Humane Society of Central Illinois

House Training Your Puppy

Here are some suggestions to make this important training period a success.

Buy a crate and during the first few weeks, keep your puppy in it whenever you are not playing, holding, or watching him explore his new surroundings. Spend as much time as you can with your pet, but when you can't watch him, crating him can prevent mistakes from occurring. In addition to providing the safe secure refuge your dog needs and wants, crates are critical to housetraining because as den animals, dogs are naturally inclined to not soil their bed. Therefore make sure it's not too big. It should be large enough for the puppy's bed and no more. Use a divider panel to make a crate for your puppy and later as an adult. The most important thing housetraining dogs learn in a crate is that they can control their urge to eliminate until the proper time and situation.

Establish a schedule and don't deviate from it.  The "when" and "how" you housetrain needs to be consistent so make sure all family members follow the same guidelines. Pick a soiling spot in your yard and take your pup there on a lead when it is time to eliminate. The odor from previous visits to this spot will stimulate the urge to defecate and/or urinate. Many new owners confuse their pup by using different words for the same command. In the housebreaking process, it is a good idea to use the same word like "outside" every time you take the puppy out to eliminate. Consistent use of a word with an activity will help to build a level of communication between you and your pup. Later, while you are watching television and notice your pup staring at you, you can say the word "outside" and your pup will go to the door.

Be patient.  Dogs may urinate or defecate more than once in one outing, and not always right away. Don't distract your pup from the job at hand. This is a business trip, not social time.

Praise them for their success when the job is done but don't overdo it. Just patting them across their shoulders a few times will do the trick. In a dog's language, that means more than constant rubbing across the head or repeating "good Dog". Some people prefer to use a consistent phrase when the pup eliminates such as "Do your stuff!" The pup soon learns this is a signal to eliminate, which is very useful when traveling or when time is short.

Don't mix business with pleasure.  When your pup has finished, take him back inside, even just for a minute or two. When you come back inside, spend some time with your pup. You know there is little chance the pup will have to eliminate for a while so play with them and have a good time. The more time you spend with the pup the better it is. Remember they are still young and need to act like a pup, developing and learning about their new situation and environment. When you're finished, take one more trip outside and place the pup back in its cage or crate. After every meal and playtime, remember to take them outside before placing them back in the crate.

The key to housetraining is you.  Spend as much time with your puppy as possible during the first two to three weeks your puppy is home. Be consistent, patient, praise when appropriate, and be willing - for however long it takes - to invest the time and energy necessary to make this important training time a success. The effort you put forth now will be well worth it for the lifetime of your pet.

Establishing a schedule is important.  Dogs are creatures of habit; they like to eat, sleep, and relieve themselves on a regular schedule. Establishing and maintaining a schedule is easy to do and gets easier as your puppy grows. Pay attention to your dog's behavior so you can develop a schedule that works for both of you. First, learn when your dog naturally defecates in the morning, at night, 30 minutes after eating, etc. Look at your schedule and determine what compromises need to be made to make this workable for everyone. If you catch your puppy in the act of having an accident, tell him. "No!" forcefully, pick him up and take him outside. If you don't catch him, simply clean up the mess and scold yourself for not being available. Do not scold the puppy. Until your pup is 4 - 5 months old, take him outside frequently and watch him very closely when he is in - or out of - his crate. As soon as you see him pacing, sniffing around, turning around in circles, or trying to sneak away (if he's out of the crate), take him outside. These are telltale signs that he needs to relieve himself. Say "Outside" each time you take your puppy out so you can develop communication and understanding between you and your pet.