: Take puppies out every 30 minutes when active, and every 2 hours in the crate. For adults, go out every 1-2 hours.
Choose a Potty Cue: Say it every time you go out, like "Go potty" so they associate the phrase.
Pick a Potty Spot: Always take them to the same spot in the yard to establish a habit. Keep them on a leash to prevent wandering.
Supervise Closely: Don't let your puppy roam unsupervised until fully trained. Tether them to you if needed. Confine when you can't watch.
Set Up a Crate: The crate prevents accidents and teaches dogs not to soil their den. Make it cozy with blankets and comfy bedding.
How to Train a Puppy
Puppies under one year old have small bladders and less control. Be prepared for several months of frequent trips outside. Here are the steps for easy, effective puppy house training:
Take Them Out Frequently: Puppies 8-12 weeks old need to go out every 30 minutes when awake and active. Take them immediately after eating, drinking, playing and waking up.
Use a Consistent Potty Cue: Say "Go Potty" each time you take them out. Bring treats to reward potties outside.
Praise Successful Trips: When they go potty, praise excitedly. Give treats within 3 seconds. This reinforces the habit.
Confine When Unsupervised: If you can’t actively watch them, crate train or confine puppy to dog-proofed area with papers. Never give full house access.
Clean Accidents Thoroughly: Use an enzymatic cleaner and blot repeatedly to remove odors. This prevents repeats in the same spot.
Stick to the Schedule: Consistency is key. Feed and walk on a schedule. As they age, you can gradually extend times between trips outside.
Be Patient: Accidents will happen in the learning process. Stay calm and committed. With consistency, most puppies can be fully trained in 3-4 months.
House Training Adult Dogs
Unlike puppies, adult dogs have mature bladders and bowel control. However, adopted dogs may not have prior house training. Follow these steps to teach both rescued dogs and mature canines good potty habits:
Establish a Routine: Walk and feed them on a consistent schedule, just like you would a puppy. This regulates their needs.
Frequently Take Them Out: Until trained, go outside every 1 to 2 hours when home. Also take them out after meals, playtime, drinking, waking and crating.
Always Leash Walks: Keep them on leash for potty trips so you can reward outside potties and prevent wandering.
Use a Potty Cue: Say “Go Potty” each time you take them out so they learn to go on command. Have tasty treats ready to reward them.
Crate Train If Needed: If they're having frequent accidents when loose in the house, crate training can help instill good habits.
Manage Closely: Don't give unsupervised house freedom until accident-free for at least a month. Confine when you leave.
Clean All Accidents Thoroughly: Smells will draw them back to the same spots. Use an enzymatic cleaner.
Be Patient and Consistent: Adult dogs learn faster than puppies, but still require consistency and time. Stick to the routine.
When to Call the Vet
If your adult dog or puppy is having continued accidents or difficulty with house training, call your veterinarian. Some medical conditions can contribute to potty problems.
Signs of a potential issue include:
- Suddenly having frequent accidents after being trained
- Straining or signs of discomfort when trying to go
- Urinating very frequently in small amounts
- Having loose stool or diarrhea in the house
- Having blood or discoloration in urine or stool
- Having a urinary tract infection or kidney problem
Puppies that are not progressing with training by 6 months of age should also see the vet. Dogs that feel pain when urinating due to inflammation or infection may start associating the pain with going outdoors. This can setback training.
Some medical conditions that can interfere with house training include:
- Urinary tract infection
- Bladder stones
- Kidney or liver disease
- Intestinal parasites
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Your vet can pinpoint the cause through diagnostic tests and recommend appropriate treatment to get your dog’s potty habits back on track.
Using a Crate
A crate is an invaluable tool for house training both puppies and adult dogs. The crate takes advantage of a dog's natural instinct to keep their sleeping space clean. Follow these best practices for crate training success:
Introduce Slowly: Get them used to the crate with treats and praise. Feed them meals inside with the door open at first.
Make it Comfortable: Include plush beds, blankets and safe chew toys. Covering the top can make it feel like a den.
Use an Appropriate Size: Large enough for them to stand, turn and stretch out. Not so big they can potty in one corner.
Limit Crating Times: Young puppies less than 9 months old should only crate for 2-3 hours at a time. Adult dogs can handle up to 8 hours.
Take Them Out First: Always let them potty before crating to avoid accidents. Praise potties outside.
Don't Use as Punishment: Dogs should see it as their safe den, not jail. Never scold a dog for accidents in the crate.
Let Them Adjust Slowly: Crating throughout the day from the outset can be overwhelming. Build up alone time gradually.
Proper crate training teaches dogs to hold their potty urges and prevents accident when unsupervised. The crate is a safe space that most dogs will keep clean.
Potty training is a process, and even diligent pet parents will experience the occasional accident during training. Here’s how to clean and manage them:
Interrupt calmly: Startle or distract them with a firm "No" or clap. Immediately take them outside to finish.
Don't punish after the fact: Yelling or rubbing their nose in it will frighten them and make training harder. Stay positive.
Clean thoroughly: Use an enzymatic cleaner and blot repeatedly to remove odors. Vinegar and water also works.
Restrict access: Block off rooms or use baby gates to limit unsupervised wandering. Confine with a leash if needed.
Add potty breaks: For adult dogs, go back to taking them out more frequently like a puppy. Watch for patterns.
Note timing: Was it right after drinking? While playing? Helps identify why and make changes.
See the vet: Rule out underlying medical issues if accidents persist despite frequent trips out.
Stay patient! Regressions are normal. Stick to your routine and training will get back on track.
With consistent training and management, your dog will learn to hold it indoors. Be vigilant about supervision, confinement and cleaning to minimize accidents.
Housetraining Schedule Examples
Consistency is vital for effective house training. Having a schedule helps establish a predictable routine that meets your dog's biological needs. Here are sample schedules for both puppies and adult dogs.
Puppy Schedule (12 weeks old):
6:30 am – Take puppy out to potty spot, use cue "go potty". Praise and treat for going.
7:00 am – Breakfast time. 20 minutes after eating, take out again.
8:00 am – Potty break. Play/train indoors.
9:00 am – Potty break.
9:30 am – Nap time in crate.
11:30 am – Take from crate directly outside to potty.
12:00 pm – Lunch time. Potty 20 minutes after eating.
1:00 pm – Outdoor leash walk.
2:00 pm – Potty break. Supervised play indoors.
3:00 pm – Potty break.
4:00 pm – Nap time in crate.
5:30 pm – Take from crate outside to potty.
6:00 pm – Dinner time. Potty 20 minutes after eating.
8:00 pm – Potty break. Quiet indoor play or chew time.
10:00 pm – Final potty break.
11:00 pm – Bedtime in crate. Avoid food/water past this point.
Adult Dog Schedule:
7:00 am – Potty break in yard. Breakfast.
9:00 am – Morning walk. Include potty cue and reward.
12:00 pm – Potty trip. Lunch.
2:00 pm – Potty trip. Down-stay training indoors.
4:00 pm – Afternoon walk. Practice potty cue outside.
5:30 pm – Dinner time. Potty 20 minutes after eating.
7:00 pm – Early evening play session. Include obedience training.
9:00 pm – Final potty trip for the night.
10:00 pm – Relaxation and bed time.
Sticking to a schedule helps promote regular potty habits. As your dog shows progress, you can gradually extend the times between trips outside. But consistency is vital, especially in the initial training stages.
Troubleshooting House Training Problems
Despite your best efforts, sometimes house training doesn't go smoothly. Here are some common challenges and how to solve them:
Accidents in the crate: A puppy crated too long may have no choice but to potty inside. Adult dogs may develop UTIs or digestion issues. Evaluate timing, see vet, and gradually re-crate train.
Potties 15-30 minutes after coming inside: Your schedule is too infrequent. He can't hold it that long. Take puppies out every 30 minutes when active. Adults every 1-2 hours.
Won't potty on leash or in the rain: He needs more time outdoors to get comfortable. Give 10-15 minutes before coming back in. Use treats and praise to reinforce. Bring an umbrella!
Accidents near doors or in secluded areas: She has learned to sneak away and potty in "safe" areas. Keep her tethered to you so she can't wander off.
Urinates submissively when excited: Some dogs lose bladder control temporarily. Work on stay training, greet calmly, and build confidence through positive training.
Peeing overnight in the bedroom: He's drinking too late, or can't hold it all night. Stop water intake 1-2 hours before bedtime. Take him out right before bed, and when you get up.
Pooping in the house only: She has some separation anxiety and acts out when alone. Use calming techniques. Check for digestive issues. Confine when unsupervised.
If you encounter roadblocks, revisit the basics like supervision, confinement, rewarding good potties, and scrubbing all accidents. The keys are preventing opportunity, rewarding what you want, and managing the environment. Stay consistent and patient!
Signs Your Dog is Fully House Trained
When can you trust your dog has solid potty habits? Here are some green lights that indicate your training is complete:
Waits by the door to be let out when they need to go.
Has been accident-free for at least a month.
Potties quickly when you take them outside and give the cue.
Lets you know in obvious ways when they need to go, like whining or pacing.
Has not had accidents in their crate space if crate trained.
Doesn’t need constant supervision indoors and can be loose unattended.
Urination and bowel movements are predictable based on feeding times.
Does not sneak off to potty in hidden corners of the home.
Asks to go out at the same times every day – after meals, when waking up, etc.
Is comfortable going potty on leash, in the rain or snow, when traveling, etc.
Understands the designated potty spot in the yard and uses it consistently.
If these describe your dog's habits, congratulations! With time and consistency, house training is achievable for both puppies and adult dogs. Just stick to a schedule, have realistic expectations, reward your dog for good behavior, and manage accidents calmly and effectively.
House training a puppy or dog has its challenges, but following a consistent routine and using positive reinforcement, confinement, and effective cleaning can get your dog off to the right start with good potty habits. Establishing a predictable schedule, frequently taking your dog outside, rewarding potties and preventing indoor accidents are the keys to success. While it takes time and diligence, house training is a very attainable goal at any age. Be patient, stay proactive and consistent, and you and your dog will be on your way to a house training breakthrough.